The Gordon Gnohm

Play along at home, read Future Farmer in The Braidwood Bugle every Wednesday. 

Crop Rotation

And just like that it’s winter cold, and that means it’s fire time. The trees that started changing early and slowed, have dropped their leaves almost overnight. Now winter is almost here, what to plant after your summer feeders? What is the best Crop Rotation to follow to get the most out of your soil? 

There is a lot to do at any given time around my garden and homestead, so I want the most from my efforts and to repeat tasks less frequently. The one place I really have this going on is in my garden. Over a lifetime I have developed a system that works for me, and not surprisingly everyone who uses it. It is the key to the long life of our garden beds, its super simple and easy to replicate.

After applying my No Weed Veggie Bed I have two years to take advantage of the nutrients in the soil, or more correctly, my vegetables will have two years of super growth before the beds get tired. 

Lazy = Efficient

A lot of folks love to toil in the garden attempting to improve fertility, but not me. Don Burke popularised the phrase ‘Lazy Gardener’ back in the 80s & 90s, but he still toils more than I do. I love to let Mother Nature and all her creatures do most of the work for me, rather than battle against her in an endless loop of semi success.

Going from a summer to a winter garden doesn’t have to happen in a day, it’s more of a gradual change. Removing tired specimens as the season fades and replacing them with winter seedlings. Succession planting starting around March, dependent on available space, is the key to feasting in winter. I started late again, in April. The real key to a winter garden is to plant one, and not miss out.

Crop Rotation

There are numerous ways to rotate crops through your garden, but most are from an era where digging over garden beds was very popular. Some old timey folks recommend 7-10 steps with additions of salts to keep their garden primed. Things like lime, sulphur and calcium. Never keen to punish my microbes, I have reduced my efforts, inputs and steps over time to this simple 4 step method. It’s not a definitive guide, but it works for me. 

Just like the English language, there are a few if/buts thrown into the mix to confuse things and offer potential creative opportunities. Gardening is more art than science. Its less important to know exactly what’s going on in the soil. It’s more important to actually get in there and have a go. There is more to be learned from getting it wrong than getting it right. Don’t be scared, it is the key to your gardening future.

Keeping it warm

I have two starting points for fresh beds in both growing seasons. I generally refresh beds in autumn/winter and prepare a new one every year. Sometime every six months if I’m looking to increase my harvests. Preparing a fresh bed in winter is a great way to keep the soil temperature high in your garden ready for spring. 

The initial microbe population will work very hard and bloom to process the organic matter in the soil. This activity creates heat, reducing surface frosts and promotes root growth of early spring plantings.

Winter Start

Year One Winter 

Cauliflower, Broccoli, Cabbage, Spinach, Lettuce

Year One Summer 

Tomatoes, Eggplant, Pumpkins, Zucchini, Watermelon, Cucumber

Year Two Winter 

Cauliflower, Broccoli, Cabbage, Spinach, Lettuce

Year Two Summer 

Carrots, Parsnips, Beetroot, Onions, Leeks, Garlic

Summer Start

Year One Summer 

Tomatoes, Pumpkins, Zucchini, Watermelon, Cucumber

Year One Winter 

Cauliflower, Broccoli, Cabbage, Spinach, Lettuce

Year Two Summer 

Corn, Rosella, Eggplant, Beans

Year Two Winter 

Carrots, Parsnips, Beetroot, Onions, Leeks, Garlic

If/Buts

In between crops I use Snow Peas and Broad Beans to bolster the nitrogen in the soil and provide frost protection. These two plants also provide significant Biomass for chopping and dropping on the spot, sharing with the chickens or into your compost heap.

Plant seedlings closer together than recommended, so that a half mature plant covers the soil between. This reduces the ability of weed or grass seed germinating. Also, no sun on the mulch will reduce evaporation dramatically. 

The order I plant is based on the list above but is merely a guide. I companion plant onions with my tomatoes in fresh beds, and they don’t need the extra nutrient. They will not compete with tomatoes for available nutrient because they have different needs.

I plant Celery at the end of summer. This reduces the need to protect the stems from blanching in the sun. Protecting the stems reduces stringiness and provides a more delicate flavour. Infact, the frost on celery promotes extra sugars to cope with the cold and therefore tastes better. Keep the water up as the frost can dry the stems out.

I consider all vegetables to be feeder crops, to varying degrees. Most plants will take what they want and leave nutrients for other plants. My crop rotation is focussed on summer crops. Everything else offers a supporting role, planted to utilise available nutrients before and after. 

Beds are always finished with roots and bulbs. The roots pull minerals up to the surface from deep down to replenish trace elements. The bulbs of onion, garlic and leek don’t seem to mind the relative lack of nutrient.

This Week

Gang Gangs are back in groups as they follow their food Banskias, Casuarinas and Hakeas. Black Cockatoos are also audible around the property. We stopped feeding our chickens grain and the number of Sulphur Crested Cockatoos, Galahs and Corellas visiting the garden was reduced to zero, excepting the occasional hopeful scout. 

My garden is now littered with coloured fallen leaves. The deciduous trees mix their leaves making a vista worthy of an oil painting. Not only does it look fabulous, but the leaf litter is of major benefit to the garden. Apply it to your compost, add it to your chicken deep litter system or directly rake them onto garden beds. 

Preferably under the trees that dropped them. This is how the forests of the world have been nutrifying themselves for millions of years, feeding the base of the tree and preparing the soil for the next growing season.

Nature is Amazing,

Stay Awesome.

The Gordon Gnohm

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