Saturday, May 17, 2014

Single Rows vs Wide Beds

Ted from Colorado asked, "how come the photos of your garden on your homestead shows bed style gardening but on your seed farm you are using single rows like commercial farming?" 

Excellent observation! 

On the homestead I've experimented with numerous different growing methods. Single row, double row. Narrow beds. Wide beds of various widths. I've tried narrow walkways and wide walkways. For a couple of years I had settled on using two foot wide beds with two foot wide walkways. The beds were easy to straddle for planting, weeding, and harvesting. The walkways were just wide enough to avoid damaging plants. But I had a few issues I wasn't happy with. It wasn't easy to bring a wheelbarrow or garden cart in with fresh compost or mulch. And some crops spread out wider than the two feet width. 

But why use beds instead of rows? Rows are used by farms in order to use big machinery. I don't use tractors, cultivators, etc. So I don't need rows. Beds work better for many crops when machinery isn't being used. One can produce more food using beds. 

So in the main garden I'm now using three foot wide beds with three foot wide walkways. 

That may seem like a waste of space, but I have plenty of room to work with. Space is not an issue. But ease of working the garden is important to me. A three foot wide bed means that I can grow yacon, tomatillo, Roma bush tomatoes, and the like without constantly trimming them to fit a two foot bed. I can plant two close rows of corn in a three foot bed (they need hand pollination growing this way, just in case you're considering growing corn this way). I can grow bush squashes without trimming leaves. 

The wider aisles makes using a wheelbarrow or garden cart much easier. No more running into plants and damaging them. 

So why use rows at the seed farm? That's because what little soil exists there is not improved. The soil simply is not up to supporting a high density of plants. If I tried planting closely like I do in the beds on the homestead, the plants would do poorly. Too much competition for the meager resources. (Note: I'm not using commercial fertilizers nor does the farm have a water source for irrigation.) So I space the plants out so that their roots can spread out seeking what little nutrition and water that is available. The narrow rows and wide walkways gives me the opportunity to pay attention to individual plants, bringing them water when needed, adding mulch, adding manure tea and other forms of fertilizers. I figure it will take a couple more years before the seed farm is ready for more concentrated plantings. 

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post. I've pretty much come to the same conclusions with beds; the original 4 foot ones are simply too wide. But every year my permanent beds seem to shrink or expand no matter what I do. :)