What is a bed foot?
A bed foot is a one foot long slice in your growing bed.
I like thinking in bed feet rather than square feet because it lays a clear framework for thinking about your fields.
Right off the bat you don’t have to worry whether your numbers include your paths or not.
Bed feet make it easy to visualise how many plants are in your field. In the picture, there are 3 rows of lettuce.
So 1 bed foot = 3 row feet. And with 1 foot inrow spacing, that means 1 bed foot = 3 lettuce plants.
It is then easy to multiply a price and figure out how much you’ll make per bed.
A good target for market gardeners who grow on small acreage is to aim to harvest and sell at least $5 per bed foot for each crop they grow. On a 5ft wide bed, that comes to about $40K an acre per crop succession.
One challenge with bed feet is how to abbreviate the words when you’re crop planning. I’ve always used bedft but that takes a lot of space.
In an exchange with Hank from Avoca Farm, he used the abbreviation BF,
This blew my mind!
Goodbye 4 extra letters. Hello streamline success.
I’m not sure how late I am to this abbreviation party, but I am ready to adopt it!
You can also do all this thinking with bed meters too. In this case 1 BM of lettuce would include 10 lettuce plants. And you’d be aiming to make $15/BM for $40K/acre or $100K/ha.
If you want to see some of this thinking in action, you can check out Farmer Spreadsheet Academy tip 27 – The Growing Space Profit Calculator
The key component is that we follow every seed production year with a cover crop year.
During the cover crop year, the shattered seed germinates and starts to grow.
When we mow the cover crops, we also keep all the weeds and unwanted plants from going to seed. When we incorporated the cover crop, the shattered seed bank has been dramatically reduced.
The following year, when we come back to a seed crop, there will barely be any volunteers from that arugula seed crop.
Something else to to note:
We also group crops by planting date.
We alternate frost hardy crops planted May 1 and tender crops planted around June 1.
Since most crop family fall into either Frost Hardy or Tender, this leaves 4 years before we come back to the same crop family. This breaks a lot of disease and pest cycles.
The one family we need to be careful of is Compositae/Asteraceae (which includes lettuce and a ridiculous amount of flowers.). It has members that are both Frost Hardy and Tender.
I start crop planning from seed crops with our rotation. I won’t grow more of a species than what fits into our crop rotation.
This can make for some tough choices. But once the choices are made, the rest is easy peasy. (Unless those birds come back and eat all the seed peas again.)
Are there any specific crop considerations that guide your crop rotation?