What to plant, and where!

The zucchini has breathed it’s last and the tomato production has reduced to such a small number that it’s time to clear the beds and think about Autumn planting. I’ve always struggled to know what to plant when and for the greatest production. I’ve played with a lot of different approaches but don’t feel like I’m there yet. I’ve also read a lot of books and websites with their recommendations including one read over the weekend that prefaced it’s own list by pointing out that conditions can change significantly depending on small variations such as what side of a hill you are on, what buildings surround you and the amount of sun you get; so ignore lists! So what to do? Well this year I’m going to throw myself fully into guild planting.

The concept with guild planting is that you mix up and intersperse what you plant in order to promote better production and revitalise the soil. It mimics what you would find in nature where the concept of acres of a single crop would not last long and mostly result in some very happy bugs ! It works on a whole heap of different levels. Some plants protect others from pests (the tomato-basil relationships being the one most are familiar with), some offer growing structure (such as corn planted with a climbing bean that uses the corn as a trellis) and some like fennel, celery and dill will attract predatory bugs such as ladybugs and predatory wasps (not the European type) if let go to seed. The other concept is that you increase your available growing space by stacking the plants. An example of this is the the above corn-bean group with a ground hugging zucchini tossed in. This means you’ll have the tall corn, with the bean in the mid level and the zucchini at the bottom. You can also do the same with layering of the roots so that plants are mining to different depths for their nutrients (like lettuce and carrot).

If you’re like me then just this explanation makes your head swim with the multitude of different variations and approaches that one could come up with. I think this is why I seem to have done something slightly different each year. So what am I doing this year? Well I’ve got sort of four beds that are what I consider to be my intensive beds. I’m planting three different guilds in them.

Guild 1: Alternating rows of carrots and onions (with carrots being gradually planted to spread production) and a central area of garlic. At the edges of this bed is beetroot and radish

Guild 2: Silverbeet, celery, parsley and brocolli with alternating lettuce, cabbage and beetroot. A row of broad bean on a loose trellis. I’m also going to throw in some coriander, calendula and nasturtiums partly for their strong smells but mostly because Nikki gets upset if there’s not at least some flower potential !

Guild 3: The chaos guild! Carrots, beetroot, radish, lettuce, endive and dill in the front (facing north). Kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, celery and spinach in the middle. A row of peas and beans on a trellis towards the back with a smattering of lettuce, beetroot and radish at the very back (though really close to the path) to soak up what space is left.

I’m still tossing up whether or not to repeat one of these guilds or go for a green manure on the fourth bed (I’m leaning towards the latter) to replenish nutrients. At the back I’ve got a load of what they called ‘clucker tucker’ which is going to supplement the chook food and provide lots of greens for them. After that’s gone it’s potato city for that space in between the trees.

So that’s my plan, now that I’ve written it down I can’t help but wonder whether I did so for the benefit of the reader or to get it straight in my own head! Anyway I hope it helps and if you’ve got any corrections or comments then I’m always up for them.

Happy planting!