Permaculture V: Vegetable garden design and planning

To provide the majority of your food requirements you will need an area of up to 300m². Previously Lucho Iglesias of PermaculturaCañaDulce has explained how to start a permaculture garden. In this article he looks at crop rotation and companion planting.
Some vegetables are easier than others to grow and we advice starting with them. They include lettuces, cabbages, radishes, chards, onions, sunflowers, and aubergines, amongst others. We recommend that you take time to create a good design beforehand to be successful.
An excellent resource is “El Huerto Ecológico” by Mariano Bueno, or in English “Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain” by Clodagh & Dick Handscombe.
Crop Rotation
It is not a good idea to plant cabbage, for example, year after year in the same plot as the soil deteriorates and it encourages parasites that will harm the crop. Some plants are less sensitive to crop rotation such as garlic, onions, lettuces and even tomatoes. However, in principle it is good to rotate crops.
Companion Planting

In a natural ecosystem the diversity of vegetable species guarantees the fertility and health of the soil. I suggest to work with systems of companion planting that have been tried and tested, in some cases for thousand of years, with positive results.  A good example is the pre-Columbian companion planning of mixing climbing bean, sweet corn and pumpkin. They support each other and create mutual benefit. It is interesting to note that none of these 3 store well and that they give protein, carbohydrates and vitamins respectively.
Some combinations include:
Basil with peppers;
Celery with leeks and tomatoes;
Dill with onions and peppers;
Lettuce with garlic and artichoke;
Rose plants with scallion;
Parsley and lupins;
Carrots with onions;
Aubergines with low growing beans and potatoes;
Courgette with cabbages and lettuces;
Strawberry with garlic and borage.
Some companion planting is counter productive and can inhibit the growth of other plants; fennel, for example, is usually repulsive to other plants, or sage when planted near to many vegetables.
There are techniques that we can use to improve the output of the soil, such as allowing certain vegetables to end their life cycle, and replant themselves saving us a lot of work. Rúcula, chard, lettuce, Chinese cabbage, raddish are all good crops to leave to die back. If we allow garlic bulbs to reproduce themselves in the same place for 2 years they provide a constant crop.
With lettuce and other green vegetables such as spinach we can cut them leaf by leaf instead of uprooting the entire crop, thus extending its cycle and output.
A vegetable garden is a learning space, an endless source of simple and deep pleasures that I invite you to discover.

Lucho Iglesias y Matricia Lana – co-creators of PermaculturaCañaDulce –
For more in this series of articles please click here

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