Posts Tagged ‘crop rotation’


Garden Update

September 10, 2010

In my perennial garden:  These days, I’m walking on a carpet of leaves. As I look underfoot and then across the garden grounds, my shoulders droop with dread. Then, what isn’t visible among the dry leaves changes my mood. No acorns. Hallelujah. Joy comes back to me. The acorn factory has closed. The factory will fire up again—without a doubt—once the cycle makes a complete turnabout in five to seven years. Until then, instead of 10-zillion h-e-a-v-y leaf bags each fall, I’ll rake and fill 5-zillion light leaf bags. Most importantly, I won’t have to extract a carpet of seedlings.

The second of two round shrubs, on either side of the garden’s entrance, has killed over. Each area now needs new plants, preferably draught-tolerant. At this time, I have no idea what. This will be a good winter project to research. The zinnias are holding up, still blooming. The vincas aren’t fairing as well—which is unusual—so I pulled most of them up this morning. Normally, they are stunning until the first frost.

The crepe myrtle has aphids. No surprise. They are famous for aphids.

In my vegetable bed:  Little-by-little, summer harvest has fallen short of its charitable bounty and only one vegetable—a tomato plant—remains in the raised bed. The hens loved the spent melon, bean, tomato, eggplant, cucumber, and zucchini plants. After I added more soil and mulch, I divided the bed into four five-foot sections for rotation, and then covered each area with old hay to keep the cats out. (Note:  Normally, one would not build a 20-foot-long raised bed because it would bow, but mine is made of very thick beams. There’s no way it will bow.)

The voles have disappeared. I caught four with mousetraps. I’m guessing that the rest of the vole family left to find vegetation elsewhere. Who wants to homestead where there’s no pantry. Guaranteed, if you remove the vegetation the voles flee. At least for the time being.

I’ve gathered the empty, seed packets and noted where each summer vegetable grew. Later, I’ll take a closer look at the season’s mistakes and successes, and log them for future reference. For now, fall vegetable planning and planting is in order for my first, ever, winter garden. I’m not a winter person so the willpower it will take to go into the cold will determine future winter gardens. Not everyone’s heart sings as he or she gardens in the frigid outdoors.


Vegetable Families

August 30, 2010


Below are several basic vegetable families. For best results grow and rotate each family together. They use the soil in comparable ways and share similar pests. 

Brassicas (cabbage family; sow on soil previously used for beans and peas): Broccoli | Brussels sprouts | all varieties of cabbage | kohl rabi | cauliflower | kale | mizuna | pak choi | radish | arugula | rutabaga | turnip

Legumes (bean and pea family): Snap peas | peas | bush | pole | lima | fava and dry beans

Solanaceae (potato and tomato family; grow with organic matter, as these are heavy feeders.): Eggplant | potato | tomato | peppers

Alliums (onion family; if planting in soils with lots of organic matter make sure it’s decomposed.):  Garlic, all varieties of onion, shallot, chive, leek

Umbeliferae (carrot and root family; for sweeter carrots grow during the winter then harvest in the spring.):  Celery | celeriac | cilantro | fennel | carrot | parsnip | parsley | dill

Cucurbits (squash and marrow family; heavy feeders so add organic matter to soil before planting.):  Summer and Winter squash | cucumber | melon | pumpkin 

Chenopodiaceae (beet family):  Swiss chard | spinach | beet 

Miscellaneous:  All fruit | mint | oregano | rosemary | sage| basil | lettuce | endive | cress | Jerusalem artichoke | corn | okra | corn salad | chicory Note: 

Don’t sow root vegetables in heavily fertilized soil. This will cause lush foliage and less root growth. 





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

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