Operation Cycles For Market Garden Crop Succession

Crop succession, especially in smaller market garden spaces, requires plenty of planning. These 10 operation cycles steps will help you get the job done.

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by Zach LoeksApril 22, 2022
PHOTO: courtesy of Zach Loeks

As a market grower, I have a string of in-season tasks to perform when moving from one crop succession to the next.¬† These operation cycles‚ÄĒsuch as bed reforming, seeding/planting, weed management and mulching management‚ÄĒshould be assisted by the correct techniques, tools, equipment and supplies.¬†

An operation cycle should be understood as a series of tasks, supplies and equipment that mesh well within your crop planning. They also need to be completed within the timing needed for successful crop production.   

(See the image above for an illustration of the following 10 steps.)

1. Seasonal Application of Compost

I do this with a compost spreader, and/or I’ll mow and incorporate the cover crop with a flail mower and rear-tine tiller. ¬†

2. Pre-Weeding

Pre-weeding occurs immediately following a compost application with handheld or mechanized tine weeders. 

3. Final Bed Preparation

I’ll prepare the final bed with a power harrow, which mixes in compost and firms the bed top without major tilling.¬†

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Read more: The rotary plow is a powerfully multifunctional tool.


4. Row Management

I use Johnny‚Äôs seedbed roller to firms and mark straight rows. Next I’ll follow the task by seeding with a single-row push seeder (like Jang or Earthway) and/or a Paperpot transplanter for efficient crop succession.¬†

5. Weeding Paths & Bed tops

In market gardens, this task is commonly performed with hand tools rather than cultivation implements. Wheel hoes are commonly used to maintain paths, and collinear and stirrup hoes usually manage between rows.   

6. Reforming the Bed

Do this seasonally with a power ridger to improve the soil structure.   


Read more: Check out these tips for measuring and spacing raised garden beds.


7. Forming & Mulching

Form and mulch your bed tops with a bed shaper and mulch layer.  This reduces weed pressure, increases soil warmth for warm-loving crops like tomatoes, and holds moisture. Other mulching techniques include zipper beds and in-situ mulches.  

8. Dibbling

Dibble and transplant into mulch using a dibbler. 

9. Crop Protection & Irrigation

These two tasks are essential to market growing system. Row cover keeps unwanted pests out, and irrigation is important for crop productivity in dry seasons. 

10. Harvest, Processing & Storage  

Finally, I harvest and transport crops on a utility trailer for washing. Then I put them into the cold storage to await market day.  Grow on, 

Zach 

Zach’s upcoming book The Two-wheel Tractor Handbook will be out in fall 2022!

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