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Another cycle of life

In nature there are many cycles of life that we need to be aware of because working with nature has always been more effective than working against it. Nature has time on its side and you have to work hard to keep it the way you want it.

Look at weeding, you stop and your patch is full of weed shoots in a few short days. You have to work on it all the time. The same with planting, sure you can plant and harvest strawberries in December but you are putting a lot of work and energy into it. They grow and practically look after themselves in summer.

It is much easier to fit into as many of natures many cycles as you can than to try and impose your own. Nature is stubborn and changes to suit itself. One way is to reclassify what you call weeds. After all one prolific weed, the dandelion has many uses which is good for us in a survival situation. One is that they are easy to find.

We have similar needs to most gardeners; to grow as much as we can as quickly and as easily as we can. The major difference is that we want to grow our food to survive, although many are starting to grow their own crops it is to make their food affordable or as a beneficial hobby, not to survive. A minor difference is that they will use commercial fertilisers and we believe won’t have access to them.

This means that we will have to make do without commercial fertilisers and make our own and that we cannot afford for a crop to fail.

We can learn a lot from gardeners even if they are doing it for a different purpose. Most of them follow the annual planting cycle, this is where the plants have fitted into natures little niche and they survive and grow to produce a crop and, importantly, will do so with minimal human intervention. We do nothing for many plants except collect the harvest. Those are ideal plants for us and we should try and have as many of those as we can. Even if you don’t like them much they can be a life saver.

However, we must consider that we won’t mind spending some time on the task when it improves the yield or the quality of the crop. Leaving things to the wild don’t give us what we want. Nature is wasteful. So we protect our crops, we remove undesirable plants, insects and animals to protect the crop and we fertilise with natural fertilisers, green manure, composted material and human and animal waste. Another cycle of life.

So every month there is work to be done, even over the winter. We need to get into the routine with nature, not fight it just because it doesn’t work the way we want it to. We save our fights for when we have to. I’m collecting together gardening tasks for each month and will publish them at the start of each month, obviously this month is late. Sorry.

Finally, there is another cycle of life that we need to consider while gardening. The soil cycle and crop rotation. This is where one crop depleted the suit of a nutrient so repeated use for the same crop is bad for the yield. We need to give the soil time to replenish its nutriets and help us deliver a good crop. At this time we do that with fertiliser, in the future we will have to use natural fertilisers and crop rotation.

Crop rotation works because one crop takes nutrient X and return nutrient Y, next year you plant a crop that uses nutrient Y and leaves nutrient Z while the pests from last years crop can’t live on this years, the third year the crop takes nutrient Z and returns nutrient X and the pests from the previous years crop dies. You still have to put manure and compost in for the general nutrients and control general pests though. The three year cycle is a recognised gardening technique and if you use three areas you can have all the crops at the same time. It is recommended that you rest your soil every fourth year so four beds is best but clearly that may not be viable every year in a survival situation where we may be low on supplies and the previous years crops may not have been as prolific as we wanted.

The crops for the beds are;

  • Root crops
  • Peas and Beans
  • Brassicas

Rotate this in each bed and if you have the opportunity make a fourth year of green compost. Some green compost are actually crops in their own right and could be considered an alternative to the Peas and Beans or Brassicas part of the three year rotation. Personally, I think if you have the capability a years rest will be of benefit to your land especially if you let the animals graze there on year four.

So;

Bed 1 Bed 2 Bed 3 Bed 4
Year 1 Root Crops Peas and Beans Brassicas Rest
Year 2 Peas and Beans Brassicas Rest Root Crops
Year 3 Brassicas Rest Root Crops Peas and Beans
Year 4 Rest Root Crops Peas and Beans Brassicas

Year 5 is a repeat from Year 1 and so on.

Of course working with nature means that you won’t have strawberries in December but consider if you want to expend the energy and effort. If you do then go for it. It is your time and energy that you are expending.

Working with nature though is the way to go for cost and effort effective crop production.

1 comment to Another cycle of life

  • Kenneth Eames

    Thank you for this SD, A good intro for people who have never grown crops before. Combine this with your preserving in the kitchen and you can have strawberries in December. If you have a wife get her involved with the preservation of your produce. A great help is dehydration. Dehydrated food weighs a lot less and takes up less space. It can last for years if properly stored. In a year when the crop is poor You still have a reserve of food. Kenneth Eames.

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