Following on from my deep and slightly obsessive thoughts about my winter crop rotation, today we are looking at cycle two. This is the biggest one as there are no permanent unmoveable crops in this group. So, it will be seven years before anyone is back where they started. No chance for disease to build up or certain nutrients to become exhausted to the point of depletion! Overkill I know, but just by moving the sign one spot to the right once a year saves a lot of headaches.
For the in between mid-winter period for many of these beds, the window of time for doing much more than just adding well-rotted manure and compost is the best that can be done. Ideally, I’d love to grow cover crops on all the beds to keep the garden feeling alive and doing good at the same time, but it just isn’t practical.
But one of the things I like to try and squeeze in over the winter is wheat, not so much as a cover crop, although it will lock in nutrients and therefore prevent them from leaching out in the winter rains, but to harvest and dry the straw to use a mulch. While this will eventually return nutrients to the soil, at the point of harvest – but especially if the straw is laid in a different bed, I will still need to enrich the beds before the next crop with well-rotted manure and compost and other goodies just as I would after harvesting a crop, which it is – in a way.
CROP ROTATION CYCLE TWO
Bed 9: was pepper – will be onion overflow
If we don’t get frosts, there is no knowing, at this point, how long the peppers will keep going as they are perennials. Only time will tell. But I am hoping they will carry on long enough for a good harvest, yet finish up midwinter for the onions to go in. I may even just relocate them into their new bed as mature adults but having said that I like starting them from seed in spring – they are the first and it is a tradition…. But for now, I don’t know what I’ll do.
- Winter: For this bed at some point before mid-winter the peppers will need to come out, the soil enriched and the red onions, shallots, elephant garlic and leeks will go in.
- Spring: This then becomes an easy bed to just weed, feed and water all spring.
Bed 10: was sweetcorn – will be peppers
The sweetcorn is safely in the freezer ready to bring sunshine to a winter day and the bed has been planted with all my excess broad bean seeds. I only grow a couple, because I don’t like them that much, but as a legume it just made sense not to waste the rest of them in the packet and I’ll dig them in before they flower. Hopefully this will be before I relocate mature peppers if necessary or at a more leisurely pace in later on. Next year, because there is such a huge gap between the sweetcorn and the peppers it makes sense to grow wheat here instead.
- Winter: I’ll be digging in broad beans and I may be planting peppers.
- Spring: I’ll probably still sow pepper seeds, in case something goes horribly wrong. If I don’t need them, I can give them away.
Bed 11: was melons – will be sweetcorn
This bed is currently maturing some rather large watermelons and producing what seems to be an abundance of rock and honeydew melons. But I’d say there are only a couple of weeks left in this bed before the melons are gobbled up and it gets cleared away.
- Winter: As the sweetcorn is in a tight schedule for my ambitions to grow 4 different types of corn over the growing season, but there is a fairly long winter window between the melons and the corn, I need to act straight away to get something planted when the last melon is harvested. I was toying with the idea of growing lupin because the sweetcorn is such a tall and hungry plant, but the opportunity to actually get some straw in the time available is too good to be missed.
- Spring: The sweetcorn plants will be directly sown on Labour weekend at the end of October, so I need to harvest the wheat before then. If it is still green, then I’ll just dig it in with nothing wasted.
Bed 12: was odds and sods – will be melons
I have some ordinary popcorn in here that had nicely dried on the plant and can be harvested today. The okra has only just taken off so I’m hoping for an Indian Summer so I can even see a harvest. I do love a pickled okra. The peanuts can be dug up when the leaves go yellow, but they are still a verdant shade of green and still flowering so who knows when that will be. And at the end of this bed one of the eggplants is going strong and the other never really did well. The frost is supposed to take them out.
- Winter: It is most likely by winter things will have come to a natural end. Then I’ll sow a cover crop – probably mustard as the peanuts are legumes and it is good not to do back to back crops in a good crop rotation cycle.
- Spring: The melons don’t need to go in until things really warm up so there is no hurry preparing their soil.
Bed 13: was salad – will be odds and sods
The salad succession was terrible. I need to improve. But as we wind down into autumn I want to try and get into the swing of things so will keep growing them for as long as I can.
- Winter: Once it gets to a point where it seems like a good time to stop growing them, then I’ll probably go for a nice thick addition of well-rotted manure to prepare the ground for the odds and sods
- Spring: The ordinary popcorn will be sown from seed in early spring so it can go out as good-sized seedlings on Labour weekend in late October to fit in with the tight schedule from the 4 corns varieties I want to grow. Other than that, the other seedlings will be started indoors in good time to get them in the ground around Labour Weekend.
Bed 14: was zucchini – will be salad
Powdery mildew has only just hit these plants and they are slowing down, but I have been making a lovely zucchini relish to make up for the lack of tomato relish that normally got us through the year bringing tomatoey joy until it was time to make it again. They will get to a point as the weather cools where they aren’t producing enough, but without a frost, I don’t know when that will be. But they will be whipped out at some point in the winter.
- Winter: The plants will need to be taken out, hopefully not while still productive as I need to swap over the salad succession planting into their new season home to make way for the soil prep for the odds and sods.
- Spring: I will continue to attempt to get a successful succession of salad crops across the entire growing season.
Bed 15: was onion overflow – will be zucchini
The final bed in this crop rotation is moving the zucchini to the where the onions were – but this is also where the leeks are still lingering and so I will need to seek out as many different ways to eat leeks to ensure they are gone before we need the bed in late October.
- Winter: There won’t be time to put in a cover crop between the leeks and the zukes so it will most likely need to be an enriching with well-rotted manure and a bit of a dig. Having said that, the leeks are only taking up half the bed so it makes sense to fill it with something and why not with wheat, so I have even more mulch to spread around the garden. I’ll need to get onto that straight away.
- Spring: Once the leeks are gone and the wheat harvested, I’ll need to spread the manure and compost prior to the zucchini being planted. Nothing like a bit of a dig in the crisp spring air to feel alive!
And that is the plan for the middle row of the garden. It would seem the worms have their work cut out for them dragging all that well rotted manure deep into the soil. But rather them than me! There is just one last group that needs to be discussed and then I can throw myself into the new season that is just days away.
Come again soon – to find out how I solved my carrot conundrum.
Sarah the Gardener : o)