Crop Rotation

August 27, 2010

Now that it’s time to plant cool-season vegetables, this is a good opportunity to start practicing crop rotation for healthy plants and soil. Let’s look at the benefits of crop rotation.

1)  Help control disease and insects. For example, if you plant zucchini (or any annual vegetable) in the same place each year and the zucchini plant becomes infected with disease-causing agents, repeatedly, it will develop in the soil. Rotating your veggies will help prevent any disease buildup. This does take some planning and basic awareness of planting/rotating vegetable families together. (Monday’s post will cover vegetable families.)

2)  Increase soil fertility and crop yield. Some plants deplete the soil while others add nutrients. Alternating plants will reduce the soil’s need for chemical fertilizers. By giving back what one plant steals from the soil your crops will receive nutrients needed to produce a good yield.

3)  Opportunity to correct mistakes. Looking closer at your layout can help reduce problems like overcrowding, or planting heavy feeders twice in the same area leaving the soil depleted of nutrients.

4)  Give your garden a new appearance. Let’s face it we all get bored. Spicing things up with creative rotation will give you a new lease on gardening.

If you’re fortunate to have a large area and/or raised beds, the ideal method is to divide your plot into four sections, A, B, C, and D. (It’s always fun to name them after your children or grandchildren.) One area or raised bed for example could contain perennial vegetables like asparagus, artichokes, and rhubarb. The other three areas would contain annual vegetable families. Every year, each vegetable family rotates together so that they’re not in the same site within a four-year period. If you don’t have perennial vegetables, let one area’s soil rest or fallow for a season or longer. If cats are a problem, cover the soil with a layer of straw.

To keep track of what you grew and where, record the information in a notepad. Recording crop rotation can be as simple or as detailed as you want. Some gardeners like to make a list of each area; others prefer to draw a diagram with detailed rows and plant names along with other details. Find a system that works for you. Once you get into the habit of this, you’ll find the planning process less time-consuming.

Whether or not you have the ideal landscape, whatever measure you are able to rotate crops it will be beneficial to them.

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre


One comment

  1. Good advice. You’re sure right about crop rotation. I know I should “rotate” my crop but space limitation prevents me from doing exactly that. My space is limited along the side of my house. I plant two main crops there every year. In the fall–snow peas, and in the spring–long beans. The width of my single row is approx. 2 feet wide. Think of a rectangle with two long sides (A & B). I have been “rotating” my crop by planting along the edge of A one year, and then along edge B the next. I do have to amend the soil in order to get a decent harvest. I only plant “climbers” there because of limited sunlight. This year I tried a few cucumbers that ended in disaster (mildew). I won’t plant the cucumbers in the same spot next year. The rest of my veggies are container plants that can be moved around for maximum sunlight and is replanted every year with the same kind of veggie. I only plant egg plants, bell peppers, and tomatoes. Yes, I do have do fertilize heavily. I would love to “rotate” my plants, but I am afraid to “contaminate” the soil in the container with a different type of plant–especially the tomato plants. Other than to “dump” the soil out to rest it and replace it with new potting soil, I don’t know anything else to do.
    I will rethink my planting per your article.


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