I panicked a bit today as I purchased the last of my transplants and reached for my garden journal. My plant placement maps for this season were missing and I couldn’t remember exactly where I planned to place the new plants. An hour later I found the maps and my transplants are now installed in the places that will best nurture their growth.
My dilemma was because I needed to rotate the types of plants over three seasons, so I had to have the maps from the previous seasons. Crop rotation is key to gardening because it helps to replenish the soil naturally and deter the return of pests that feed on specific types of plants.
ROOT, FRUIT, BEAN, GREEN
Memorize this mantra: root, fruit, bean and green. If you rotate crops by plant families every time you plant, you will cut down on diseases, improve your soil, and harvest more and higher quality vegetables.
For example, in one of your garden areas, you might plant root vegetables such as carrots, onions or garlic (foods that grow their main food product underground) this season. For the warm season, you would plant tomatoes or peppers in their place (fruit). The following fall, you would plant peas, lettuce or kale (bean, green).
Roots (carrots, radishes) are light feeders, so they don’t drain the soil tremendously. Fruit includes tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons, and cucumbers. They are called “heavy feeders,” which means they pull quite a bit of the nutrients out of the soil, especially nitrogen, a nutrient important for plant growth. If you grew tomatoes this summer, a great replacement would be peas, beans, or lettuce. They are part of the legume (bean) or green (leaf vegetables) families and will replace the nitrogen.
Plant rotation also prevents repeated attacks by pests that enjoy specific types of plants. For example, squash bugs winter under the soil for up to two years, so if you plant squash or melons in the same location, they may still be waiting to attack again. Since I had a squash bug attack on my melons and cucumbers this summer, I will not rotate them into the same bed again for two years.
If you only have one or two raised beds or sections in your garden, don’t fret about rotation to another raised bed. Just place the plants into different parts of the bed according to the mantra and add a good balanced fertilizer.
This may seem a bit complicated, but if you take the time to sketch out your garden each planting season and save it, it will be easy to remember where you planted roots, fruits, beans or greens.
Your plants will thank you for it!
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