For the past three years, we have attempted gardening without doing much research or planning. We simply picked a spot that was close to the house and got enough sun (10 to 11 hours of full sun) and that we could water. We choose not to use any fertilizer and we papered the ground in between the beds and tried to do no-till gardening. This year, we adapted our plan and used raised beds based on a book by Houston master gardener and organic guru, Bob Randall. You can find lots of great information at Urban Harvest.
We did not strictly follow the plan, but used it as appropriate for our climate and time.
Below are some pictures and the plan that is suggested for planting. We planted 9 beds within a fenced area of about 1,200 sq feet. We have planted the vegetables that are most useful to us and that we enjoy, thus we did not provide ourselves a living diet...we had to supplement with groceries. We bought organic compost (a very expensive option, but we wanted a good base) and have begun 4 compost piles that will supply us with topper soil during the next growing season.
Rather than try to illustrate the complicated rotational plan of the gardens, we chose to list the starting plants in each plot and then note the cropping schedule for each plot throughout the year. It is easier to follow the changes in each bed or plot than to follow the movement of each plant variety from season to season and place to place. We begin with Plot #1 and note the plants for each of the other eight in a list below:
Plant clover in November and let it grow until March.
March- plant squashes (tatume, clababash, luffa) harvest till November
November- plant 30 sq.ft. of snow peas harvest then plant pole peas, petit pais
December to March- harvest English pole peas etc.
March to July- pole, snap, and bush beans
July to November- purple hull peas, zipper cream peas trellis—long beans, baby lima-beans
August- plant bush snap beans
November to February- plant 70 sq.ft. of lettuce, non-cabbage salad greens
November to May- plant 4 globe artichokes
March- Ambrosia, cantaloupes, watermelons—center of bed
September- cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, radishes
December- plant broccoli, cauliflower, radishes
January-February plant beets
May- sweet potatoes
Mid-August to November- plant lettuce & salad greens
April- plant tomatoes, corn, tomatillos (when tomatoes are done, plant squash, lufffa, okra and buckwheat
September- plant carrots, garlic, chives, multiplying onions
November- plant bulb onions, garlic, cilantro
March- plant cantaloupe
August to October- plant beets, chard, green beans
January to February- plant 70 sq. ft. of lettuce
April- 50 sq.ft. of cucumbers
May- plant Southern Peas
July to September- set out 10 to 16 tomato plants down the center of the bed
March- plant green peppers
May- rotate in eggplant
**Here we actually have two rows dividing them into strips interplanted with strawberries.
***We made changes to this above recommended plan as we do not have enough time to do all as suggested.
The most important lessons we learned are that you must have good compost (becuase we didn't want to use artifical fertilizer) and the time to paper and mulch between the beds to prevent weed spreading (we use old hay...straw is recommended because hay may sprout). Planting is only a small portion of the time needed to maintain a garden. At least 10 hours a week should be alloted for a garden our size to pick, weed, and just generally maintain the garden.