Have you ever known a gardener that just never seems to have a successful crop of anything? Ask them what they plant and where- there’s a good chance they plant the same thing in the same place, over and over.
They’re not bad gardeners- they’re just missing a step. Suggest they begin to rotate crops from one are to the next, and with a little work, they’ll enjoy harvesting their own food.
Why Rotate Crops in a Home Garden?
Bugs get used to the same crops in the same place. You might as well set plates out when you plant the same thing in the same spot- or in the same container, for that matter.
Diseases that affect one plant will often affect plants in the same botanical family, but not in another. Instead of buying expensive “soil fixers” and pesticides, crop rotation cuts down on disease and pests.
The same pest that adores your tomatoes could starve when faced with corn or another vegetable. That’s worth the effort.
How Proper Crop Rotation is Accomplished
Begin on paper while winter is still blowing outside. This also works throughout the year when each crop is harvested for spring, summer and fall.
Make a list of what you grow, and group those vegetables into their respective families. Measure your garden plot(s), and map them out on the paper.
Beside each plant, label them as spring, summer, fall or winter vegetables. This allows rotation throughout the year and still growing varieties in keeping with the seasons.
What Follows What?
Here are the groups and some examples for each:
A) Greens, grown for their edible leaves
- Swiss Chard,
- Salad Greens
B) Fruiting plants, with crops you pick off the plant
Potatoes are included in this group because they are in the Nightshade family with tomatoes, even though the fruit is underground.
D) Legumes that feed and enhance the soil
- and others.
Make the Rotation Plan
Label each area of your garden. For this example, I’ll use a typical four foot wide by eight foot long raised garden bed. Using string, I’ll separate it into four areas, each two feet wide.
The first area gets planted with group A plants, the second, with group B, and so on. The varieties will match the growing season and the time of year. Bush plants are planted with bush plants, vines with vines, and so forth.
In the second four foot by eight foot bed, the first area gets planted with group B plants, then C, followed by D, and finally by group A plants.
Next season or next year, each bed moves over one space.
Each bed is appropriately fertilized and weeded, any dead or broken off leaves are picked up and taken to the compost pile. Any diseases are dealt with rapidly, and the diseased plants are tossed into the general trash, not in the compost.
After a bed is harvested, fresh compost and other amendments are added before new plants are inserted.
Some gardeners allow beds to “sit fallow”- that is, to rest with nothing grown in them. With the addition of compost and appropriate amendments, this isn’t really necessary.
Right now, I have bunching onions that are almost 2 feet tall and nearly an inch wide. This really does work- the original garden bed was heavy clay the color and density of concrete.
Use this method for container vegetables as well.
You’ll enjoy crops all year long in your healthy and productive garden beds.