Saturday, November 22, 2014

Crop rotation made easy for small gardens

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Smart rotating of your vegetables can break the pest and disease cycle while at the same time utilizing the nutrients that the previous season’s vegetables left behind.  Studies have shown that your harvest increases by 10-25%.

Most have heard that crop rotation is important for your vegetables.  This is for a variety of reasons.  Many pests are specific to a vegetable type so when they overwinter and come up hungry, their favorite meal is no where to be found.  Different vegetables take different nutrients out of the ground while others give back nutrients.  Diseases are also many times specific to certain vegetables.

The traditional crop rotations I have seen had your crops divided into 8 groups.  For small gardens, this is unmanageable; just too complicated for the space.  Recently, I have read about crop rotations on a simpler scale that make a lot of sense.  

Divide your garden, or pots, into these 4 groups:
Group 1-Legumes (beans and peas).  The soil builders are beans and peas because of the nitrogen they add to the soil. 
Group 2-Leaf Plants-the ones you eat the leaves of like lettuce, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, etc.  These need high amounts of nitrogen.
Group 3-Fruiting plants like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, melons, squash, potatoes (part of the tomato family) and cucumbers.  These need high amounts of phosphorous for fruiting.
Group 4-Root plants like garlic, onions, carrots, beets, turnips, radishes, sweet potatoes.  They are great for loosening the soil. These need high amounts of potassium.

By keeping the groups together, you can boost nutrient addition to the soil that each group needs without negatively affecting the production of the others.  For instance, the leafy group needs lots of nitrogen, but if you give large amounts of nitrogen to the fruiting plants, they will produce lots of greenery and no fruit.

Mark down on a piece of paper where you planted each group.  Next year, just rotate them around with Group 2 going into Group 1’s spot, Group 3 going into Group 2’s spot, etc.  Just keep moving them in that order each year and write it down each year so you don’t forget!

This applies to your pots as well.  Make sure you rotate the vegetable you put in each of your pots.  I keep my vegetable marker in my pots from the previous year so in the spring, I know exactly what I grew in the pot the previous year.

Don’t worry if you can’t keep them all exactly in these 4 groups.  Just make sure you don’t have the same type of plant going into the same spot or pot every year.  Interplant with companion plants to keep each strong if you don’t have the space to do full blown crop rotation.

Just add your other veggies in with one of the other groups to balance out the area each uses in the garden so you can just move the whole group from one section of the garden to the next easily.

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