I have to appologise for the delay - I meant to do this on Monday of this week but...HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
Ok - now that that is out of the way - time to begin planning for this year's garden.
I though that a god place to begin would be to compare horticulture and agriculture. Wrapping our heads around what it is thta we are trying to do with gardening will help the planning process.
One way to look at horticulture and agriculture is to look at scale. Typically, agriculture does things on a very large scale while horticulture is much smaller. That is not to say that a horticultural installation, like Busch Gardens, for instance, need be small in size. Rather, horticulture looks at intricacies as opposed to agricultures look at the bigger picture. While a 1 inch placement variation of a single plant on a million acre Iowa corn farm probably won't matter much, a 1 inch placement variation in a 20 sqft interplanted balcony garden might.
Another way to look at horticulture and agriculture has to do with crop diversity. Agriculture typically plants (or raises) a large amount of a single or perhaps two crops and rotates those over a several year period (called monocropping w/ rotation)while horticulture generally mixes many crops together and rotates them several times each year.
A third way to compare the two growing styles (and the one that I'll focus on) uses the idea of intensive vs extensive growing. In their simplest forms, intensive growing draws a wide variety of nutrients from the soil but puts a lot back (i.e. 'in') as well whereas extensive growing might only draw one or two nutrients from the soil (albeit in large amounts) but does not put any back in (i.e. 'ex' meaning to remove).
In the kitchen garden, things tend to fall more into the intensive category because we are trying to get as much out of a small space as possible while keeping the production going season after season, year after year. We want to try to create a closed loop by composting dead plant material back into the garden, by rotating plants withing the garden to keep the soil healthy, by planting friendly plants close to each other to keep them healthy, and by encouraging good bugs so the bad one stay away.
Know this - this is NOT easy. Many people spend their lives studying how to best do this. Books have been written. Classes have been taught. Over the next few weeks we'll look at some techniques as we plan for spring planting.