Vegetable Crop Rotation
Posted December 06, 2019
Why rotate vegetable crops?
There are many benefits when crop rotation is performed properly. Here are a few.
- Better soil structure due to deep-rooted veggies. These plants penetrate and break up the subsoil, allowing air and water to move in. They also draw up trace minerals and needed nutrients. Daikon radish, parsnips and rutabagas are excellent for this.
- Fewer insect pests and soil borne diseases. Vegetable plants with the same family ties are vulnerable to the same pest and diseases. When overwintering insects that live in the soil come looking for last year's host vegetable crops, they won't find any members of the plant family.
- Improvement of soil nutrition when planting legumes. These add nutrients to the soil, while others extract nutrients.
Plan out your garden.
Make a list of the vegetables you want to grow, keeping the family members together (carrot family, nightshade, onion, etc). Develop a garden plan based on the family groups and a multiyear rotation. If this is a new garden, designate an area for each plant family. Keep the design simple and keeping record in a garden planner is most helpful. Note where they grew last year and plan to rotate families to a different spot the following year. A four year crop rotation is best, but even a two year is helpful if you have a very small growing area.
The practice of crop rotation requires that vegetable crops in the family not be planted in the same place or the same soil every year. The vegetable family must rotate together. Rotation schedules will vary in complexity. If you have not experienced any pest outbreaks or disease issues, a two year crop rotation can be sufficient. However, if you have had diseases such as blight on tomatoes or potatoes, it is best not plant the nightshade family in that soil for three growing seasons. One year you may choose to plant the onion family then pea family, and then mustard family. At this point it should be safe to plant nightshades in that area once again.
Consider the size of your plot and the plants that you want. For a very small garden, try a 3 year plot, where you could grow legumes in the first year, tomatoes the next and squash the third year. The fourth year brings you back to legumes to repeat the rotation. These three families could also be planted in three separate plots or beds in the first year and rotated in this order in following years.
Numbering beds or plots is helpful when planning crop rotation. Using a simple rotation chart is extremely beneficial when staying organized in the garden. Crop rotation will sharpen your skills of plant families. Get your little ones involved and enjoy the process.
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