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Crop Rotation

April 8, 2012

When I hear about crop rotation, I think back to 6th grade history and Thomas Jefferson practicing it on his plantation – entire fields of different crops being changed every year. I certainly don’t have that much land to plant, but no matter how much or how little you plant, crop rotation is an incredibly easy thing to practice to maximize your soil and production ability.

Rotation is performed for 3 reasons:
* Insect control – last year’s bugs are often over-wintering in the soil. If you move their favorite foods to a different spot in the garden, they and their larvae will starve before finding its new location, reducing the likelihood of any significant infestation.
* Disease Control – some diseases can live in the soil for 7 years and affect many plants in the same family. Most diseases only live for 2-3 years and only affect a couple of plants within the same family, but why take the chance at reducing your crop?
* Nutrient Recovery – all plants use the same basic nutrients, but rarely at the same rates. By rotating the different plants in any given area, you give the soil a relative rest and a chance to recover some of the nutrients lost. This allows you to use the soil every year and in a more intense fashion.
Graphic Courtesy of Better Hens & Gardens:)
Different styles of rotation
* 3-year crop rotation take nutrient needs into account over plant families specifically.
1 suggested grouping is: Corn, squash and pumpkins, followed by tomatoes, peppers, spinach and Brussels sprouts followed by legumes (peas and beans).
* 4-year crop rotation can be used 2 ways.
@ With the first – cut your space into quarters and allow a cover crop to maintain 1 of the quarters.
@ The second, you plant more by family type than by nutrient needs. 1 – squash and corn, 2 – nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant, etc), 3 – leafy greens and brassicas, 4 – legumes.

Anything beyond the 4-year rotation adds fallow time with cover crops and/or forage time for your livestock. The Bible has a 7-year rotation and some farms use an 8-year rotation.

To help minimize the disease possibility, pull the dead matter from your soil of anything that may have been infected. 2 years ago we had a horrid time with late blight. Technically, it can’t over-winter in detritus, but only in a living plant – which a stray potato is. But rather than risk the chance that it has somehow discovered a way to survive, I pulled the tomato plants after frost and put them in a compost pile I know I won’t use for another year – to give it a full 3 years away from the veggie bed.

Thanks to: FB blog

From → Farm, Gardening

  1. ummm this may be a typo but potatoes are not legumes.

    • lantanagurl permalink

      I didn’t create the graphic, I simply reposted it. Thanks for pointing out the error:)

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