A Garden in (Perpetual) Motion


The laws of physics will not be violated, no matter how many times you try. Throughout history, many people claim to have superseded physical law and invented a perpetual motion machine — a device that runs continuously, unhindered by friction and dissipation of energy, in defiance of the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics. Such a device is fantasy and cannot ever be created.

However, it is possible to create a near-perpetual garden. By this, I mean a garden that provides you with fresh produce throughout the majority of the year, instead of only in the spring, summer, and early fall. How, you may ask? Simply by working in harmony with nature, planting vegetables that are appropriate for the seasons, and allowing the overwintering of certain root crops.

To further illustrate the concept, I will present a rough plan for this near-perpetual garden.

Early spring — Order seeds, plants, and supplies. Get the garden ready for planting by adding compost and organic fertilizer and turning over the soil to work it in. Direct-seed cool season crops (brassicas, peas, root crops, lettuce, other greens, etc.). Start seeds of tomato, pepper, eggplant, herbs, etc. indoors in seed starters under grow lights. About a month after the seeds have spouted into seedlings, transplant them outdoors. Protect them from frost and cold temperatures by planting them in season extending devices such as cold frames, cloches, hoops covered with garden fabric, Walls O’Water, etc.

Mid-spring — Transplant any remaining seedlings into the garden. Direct-seed corn, beans, squash, and other warm season crops.

Summer — Harvest any remaining cool season crops before the summer heat causes them to bolt (produce a flower). Fill the spaces with additional warm season crops.

Late summer — Begin harvesting tomatoes, cucumbers and other warm season crops. Keep the garden well-fed and watered and check for signs of insect infestation and disease. Begin planting another round of cool season crops for a fall harvest (either started indoors or direct seeded in the garden).

Autumn — Harvest remaining warm season crops. Fill the now available space with cool season crops, either transplanted from what you’ve grown indoors or direct seeded. Plant garlic, onion, and horseradish. Can, dry, freeze, or cold store whatever harvested produce you cannot eat fresh or give away.

Mid to late autumn — Harvest cool season crops, clean up spent plants and either chop them up and add to your compost pile or throw them away. Add compost and organic fertilizer and turn over the soil. This will effectively “put the garden to bed” and set it up to be friable and fertile for next spring. If you choose to leave root crops in the soil to overwinter, cover them with a thick layer of mulch.

Winter — Enjoy the fruits of your labor. And if you need fresh carrots, turnip, rutabaga, etc., go out to the garden, pull back the mulch, and dig them up. Begin planning next year’s garden.

And there you have it. If you plan and execute wisely, you can enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables practically all year long. No it’s not perpetual motion. But it just might be perpetual happiness.