Fall is fast approaching and it’s time to start thinking about next year’s garden. A garden plan is a great way make the most of your gardening space, and the best time to plan next year’s garden is now, because everything that went right and wrong this season is fresh in your mind – so you are in the best position to simultaneously build on success and address failures. In this episode I go over a few tips on how to start getting organized for next year.
Where everything goes next year should be based on where everything went this year. In addition, everything you did wrong this year, should contribute to everything you do right next year. The problem is, it’s hard to remember all that stuff in April – May, after six months of sitting around waiting for the snow to melt. Moreover, it’s an overwhelming task figuring out where everything should go – so a little preparation and foresight can go a long wat towards helping you hit the ground running next year. Here’s a few simple strategies to help you get ahead of the game.
A good place to start is to either take a picture or draw out a diagram of your whole garden in September. Once you have that diagram, do a few simple things:
1. Write down were everything was this season
2. Make a note of which beds/areas were highly productive
3. Make a note of which beds/areas were poor in performance
4. Make a note of where the pest problems were – and what kinds of pest were in these locations
This should only take an hour of your time, but it will really help you figure out where everything
1. Do all of the above
2. Plan out where everything should go next year – this should be based on:
a) Where things were (don’t put the same kinds of things in the same beds year after year)
b) Soil productivity (put heavy feeders in the good soil – put soil builders (eg. legumes) intopoor soils – or make a note to amend poor soils with compost/etc.
c) Sites where pests were a problem should get pest resistant plants
d) Try to rotate your crops according a simple rotation schedule
The great thing about doing all of this now is that you can mull it over and change your mind a number of times over the winter months. For instance, looking back over the plan that I created last fall for this year I can see I only followed about 75% of the plan – and that’s fine. The plan was still very helpful in getting me started and simplifying the process. This is all part of taking a permaculture approach to gardening, and is consistent with this very elegant and parsimonious definition of permaculture provided by one of the pioneers of this approach:
Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted & thoughtful observation rather than protracted & thoughtless action; of looking at systems in all their functions rather than asking only one yield of them & of allowing systems to demonstrate their own evolutions. – Bill Mollison
To put it another way – make it easy on yourself by observing how things are working in your garden, and taking advantage of any patterns you might have observed. In this way you will mindfully optimize yields and simultaneously minimize problems. Remember, this year’s failure is simply next year’s potential success – it’s just a matter of seeing the solution and putting it into action.