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An annual garden are plant communities where species establish from seed one or more times a year. Under most circumstances management in necessary to keep gardens from succeeding to perennial species. Annual gardens vary based on the degree to which species composition and arrangement is controlled and the methods used for achieving that control. Annual gardens range from single species crops (monoculture) in rows using shallow cultivation to semi-wild gardens that may combine annuals and herbaceous perennials perhaps using periodic animal disturbance or flooding to create niches in which seedlings can recruit. Most supermarket vegetables are grown in annual gardens
- irrigation/water - annuals are sensitive to drought during establishment and many cultivated annuals are adapted to growing under moist soil conditions. Your climate may require irrigation during parts of the year to establish or grow some crops.
- organic matter - systems that rely on exposed soil or frequent cultivation deplete organic matter in the soil. Organic matter can be imported as compost, manure, or mulch.
- tillage - in shallow cultivation systems, or systems that rely on some kind of seed bed preparation, someone or something needs to do the work.
- mulch - annual gardens that require permanent mulch must either have the mulch imported or grown on site. (how much area is required to produce mulch for a permanent mulch garden under different climate regimes).
- nutrients - many common vegetable crops are adapted to growing in relatively nutrient rich environments. manure, green manures, very carefully made compost, and fertilizers can be imported to increase free nutrients in soil. Tillage increases the rate of organic matter decomposition resulting in increased available nutrients but depletes soil organic mater increasing the need for more muclh and nutrient inputs. This increased rate of nutrient cycling may be important to vegetable production in cooler climates.
- primary harvest and gleaning - both primary and incidental crops can be harvested. Many crops produce a secondary harvest after the main harvest (broccoli side shoots), or can be harvested before the main harvest as thinnings (beets for greens)
- garden-grown organic matter - can be exported to another purpose like to feed animals or make compost or it can be cut and left as mulch or chopped in as a soil amendment.
- heat - annual gardens, frequently without canopy, and lots of bare ground, are often hot exposed microclimates.
- shallow cultivation - a sharp garden hoe is used to periodically slice just below the ground surface preventing plants other than the target crop from establishing. These methods are the most common in modern organic gardening and farming.
- permanent mulch - mulch is pulled aside to expose bare soil and seedlings are planted. In some climates, mulch can provide refuge for predators like slugs or snails that kill seedlings. Mulch decomposes over time so a supply of mulch is necessary to maintain the coverage.
- Animal disturbance - if animals are kept at high enough density on a piece of ground for long enough they will destory all vegetation while leaving their manure.
- Flooding - flooding can supress or kill plants sensitive to inundation. Temporary flooding can weaken dominant species enough to allow overseeding. Natural flooding is often accomplanied by silt deposition and water-bourne seed dispersal which creates a seed bed.
- crop rotation - is any pattern that includes species replacing eachother over time either for the purposes of weed control, soil fertility management, or maximizing production in limited space.
- annual polycultures - involves planting multiple species that share the same space.
Animals can provide tillage-like disturbances that create niches for plants. Each animal has a different effect on gardens.
Nitrogen-fixing plants can provide fertilzer.
A range of annual plants can be grown together in annual plant guilds based on cyclic harvest, soil fertility management, companion planting or other goals.
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