We are just about four weeks away from the average last frost date for Cobb County, which means that I am counting down to the time when I can really fill the garden again with food-producing plants. The potatoes and peas are starting to come up, making the garden look a little less bare, but most sections of the garden are looking fairly empty. The spaces that still have some cool-season crops (spinach and green onions, for example) will be cleared over the next few weeks to make room for the next round of plants.
Meanwhile, the seedlings that I've started for spring planting all need tending, including watering and moving to larger containers as needed. I've put sweet potatoes into a flat of sand-plus-potting mix to make slips (which won't be planted until May). Some of the lettuces that I've started indoors will be ready to set out in a week or so, and the parsley might be ready then, too. I'll be putting out seeds for radishes each week through April, because Joe likes radishes and Moonpie LOVES radish leaves.
Depending on how the next couple of weeks go, weather-wise, I might plant a little patch of bush beans when I set out the lettuces. That would be a small gamble, but I have lots of bean seeds for replanting if a freeze knocks out the first round. Otherwise, there's some impatient waiting ahead.
One thing I've been working on while I wait is a more firm crop rotation schedule than I've had in the past. I've assigned numbers to the different planting areas in my yard, to make a six year rotation. However, the most "needed" crops are in two beds each year. This is how it looks so far:
Bed 1 year 1 - Green peas, followed by sweet potatoes, okra, and sunflowers, which come out in October and are replaced by onions, shallots, and garlic.
Bed 2 year 1 - Onion family comes out in June, followed by late tomatoes and Southern peas, followed by a winter cover crop.
Bed 3 year 1 - Zucchini, melons, and cukes, followed by buckwheat cover, followed by carrots, cilantro, and parsley.
Bed 4 year 1 - Corn, underplanted with beans or peanuts, followed by cabbage family plants, followed by green peas (leaving a little space for the early potatoes).
Bed 5 year 1 - Potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, with early potatoes followed by bush beans, then replanted with late potatoes, then mulched.
Bed 6 year 1 - Zucchini, melons, and cukes, followed by buckwheat cover, followed by beets, spinach, and Swiss chard.
What's missing, of course, is a space for the lettuces and chicory. Hopefully, in the next three or four weeks I will have sorted out that little detail. And this year, it will take a little finagling to get the rotation right, because what's in the beds right now doesn't exactly match what I have mapped out.
Part of why I'm working this out is that many of the planting schemes I've seen don't take rotation (moving plant families around the garden) into account, and they don't use succession planting at all. I'm working on getting more cover crops into the rotation but also to keep quite a bit of space in production. The plan isn't quite right yet, but I'm pretty sure the work will be totally worthwhile.