You make me spin right round baby


During an early morning web-crawl I stumbled upon an interesting post over at Permies.com about SPIN farming that intrigued me. I began researching and became even more interested and as usual my head is now “spinning” with ideas for my Orchard/Garden/Chicken Corral. On first read the concept seemed to be a strange marriage of Square Foot gardening and Multi-level marketing.

I first became enamored with square foot gardening back in the 90’s when we would spend as much of the summer as we could in our R/V next to the beach in Oceanside CA. San Diego’s public television station had Mel’s show on everyday during the week and it just made so much sense. I couldn’t wait to get the book and have since given several friends copies of the square foot gardening book whenever the discussion came up about growing vegetables. It was familiarity with square foot gardening’s simple common sense approach to backyard gardening that made Dave Wilson’s Back Yard Orchard Culture ideas so attractive when I discovered them last summer.

Am I planning on becoming a locally sourced produce entrepreneur? I don’t think so. It isn’t the marketing/business model of SPIN that I am interested in. From what I have read so far Small Plot INtensive gardening is the exact same concept as Square Foot gardening but with an added marketing component, my garden/chicken farm is relaxation/therapy for me. Growing stuff and tending my chooks helps refocus me and keep me going in a positive direction, it most certainly is work but it isn’t a job!

The part that grabbed my attention though is the suggested bed configuration of relatively long narrow beds that you can easily step across and straddle. Currently I have my sunken beds and my Half-Assed Hugelkulture beds between the rows of trees in my orchard. The orchard is laid out with with four rows 9′ apart with the trees spaced 4′ apart within those four rows. My sunken beds are 6′ long and positioned in between the trees in the first three rows. Basically: Emerald Beauty/bed/Gold Kist/bed/Splash ; Santa Rosa/bed/Royal Rosa/bed/Dapple Dandy ; Flavor Grenade/bed/Blenheim/bed/Mid Pride ; Flavor King/bed/Flavor Delight/bed/Arctic Star. My three Half-Assed Hugelkulture beds are in between the last two rows of trees. The Half-Assed Hugelkulture beds are going to stay where they are and in fact as soon as the weather breaks I am going to add a fourth bed in between those last two rows of trees. All of them are 4’x4′ straight out of Square Foot Gardening, I am comfortable with that configuration and think that I will have plenty of room around them for the tree branches. The Sunken Beds are another matter, their E-W orientation in line with the trees is a bit confining and I am finding it a bit difficult to work in them. Truthfully it has become an overgrown mess. I’m thinking that if the existing Sunken Beds were replaced with a single 2′ wide by 12′ long bed run N-S between each of the first three rows of trees I would have much better access while at the same time reducing competition for nutrients. Additionally I lost several trees this year due to wet feet, this new configuration would increase the distance between the beds and trees reducing the possibility of over-irrigation.

Last night I was thinking about how I had things all mapped out in my head in regards to garden projects for the fall, now one little blurb I read on the internet has turned my head upside down. All of those well thought out plans have rolled away across the tile floor leaving a big vacancy for new ideas!

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2 thoughts on “You make me spin right round baby

  1. Interesting concept BUT (there’s always a but) there are very few food crops (strawberries and lettuce being the notable exceptions) where you can stradle the plant to work on the bed once it reaches maturity (especially if anything starts shooting – including the aforementioned lettuce) so that “advantage” with the 2 foot wide beds is a furphy if you ask me. I like to be able to reach across to the middle of my bed so I can harvest/weed without stepping into the bed.

    As for N/S or E/W orientation… I am not convinced it matters that much if you plant more than 1 row of anything in a bed (I never plant 1 row, normaly 3 or 4) because then you end up with all your plants shading each other anyway. I do try to put really tall crops in the “back” bed (in Australia, that’s the south side since the sun in on the north here) like corn, which might otherwise shade neighbouring beds.

    All interesting and thought provoking stuff – thanks for posting.

    • Max says:

      Your spot on about the straddling, I hadn’t thought that part clear through. The SPIN people are looking for fast turnover of crops that are in high demand such as greens, scallions and the like, not what I’m after. I like my 4X4 beds in that last row but I know the trees are going to encroach rapidly forcing me to narrow them in a year or two, I was thinking to start narrow instead on these counting on the eventual filtered shade to create a semi hospitable micro-climate during our brutal summers. Thanks for the thought provoking reply, you tipped a few more marbles on the ground. 🙂

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