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Crop Rotation – Good Garden Practices are Steps Towards Success

Fifteen minutes of my day was spent looking at my garden chart to determine what beds my 1500 or so onions will be planted in this spring. I practice crop rotation on a 4 year rotation. For example, a bed planted with onions in the spring of 2012 has not had onions in it since 2009.

I was going good after that, so I planned the rotation for my potatoes, tomatoes, peas, broccoli, beets, lettuce, etc.as well.

Spending a half-hour now planning my beds for spring always make me feel good.  And it sure keeps me out of overwhelm when my onions arrive and are ready to be planted.  Then all I have to do is look at my chart, pull the straw back and plant.

Good, healthy soil with lots of organic matter can offset the need for crop rotating in a small organic garden.  But unless you’ve had a soil test and are 100% sure your soil is perfect, I’d go for moving crops around on a 4 year rotation.

Different plants require different nutrients.  By rotating the crops you help keep the soil from being depleted of any one nutrient.

Crop rotation is easy if you sort your crops into their main families.  For example, cucumbers, melons, squash and gourds are all in the same family.  So you would not follow one with the other, but rather something from a different family of vegetables.

Another example: Cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, rutabagas, kale and other leafy green vegetables are all in the same family.  Thus, you would not follow any member of this family with another member of this family.

Here are some other good garden practices that move you towards Success:

  • Try to plant heavy feeding crops on beds that previously hosted nitrogen fixing peas or beans.
  • Follow root crops with crops that grow above ground.  For example, if a bed hosted potatoes one year, don’t follow them with another root crop like onions or sweet potatoes.
  • Move your squash around from year to year. Squash bugs and the squash vine borer larvae can winter over in that soil.  Planting again in that same spot might be like serving them up to the bugs on silver platter.
  • Try to follow vegetable crops with a cover crop to help replenish organic matter and other nutrients that a lot of cover crops provide.

Final Thought

If you take a little time now or after Christmas to consider your crop rotation schedule and the other good garden practices mentioned, it’ll seem a lot easier when it’s time to put those plants in the ground. Also, they’re more steps towards your success.

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Organic Gardening is easy, efficient, effective and it’s a lot healthier.

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