Sunday, November 4, 2012

Planning for Planting

Greetings from Baker Heritage Farms;

If you are planning on a garden in 2013, it is time to start planning. One thing we have learned over the past year is that proper planning, while it does not guarantee success, makes life a whole lot easier.

Donald spent much of the weekend working on gathering crop data and drafting a planting calendar for next year. The data gathered has been entered into spread sheets, and the production crop spread sheet includes:
  • Crop;
  • Crop Family (used to ensure proper rotation, allowable double-cropping, and companion crops);
  • Planting method (transplant and/or direct seed);
  • Days from seeding inside to planting in the field;
  • First and last days to plant indoors;
  • Planting relative to first frost-free day;
  • First and last days to plant in field;
  • Germination temperature range;
  • Germination optimum temperature range;
  • Days to germination;
  • Time to plant (considers both early and late planting, where applicable);
  • Spacing between rows (helps in field setup and calculating seed needs);
  • Spacing within rows (also helps in field setup and calculation seed needs);
  • Depth to cover seed;
  • Days to harvest (this will be useful for double cropping); and
  • Frost tolerance.
For cover crops, the data on the spread sheet includes:
  • Crop and Family;
  • Information on the uses of the cover crop, including whether or not the cover crop will provide Nitrogen, weed control, adding organic matter, improving the soil, how well it grows, whether or not it is cold or drought tolerant, if drainage is important, ease of growth, and whether it will support beneficial insects.
  • Seed application rate;
  • First and last planting dates; and
  • The same planting data as was complied for the production crops.
The planting calendar spread sheets provide the following data:
  • Crop and family;
  • Irrigation requirements;
  • Planting method;
  • Companion crops (helps in the planning of each plot); and
  • Calendar - which includes planting dates and harvest dates (allows for better visual planning).
We are hoping to be in production year-round, including cover crops, which makes following a calendar even more important. As we have already learned, the most important aspect of being a resilient farmer is the ability to be flexible. These spread sheets will allow us to be flexible in most of our crop operations. We hope to be prepared for whatever the good Lord throws at us, including weather, disease, and/or insects.

We will be companion planting (planting multiple crops in the same plot at the same time) as well as double-cropping (planting successive crops in the same plot). While researching companion planting, Donald learned that you can plan certain companion crops to further reduce insects and disease; however, we may not get quite that involved this year.

As we will are still not sure if we will get cover crops down this winter, double cropping will be very important in our rotation and planting schedule, and will include attempting to ensure that we are helping, rather than hindering, the soil.

Debbie has been reviewing the seed catalogs and has started making a list of the seeds we will look at for planting next year. We will definitely be restricting all of our seed purchases to organic seed. We are hoping to further restrict our purchases to heirloom seed, preferably heirloom seed from our area (or at least the south). If we have to vary from our goal, we will open up the areas the heirloom seed comes from for more variety. Our plan is to save seed from our crops for future planting (our next educational goal - preserving seed).

Our next step is to plan out what we will plant in each plot in our three production fields. We are presuming at this point of time that at least 6 plots will be in cover crop at all times, which will leave us 6 plots for production at any given time. We will also be looking at hand tools to plant and maintain the fields.

There are several excellent resources on the internet for planning your garden.

Vegetable Gardening has a number of resources, including planing worksheets. They can be accessed at:

They have a USDA Planting Zone Chart and a Vegetable Planting Guide that are great started tools:

Backwoods Home Magazine has an excellent chart for companion planting that can be accessed on the internet at:

Another good resource for companion planting can be found at the Cutting Edge (Seeds of Change):

Donald made good use of the resources he received from the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers class he took at the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture this past year. Many of these resources are available on their web site at:

For a successful, stress free, farming experience, start planning your garden today.

Baker Heritage Farms

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