Our basic plan follows Eliot Coleman's suggestion for crop rotation, which teaches that plant families are impacted by being in the same location year after year, and by what precedes them when you do follow a crop rotation. Very interesting theory. He suggests an 8 crop rotation: potatoes follow corn, which follows cabbage - peas - tomatoes - beans - root crops - squash. And so on through a circle. Now, this is just an easy starting point of one all-inclusive rotation that works. He's very clear that you're not limited or required to have exactly 8 planting locations, but the general rules apply. Crop rotation is important in the prevention of disease. For most plants, keeping them in the same location every year will drastly increase your chances of fighting a disease and decrease your yield. There's some debate about tomatoes, as they don't show a yield reduction, and some suggest there's actually an increase when they are left in the same location. He states that he includes them because it works for him. We have chosen to exclude them from our rotation and give them their own bed with asparagus, basil and lavender. I'm including some pictures of our layout that we arranged with index cards. It made it really easy to visualize how much we had in one bed, and to rearrange to suit companion planting. (The idea that certain plants together can inhibit or encourage healthy growth.)
Now, I know that's hard to see, but I wanted you to see the big picture.
Now here are some close-ups.
I have tried to intersperse selected herbs that will complement some veggies. Chamomile seems to help everything - except other herbs! Who would've known? The onion family helps ward off harmful insects, as does mint, but mint tends to take over...so I'm leaving it out.
As for the physical design of the beds, we're following Ed Smith's suggestion for wide rows, with raised beds to create deep topsoil which will improve the overall health and yield of your plants. We're doing nine 4' x 12' beds, and we're opting to support them with a double row of non-pressure treated landscape timbers. They will be about a foot apart. In addition, we will be using supported trellising for all vine plants, including indeterminate (continually fruiting) tomatoes. Here is the trellis system that most resembles what we'll be building. (I'll include pics of that once we're up and running here on the homestead - lol) We're still discussing materials, but it's the general idea: vertical twine.
More details to come...happy gardening!