Gardening with Pencil and Paper

The revised garden plan.

Recently, I finished reading an extraordinary book on gardening: The New Organic Grower by Eliot Coleman (30th anniversary edition, 2018). Coleman’s approach to biological gardening, and life in general, spoke to me loudly and I’m planning to adopt many of his techniques. For example,

  • Continuous improvement of soil fertility and biological processes using natural methods (manure, compost, organic matter, etc.)
  • Producing quality compost
  • Soil block seed germination methods
  • Cultivating often instead of onerous weeding

It is easy to farm a lot of land with a pencil and paper, but a lot harder to actually do it. — Eliot Coleman

The wisdom quoted above appears early in the book and came to my attention just in time as I began to mark out the plots of my original garden concept. After seeing the plots laid out on the ground, it became obvious that I’d been overzealous in my two-dimensional planning. The plots as planned would be expensive, time-consuming, and unwieldy to maintain and would produce way more food than we need. As Emily reminded me, we can always expand later if needed. So instead of six plots of 500 square feet each plus 1500 square feet of berries, we will have just three plots of 500 square feet each.

Plot C, shown here after tilling, is now covered with a thick layer of straw for the winter.

There isn’t much else to do outside for the garden now; next year’s garlic is in the ground and Plot C is covered with straw that I’ll till under in the spring. I’ll be busy, however, designing and building a few small germination chambers, researching supplies, and reading, reading, reading.