So you’ve decided to grow your own vegetables and have dug over a patch of the garden.
You’ve even got as far as double digging and adding organic compost to the soil.
And then someone asks you whether you’re using the square foot method of cultivation or whether you’re going to grow your own vegetables in rows?
So you take a sip of tea before you answer…
and they throw in the question “And what are you doing about crop rotation?”
Then you’ll be glad you’ve read this blog and have our eBook “In Your Autumn Garden with Plews” downloaded to your smart phone…
There are many different methods of growing fruit, vegetables and salads. You may have heard of or use some of them, but there are probably some you don’t know too.
This blog is about the traditional ‘growing in rows’ method of cultivation for vegetables and fruit.
With a brief diversion into crop rotation – just so that you can answer the above question (we like to be helpful).
This isn’t a definitive guide and we have and will be talking in more detail about many of these in our blogs, and potentially writing whole new eBook.
FYI – We have a Gardening Glossary on the website which explains these and other terms using non-technical language.
So, a little clarification of the terms or phrases ‘crop growing methods’ and ‘types of cultivation’ as I use them and which you may find helpful.
‘Crop growing method’ – the physical boundaries or style.
Within these methods you can then use different ‘Types of cultivation’.
There are some systems which are a mix of both, but this works as a general rule.
And now – a brief history as to why you might want to grow your own vegetables in rows.
Types of Cultivation
Grow your own vegetables in rows – when did it start?
If you’re going to grow your own vegetables in rows, then it is useful to be aware that this is a cultivation or tillage method best used in conjunction with crop rotation.
Growing in rows is frequently asserted to be a late eighteenth century introduction alongside the increased use of agricultural machinery; however, this is usually because people are getting muddled between gardens and farms.
Ploughs, whether hand pulled, horse drawn or mechanical, are most efficiently used in a long straight run. This is why rows have been used for hundreds of years on farm land.
In the late seventeenth century came the introduction of seed drills. Farmers, landowners and market gardeners were able to efficiently sow seeds along the rows.
The great walled kitchen gardens of the aristocracy and landed gentry had a history of using both rows and block planting depending on the crop and the arrangement of the kitchen garden. Their kitchen gardens could be many acres in size, so there was space to spread out.
The idea of small domestic gardeners being able to do the whole ‘grow your own vegetables in rows’ thing came about largely through the increasing interest in gardening during the later eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The rise of wealthy urban middle classes gave rise to this pursuit of gardening. Middle class women especially were able to direct their gardeners. It was acceptable get their hands ‘dirty’ doing a bit of light pruning.
The Romans grew their vegetables in rows and raised beds. But they weren’t the first society to do so. Strictly speaking, the idea to grow your own vegetables in rows was an invention of the Chinese. There is a document from the third century BC where the efficiency of the crop or amount produced is said to be increased by growing the crops in rows.
Rows are best laid out on a north – south axis so the crops get the most benefit from the sun as it travels across the sky during the day. This isn’t the case if you’re going to grow your own vegetables near the equator, of course!
Crop Growing Methods
I intend looking at crop rotation in more detail in another blog.
Briefly, it is a crop growing method which can be used with different types of cultivation. For example, rows, raised beds, square foot gardening.
Crop rotation is a means of production where the different types of crop are grown in the same area in successive years in order to reduce pests and diseases and to maximise the soil nutrients.
A three course rotation means that crop A will be grown in area D in year 1 and then again in year 4. Four and five course rotations are also frequently used. The number of courses is directly affected by the number of different edible plant groupings. For example, brassicas, roots, legumes are the three most common groups used.
Crop rotation is extremely important in monocultures, ie where a single crop is grown; although the area may be a raised bed or a ten acre field.
There are arguments against the necessity of rotation in small areas, but I would still advise rotation if a monoculture system of cultivation is in place.
And that I feel is enough for one blog – keep drinking the tea ;-]
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