January IV: testing Square Foot Gardening on 1.5 square metres

Square foot gardening is a concept of precision gardening where planting is planned on a square foot basis i.e. 30cm * 30cm.

I have decided to test this approach in a 15 square foot experiment, the aim being to have crops to harvest over a 6 week period from 15th May to 30th June, with five square feet for each two week period. A second crop will then be planted as the time comes.

The five crops in each case will be:

Late May: Spring onion, spinach, radish, turnips for greens and miniature lettuces.

Early June: Spring Onion, Radish, Spinach, Cabbage, and Beetroot.

Late June: Spring Onion, Cabbage, Beetroot, Dwarf Bean and Amsterdam Carrot.

Second Crops will be:

Plant around 1st June: Summer Chard, Summer Beetroot, Autumn Carrot, Spring Onion, Bush tomato.

Plant around 16th June: Autumn Chard, Summer Beetroot, Autumn Carrot, Spring Onion, Young Leeks

Plant around 1st July: Kale, Spring Onion, Young Leeks, Autumn Turnip, Autumn Beetroot.

The Early June crop may be followed by a third crop if time permits (after chard, beetroot and spring onion): candidates would be rocket, pak choi, Sicilian radish.

The aim is to generate small amounts of each crop on a regular basis, thereby eliminating gluts.

Sowing date precision, good germination in modules and immediate planting out of follow on crops will be necessary to succeed.

 

For further details on square foot gardening, from a US perspective, read: ‘Square Foot Gardening’, Mel Bartholemew (1981), Rodale Press, Pennsylvania. ISBN 0-87857-341-0

January 2018 III: adding perennials to the no-dig garden

Much of traditional vegetable gardening is taken up with sowing and transplanting annual plants.

Many natural foods in the wild are either truly perennial or quasi-perennial (each plant lives 5-10 years) and introducing some of these can reduce work in the garden without sacrificing yield.

In addition, other perennial plants may grow well in shade, provide pollen for bees and other pollinators or offer pest resistance traits to neighbouring vegetables.

Perennials include:

1. Fruit trees (apples, pears, cherries, plums are most common around here)

2. Fruit bushes/canes/brambles (raspberry, gooseberry, blackcurrant, elderberry, blackberry and sloe seem most common here)

3. Perennial leaves – I have incorporated tree cabbage and sorrel into the garden in 2017.

4. Perennial stalks – I planted a new set of Timperley Early rhubarb in autumn 2017 to go with the long-established asparagus crowns.

5. Perennial herbs – I have added yarrow, sage, lovage, chives and oregano in the past three years.

6. Perennial mulch – I planted comfrey Bocking 14 four years ago.

7. Perennial pollinators – I have planted wallflowers (in photo below) and borage on borders (hoping the borage will self seed in a perennial manner).

By incorporating 10-20 perennial plants each year, soon the garden will have recurring food, flowers, mulch, pollinators and colour without annual effort.

 

For further information about perennial plants for the garden, see: ‘Perennial Vegetables’ by William Blackburn ISBN 9781539736783.

January 2018 II: late winter application of horn manure

Last winter, I applied the biodynamic spray called Horn Manure to my no dig garden, which certainly seems to have benefitted the pear tree (which was not decimated by pear midge for the first time).

The days suggested to be favourable in early 2018 for such an application are:

3rd-6th February;

3rd -4th March.

These dates are root days in the Maria Thun calendar when the moon is descending in its monthly cycle.

However, others also allude to a damp, cloudy day as being beneficial so, if dry sunny conditions are indicated for the above dates, others may be more appropriate.

In reality, little clear data exists suggesting that a huge difference will arise from treating the soil on a specific day, so one suspects that treating the soil and the trees sometime before spring is better than no treatment.

Please read the February 2017 blog entry on this subject for further details on how to prepare dynamised horn manure.

January 2018 I: ideas for lunar sowing in 2018

In February last year, I wrote a post discussing various cycles of the moon and how lunar gardeners plant using such cycles.

One which has been tested by Charles Dowding is sowing two days before full moon.

The dates for full moons in 2018 of relevance are:

31st January; 2nd March; 31st March; 30th April; 29th May; 28th June; 27th July; 26th August and, for autumn sowings of garlic and broad beans, October 24th and November 23rd.

Some ideas for sowing two days before full moon:

28th February – very early Red Alert and Maskotka tomatoes (fruit day in Thun calendar)

29th March – Main bush tomatoes e.g. Maskotka, Super Marmande (fruit day in Thun calendar)

28th April – competition carrots and potatoes in polypots, summer beetroot, late spring radishes, August carrots in soil, late maincrop potatoes (root day in Thun calendar)

26th June – early endive, late kale (leaf day in Thun calendar) – picture below has kale still harvesting in January

24th August – autumn radish (root day in Thun calendar) – picture below has Sicilian radish still harvesting in January

21st November – Aquadulce Claudia broad beans for 2019 (2018 plants behind green manure below)

Obviously, this in no way covers all the sowing required, but it offers some examples of favourable sowing dates for some crops in 2018.