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Win the Garden Game with Four Quarters

The first phase of the American professional football playoffs are now history. Four games in two days have narrowed the potential championship contenders down to eight teams. After next weekend’s games, only four teams will remain. Two more games will be played to bring us to the point where we know which two teams will face each other in The Big Game on February 5 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

American professional football, like the American dollar, contains four quarters. Theoretically, each gridiron quarter is fifteen minutes long. In reality, with commercials, time outs, huddles, muddles, and other matters, one quarter of football can easily drag on for forty minutes or longer.

Personally, I don’t have enough patience to sit down and watch too many of these games. Despite not watching much football this weekend, I have been investing a lot of time thinking about quarters, and I’m not talking about the shiny ones with George Washington’s profile on the front.

While there are lots of ways to break up your survival garden for efficient crop rotation, I tend to prefer the Quarter Method.

Before I explain how I use the Quarter Method in my own garden, I’d like to take a moment to explain the importance of crop rotation. Crop rotation gives the soil in your garden a fighting chance to develop a healthy balance of nutrients and microorganisms. If you plant the same crop or even a related crop in the same spot year after year, you give the critters that cause harm the opportunity to prepare for a feast.

Let us say, for example, you planted potatoes in a particular spot in your survival garden the past year or two and they have done very well there. With a strong record of success, it might seem natural to plan for spuds in that spot this year as well.

Although you might get away with it a third year in a row, the deck is stacked against you, and if you’re going for a fourth year in a row, I can virtually guarantee disaster.

A lot has been happening in that section of the garden season after season. Root-killing verticillium fungi and tiny potato-damaging nematodes have been raising families. With each potato planting, they have become a little more prosperous. And they are not the only ones who have building their strength for a devastating attack. Potato beetles, flea beetles, wireworms, and other hungry bugs that have a taste for potatoes are waiting for their next meal. They might not have done a lot of damage last year or even the year before that, but if you keep planting your potatoes in the same patch of ground, they will eventually find them, and you’ll be fighting a losing battle on multiple fronts.

The same situation holds true for just about any veggie you’re likely to grow. Each plant has specialized pests, bacteria, and fungi that build up in the soil each year that you place their favorite food in the spot they’ve learned to call home. The best way to get rid of them is to starve them out by using that spot to grow something that they don’t find quite so tasty.

If you have the time to do a little research, you’ll discover dozens of crop rotation methods. Although I can’t claim to have tried each and every one, I imagine each has its own benefits. The Quarter Method just happens to work best for me. If you find one that works better for you, make it yours. The key thing is to keep those vegetables moving to different spaces in your garden every two or three years.

So let’s get down to how I plan to use the Quarter Method in my garden this year. I start by dividing my garden into roughly four sections.

In the first section, I’m planning to grow peas and onions during the spring. When summer approaches, I’ll plant some string beans and runner beans in that plot. If all goes well, I’ll probably add some garlic to this section in the early fall.

This year, I’m planning to grow my brassicas and some lettuce in the second section. I’m thinking cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and maybe some endive as the year goes along.

Section three is going to be devoted to the beet and carrot family. This year it will feature beets, spinach, chard, carrots, celery, and probably some parsnips.

I’ll start the fourth and final section off with early potatoes and then move on to tomatoes, cukes, and zucchini. I might decide to add some melons to this spot later in the year

Your choice of vegetables might be different, but the important thing to remember is that you want to keep members of the same vegetable family in the same quarter section of your garden.

When it comes time to rotate your crops, just move each family clockwise around your garden. By planting within families and rotating them every two or three years, you’ll keep your soil in better shape and cut down on the chances of pests, fungi, and other nasties wrecking your plans for a healthy harvest.

Here’s hoping that you’re enjoying making plans for the next growing season. Thanks for dropping by, and come back soon for more musings and meanderings from my survival garden.

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