Module 12 Market Gardening
Module 12 Learning Outcomes
- Understanding of the benefits of No-Dig
- How to establish beds
- Considerations for starting seeds
- Overview of growing microgreens
- Basic overview of wide variety of crops
- Non- toxic methods of dealing with pests and diseases
- Understanding the importance of standardising beds/ materials and practices
- Completed bed plans with dimensions, access, layout and watering considerations if appropriate
- Completed spreadsheet containing crop data of what you're going to grow if appropriate
- Completed annual crop plan if appropriate
- Completed season calendar with relevant data filled in
- Completed Bill of Quantities to include sources and costs of tools, materials, seeds, packaging and other investment costs
The complicated process of planning a market garden
Steps for creating a market garden plan
We highly recommend making all your beds exactly the same size. This makes various elements of planning, as well as practical logistics far simpler. The job of planning is complicated enough! all our beds are 10 x 0.75m. You will want to label all your beds with some simple code so you can easily refer to specific beds in the planning process. Our beds are in blocks of 10, so each group of beds has a code, eg, N2 is the North beds group 2, within which are 10 beds. Therefore, a simple code such as N2-4 identifies a precise bed easily.
Creating a market garden plan is a complicated process. Different factors will influence what you decide to grow, including your climate, markets, etc. Below you’ll find all the planning spreadsheets we use to plan our CSA box scheme, with planting plans for 50 shares and 100 shares. As we’ve scaled up the gardens here at the farm, we’ve essentially doubled the plans, with a few minor changes here and there. There is no easy or quick way to create a comprehensive plan, but hopefully these sheets will help you to come up with your own customised and detailed plan. Growing for market and restaurants will bring about different considerations than for a CSA box scheme. We choose to focus on the Box scheme as it is a far more forgiving way of sharing risk. The type of customer that supports their farmer by voluntarily sharing risk in this way is exactly the sort of customer we wish to interact with. We do sell to restaurants too, but have developed these relationships so as to clear out our surpluses, rather than growing specifically for their needs. Planning a CSA requires a good spread of salads, cooking vegetables, roots and speciality items. We recommend the following steps;
- Label all your beds so that you have a short hand code that you can use in your planning notes/ calendar.
- Decide what crops you wish to grow. For each crop assemble the sort of data found in the base data spreadsheet. You’ll need to look very specifically at dates for your precise location, as well as fill in specific varieties and their days to maturity (DTM)
- Don’t be tempted to start with too many vegetables. Concentrate on easy to grow and profitable crops. Profitability is a balance between sales value, days in the ground and the space the plants take up, or yield per bed. You can always plan to buy in some crops, for example, we chose to buy in potato.
- Create a rough harvest schedule depicting how many times you might like to include each vegetable that corresponds to the delivery dates and the number of boxes you fit in a season. (See 50 share harvest plan)
- Use the seeding/harvesting date spreadsheet to start getting into detail with each seeding date, checking that you are not planning to plant anything out too early at the start of the year, or too late in the season to get a harvest. (This requires hopping back and forth with the spreadsheets, it takes time)
- Start identifying how many beds of each different crop you need to grow, and assemble them into plant families wherever possible This will make subsequent crop rotations much easier in following years, as you can simply rotate the bed plans if everything else went well.
- This data can all be feed back into the Base Data sheet to allow you to calculate seed costs and requirements.
- Create a final bed plan with all the seeding/transplanting/direct seeding dates, and make sure this corresponds with your planned harvest sheet.Now transfer all this data to a calendar so all seeding, transplanting, direct seeding, hardening-off, etc, is recorded. We plan our calendar in rough and adjust all the dates slightly so no work is planned for the weekend, going back to the spreadsheets and changing dates to fit the working week. This usually involves bringing things forward to a Friday, rather than pushing them back to a Monday, as it were.
- Once we’re happy with the plan we write it up neatly in a diary or wall calendar and use simple colour codes for indoor seeding, transplanting, direct seeding, hardening off and harvesting. This helps scan the day ahead’s work quickly.
After a long process with the spreadsheets we transfer all the data onto a rough calendar before writing it up neatly.
All the work of planning essentially ends up as a day-to-day 'what to do' calendar to allow you to focus on the work at hand rather than decision making once the season is underway. Any changes to the plan are noted so that the next seasons plan can incorporate necessary adjustments.
Whilst the resulting calendar is simple enough, there is a lot of data concealed in each entry. Essentially anyone can the perform the day to day work without needing to have a complete understanding of the whole season. In the example of seeding leeks (above right) the bed identification along with the crop and variety and date goes onto the label in the seed tray, so everything is traceable. It tells you what seeding trays to use and how many to seed, so in most day-to-day operations there is no need to consult anything except the days diary entry. When it comes to planting out, it is obvious to anyone which bed the crops are destined for, and the base data sheet reminds the precise spacing for planting.
Market Garden Planning Spreadsheets
Planting Plans (50 shares on 750m2 and 100 shares on 1500m2)
Pest and Disease control at our farm
We take a simple approach at the farm, and are not prepared to use any super toxic materials for pests and diseases on our crops. Just because something is labelled safe to use in Organics, does not mean we want it on our food. Our methods are limited to the following strategies;
- Using a no-dig approach to radically build healthy topsoil. Ultimately this is our best investment for pest/disease management
- Growing on transplants Many problems can be avoided simply by growing on sturdy transplants as opposed to planting out young seedlings.
- Crop rotation (we do not follow this as tightly as some might, largely because of our belief that eventually a no-dig system will reduce the build up of soil based pathogens
- Row covers and insect netting. This is our primary defence, as it is the flea beetle and caterpillars that have presented us most problems.
- Diatomaceous earth. DE is a dust made of the fossilised remains of one-celled plants called diatoms. Although contact with the dust poses no risk to people, it is deadly to animals with exoskeletons. The microscopic fossils have razor-sharp edges that scratch the outer shell of insects, causing them to dehydrate and die. Food-grade diatomaceous earth does not contain toxins or chemicals, but it is an effective pesticide against a wide variety of garden pests including aphids, adult flea beetle, grubs, ants and squash bugs.
- Nematodes Each species of nematode targets specific pests. For instance, (S. carpocapsae) is effective on larval stages of weevils such as black vine, caterpillars and cutworms. Another species (S. feltiae) is used against larvae of cabbage maggot, onion maggot, raspberry crown borer, and thrips. Both species are effective on larvae of codling moth, corn earworm, and cucumber beetle. (H. bacteriophora ) is effective for larvae of tree and vine borers, European chafer, Colorado potato beetle, corn root worm, flea beetles, and grubs including those of the Japanese beetle. Timing is important, as the soil stages of your target pest need to be present for the nematodes to work on them. Nematodes are living organisms, so should be applied very soon after you get them. They like moisture, so if it hasn’t rained, water thoroughly both before and after application, or apply during rain. If your nematodes arrive on a wet sponge, rinse them from the sponge into cool water, then spray on plants according to label directions. Soils must be kept moist for a week to 10 days after application. Rainy, overcast weather is good for another reason, nematodes are quite sensitive to ultraviolet sunlight, and can be killed within a minute or two if exposed to it. That’s why you’ll often see recommendations to apply in early morning or late afternoon. They’re sensitive to temperature too, with ideal temperatures being over 7°C. Nematodes for slugs need to be specific to molluscs. The nematodes (Phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita) enter slugs' bodies and infect them with bacteria that cause a fatal disease. A moist warm soil (5-20ºC) is required, therefore control is most effective during spring to early autumn. Best results are achieved by applying in the evening to moist but well-drained soils; control may be less successful in heavy soils. This nematode is available by mail order from suppliers of biological controls.
- Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a natural occurring, soil-borne bacteria that has been used since the 1950's for natural insect control. It consists of a spore, which gives it persistence, and a protein crystal within the spore, which is toxic. That toxic protein differs, depending on the subspecies of Bt producing it, yielding a variance of Bt toxic to different insect species. When the bacteria is consumed by certain insects, the toxic crystal is released in the insects highly alkaline gut, blocking the system which protects the pest’s stomach from its own digestive juices. The stomach is penetrated, and the insect dies by poisoning from the stomach contents and the spores themselves. This same mechanism is what makes Bt harmless to birds, fish and mammals whose acidic gut conditions negate the bacteria’s effect.
- Organic Slug Poison Ferric phosphate is approved for use by organic growers and is supposedly relatively non-toxic to vertebrate animals. Iron phosphate is a stomach poison in slugs and snails. It damages their digestive tissue. With enough exposure, they stop eating altogether and slowly die. Iron phosphate has been claimed to be practically non-toxic to birds, based on testing with quails. Beetles and earthworms were not affected in studies using twice the amount of iron phosphate allowed. Iron phosphate has been shown to be practically non-toxic to fish, water fleas, and algae. Exposure to bees is unlikely because it is applied to soil as granules. Unfortunately, an added ingredient makes the supposedly harmless substance extremely toxic. A man-made chemical called EDTA, a chelating agent that causes the iron phosphate to release its elemental iron easily in the digestive systems of not only slugs and snails but of pretty much anything that eats it. EDTA or the similar EDDS are the only reason these baits are effective, yet interestingly the label only reads Active Ingredient: Iron Phosphate - 1%, Inert Ingredients - 99%. No mention is made of the presence of another chemical that can turn harmless iron phosphate into a deadly poison. Apparently EDTA was slipped through the cracks in our regulatory system as an "inert" ingredient, and inert ingredients do not have to be listed on the label. Since iron phosphate is harmless, and EDTA is the ingredient that makes it effective, not to mention dangerous, something is really wrong here. This is included here as invasive slugs are such a problem here in Sweden, yet thankfully we have very low numbers of slugs. Our neighbour has them, and so we have used this type of poison along our ditches separating the properties. We have now resorted to the tedious task of picking thousands of slugs, keeping the ditch grass short to make the process easier.
If you're planning a Market Garden enterprise create and upload the following;
- Add a layer to your design with bed plans with dimensions, access, layout and watering considerations
- Spreadsheet containing crop data of what you're going to grow
- Spreadsheet of your crop plan
- Season calendar with relevant data filled in
- How you will deal with seed starting
- How your ground preparation/ bed care will look
- How you plan to harvest, wash, store and sell produce
- Create a detailed Bill of Quantities to include sources and costs of tools, materials, seeds, packaging and other investment costs
Tools & Materials
- 75cm Seedbed roller (USA) http://bit.ly/2keqGvB
- 6 row seeder (USA) http://bit.ly/2jb8jdg
- Precision Seeders (Eur) http://bit.ly/2kel2JF
- Earthway seeder http://amzn.to/2j00x2m
- Paperpot Seeder (Eur) http://bit.ly/2jl2fMR
- Quick greens harvester (USA) http://bit.ly/2jOkUUH
- 75cm Broadfork (UK) http://bit.ly/2kfOovu
- Glaser hoes (UK) http://bit.ly/2jE0mf0
- Korean hand hoe (UK) http://bit.ly/2jkV9YC
- Wheeled Hoe (Eur) http://bit.ly/2jOdPDA
- Fleece row cover
- Insect netting
- Non-Woven Geotextile bed covers
- 4mm wire for hoops (UK) http://bit.ly/2jbfPVf
- 150m of 1.2m windbreak http://bit.ly/2k35MQR
- 64 & 144 high quality seed trays
- Leek/onion trays
- Tomato/ Cucumber pots
- Microgreen trays
• The Market Gardener. Jean-Martin Fortiere.
• The New Organic Grower. Elliot Coleman.
• The 4 Season harvest. Elliot Coleman.
• How to grow more vegetables. John Jeavons.
• The New Organic Grower. Elliot Coleman.
• The 4 Season harvest. Elliot Coleman.
• How to grow more vegetables. John Jeavons.