I climbed into bed last night feeling hopeless as a gardener, a complete know nothing. I was trying to plan one of my last garden beds and realized that I didn't know which way to orient the rows - North/South or East/West. That wasn't so much the breaking point, that came later when I pulled out one of my many volumes of garden reference books and started reading about rotation.
I can forgive myself about the East/West uncertainty, it seems to be debatable even among the most seasoned gardeners but the rotation thing always throws me for a loop. Once I find something that works, I find it difficult to change it up. The spinach, for example. We have had marvelous spinach yields the past two to three years. My husband loves spinach. We wouldn't think of not planting it in the winter. After skimming the pages in the chapter about crop rotation I am afraid that one year, perhaps this year, we will have nothing come up, or anemic little wisps of spinach at best.
The seed of my doubt? How To Grow More Vegetables by Jeavons. Yeah, thanks a lot Jeavons. You can go now. Your work here is done.
My thoughts on the subject of bed/crop rotation are that I add fresh new turkey compost between plantings so I'm not really depleting the soil, am I? I DON'T KNOW!!! This is gardener angst that you are witnessing. I pulled out my DK (Dorlinging Kindersley) book on organic gardening to assuage my fears, it's the one with the really great photos - of everything. But it, too, has a section on crop rotation. I hardly know what I planted where in a 4x4 bed this week, let alone last year. How can I be expected to rotate?
I was just glad that the kohlrabi decided to come up because I wasn't sure if I planted it next to the bok choy or in the square above it. And don't get me started on companion planting. I'm afraid if I read that chapter I will tear everything up and start over.
My best counter attack to self-doubt is reminding myself what I do know. I know to direct sow carrots. I know that fish fertilizer works wonders, adds nitrogen to the soil and gives plants a good boost but takes about five or six days before a noticeable change can be seen, I know not to fertilize seedlings, I know the artichoke dies back but yes, it comes up again in cooler weather, I know to plant seeds in a depth that is roughly twice their diameter, I know to keep the new seedlings moist and to plant tomatoes early here in Texas (March or April).
I know that working in the garden can be cathartic or contemplative, physically difficult or simply repetitive. I know that the garden is living and responsive and a haven for the smallest sentient creatures, some you will never see but there, nonetheless, making an impact on what grows in the soil. Gardening is rewarding. Gardening is disappointing. It can be common ground for neighbors and bring them together. A garden can be the hub for a community.
Gardening is learning. It's learning things little by little each season, that makes the learning very slow. Gardening keeps me engaged. It keeps my mind and body active. I gives me something to share with others. Gardens make people smile and relax. Unless, of course, you bring up the dreaded topic of bed rotation.