My new planting system - all grown up!
So I've given up crop rotating and even digging my veg plots now. After ten years, I was more than ready to see the back of it. I didn't mind the digging (until I realised how much damage it was doing to the soil structure) but never kept up with the weeding, didn't really enjoy the experience as a whole and the output wasn't worth the input.
This year, in early Spring, I covered the weeds in a thick layer of green and brown mulch and planted through that instead, the seedlings higgledy piggledy and close together, to mimic a typical weed plot. It was the end of May by the time the weather was consistently warm enough (night temps of 10°c and above) for me to plant out, so they were all quite big by then. But they still looked a little spartan planted out in the field beds, given that I was aiming to try to create leaf canopies to keep weeds down and moisture in, etc.
Here's the same bed at the end of May, again at the end of June, and finally at the beginning of August:
And another bed, on the same three dates:
And we've got two more like that. So the system worked: the plants grew really well in such competition with each other, and the weeds didn't get much of a look-in.
I've really enjoyed the veg beds throughout this season, for the first time in years - I'm even inspired to build more veg beds now! Cropping has been little, varied and often instead of bigger harvests of a more limited range, which I never did quite manage to get properly on top of in the past. I've let things flower and seed, knowing I won't be digging up and fully replanting the beds in the next few years, so the seeds that fall will stand a chance of propagation next year, and will keep the gaps filled with extra seeds and plants as I go along.
I'm not quite sure how the beds will fare in Winter. I need to think urgently now about plants for that time.