It is finally that time of year: garden planning. Although we’ve been thinking and talking about this year’s garden for months, it was hard to begin planning before we knew what our space would look like as we are in the process of closing on a property with a large space for growing food. As that process nears completion, we’re looking ahead to what we want to get in the ground this year. But before we get to talking about what we want to plant, we need to examine our space.
Tentative Gardening Space Outline
The space we might be inhabiting is narrow and long: 67 ft by 227 ft, to be exact. About 3/4 of the space is open and reasonably sunny. The other 1/4 contains the house, garage, and driveway. We have to take into account three underground hazards: a septic field, buried cables, and buried water pipes. While a septic field is distributing nutrient-laden effluent to the yard, it is not a system designed to make these nutrients usable (such as a grey water system). In a rare occurrence, online resources unanimously agree that it is not recommended to plant gardens or trees over septic drain fields, both for health reasons (if flooding occurs, undigested bacteria can end up on your food) and functional ones (compacting the soil, irrigating the area, planting strong-rooted plants, etc. can break down the drain system) (source, source, source, source). Therefore, we will use this area as our grazing lawn for chickens. They won’t be on it long enough to compact the soil and the clover and grasses will absorb the extra nutrients without creating a biohazard.
Our approach for the garden will be modular, with 25-×-25-ft square beds dug throughout the property. The large-area crops will be rotated through these beds: potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, peas, etc. We’ll also have an area with raised beds. We’re going to put this in the shape of an amphitheater and use it to host talks, movies, and other seated public events. Many of our vegetables will be grown here and in another area of raised beds.
We’ll be constructing two in-ground greenhouses known as walipini. These will be a shared construction project and anybody in the area who would like to get some experience working with earth bags would be welcome to come help.
To keep rabbits and deer at bay, we’ll have to construct fences around our property, but we want to make them into living fences. A short, wire perimeter fence will be planted with grape vines and berry bushes. A taller interior fence around some of the garden areas will be made up of berry bushes and espaliered fruit trees.