As with most any project, it takes a good mix of research and experience to efficiently master a new skill. So, although you may go through a lot of trial and error, lets review some main points you’ll want to visit before starting your own garden in order to make that process a little lighter.
Look into the following aspects:
When does the main planting season start?
When are you first and last frosts?
When are you first and last rainy season dates?
How does precipitation play a role in your climate? (rainy/dry?)
Which crops and varieties grow well in your area? Which grow poorly?
What are the special requirements of your specific soil?
Are there any dramatic climatic conditions to be aware of? (dry spells, heavy wind, excessive rain) – If so how do others gardener and farmers plan for this?
With the permission of my teacher, I’m considering designing a garden for my parents as a final project in this class, so I wou;d be visiting each of these questions. For instance I can tell you already that although in Tucson Arizona we don’t have a consistent frost calendar, we definitely get both ends of the spectrum with dryness and rain (monsoons). This will be a big factor as to what I suggest plant and where I suggest planting. Also, as I now reflect on the soil conditions in Tucson I realize there’s a vast range of soil types, so I will need to find the soil type of the exact area I plan to design for.
Once you get a grasp on the above aspects, you’ll lay a more guided foundation on which you can plan crop varieties. Next would be the time to revisit the 60/30/10 concept and analyze what crops will best suite your diet and your land.
Things you might consider as you are sorting through this process would be:
What plants can you use as pest regulators? What plants can you use as pollinator attractors? What plants will work in companion to keep harmful insects and predators away, yet aide each other in flourishing?
Once you get a good foundation set, and a good idea then of what you’d like your main crops to be, you can start researching what type of plants you’d like to sow for the off season. For example, most growing seasons here in the US run from May 20th to September 30th – for main crop (most veggies, fruits, and grains) – the winter time is a nice time to give your land some added nutrients. Biointensive suggests you plant winter crops that can be harvested for mature compost material, calories, and for soil biology support.
My grandfather and grandmother grew up farming and I often heard them talk about “letting the land rest”. I always thought this made sense, just like people need rest at times to rejuvenate their mind and body, also could the land need a break from constantly producing. Now I’m seeing another side to it all. The land is living just like the produce, so then is it best to let the land rest by not planting, or are we starving the living organisms in the land of nutrients by flooding them with goodness for only part of the year?
I’ll wrap it up by throwing in a couple other items of consideration-
A cover catch crop (such as buckwheat) could be intermingled later in the main growing season.
Vary your veggies over time, for both your benefit and the benefit of the land.
More compost crops = more sustainability