Everything You Need To Know About Crop Rotation
As promised in my previous blog post I am here to tell you everything you need to know about crop rotation.
Crop rotation is widely used by farmers and home gardeners planting in the same space year after year. It involves planning and keeping records of what and where you have planted your crops which may seem like a lot of effort but it will really pay off when it comes to harvest time!
Why you should use crop rotation.
Crop rotation is vital for soil health, controlling pests and diseases and for keeping the nutrient balance in the soil.
Each type of fruit and vegetable takes a different type and amount of nutrient from the soil. Plants in the same plant family will have very similar nutrient requirements.
For example, leafy green vegetables require more nitrogen, whereas root vegetables tend to need more phosphorus.
If you were to continuously have the same plant family in the same spot in your garden year on year you would end up with poor harvests. This is because it will have a negative impact on your soil’s fertility, the soil would have a nutrient deficiency and therefore poor growth. However, if you were to use the crop rotation method it would allow the soil to restore its nutrient levels.
Another benefit of crop rotation is controlling pests and diseases. You may not know this but many plant pathogens and insect pests are soil-borne and can survive in the soil even throughout the winter months. By next Spring their numbers would have multiplied. If you plant the same crops in the same spot the next year after a pest issue the pests won’t even have to work to find anything to attack as they are already in the soil you have planted it in.
Choosing to plant a different crop in the space breaks this cycle because you take away their food source and their breeding ground.
How to incorporate crop rotation into your garden.
If you don’t already keep a gardening diary it is a great idea to have one when it comes to crop rotating. It is a great purchase to add to your Christmas lists! You can keep track of when you need to sow seeds and transplant seedlings etc.
First things first, write a list of all the crops you would like to grow in your space, you will then need to divide them into their plant family categories. There are lots of helpful pages online if you need help with this.
Next, to scale, draw the space you have to grow your crops in and then draw on the allocated plant families where you plan to plant them. Keep this drawing safe as you will need it to reference when you plan the following year’s crop rotation.
Remember to keep in mind other factors that will affect your harvest such as sunlight etc when planning your space.
What happens the following year?
In an ideal world, you would wait 3-4 years before growing crops from the same family in the same location again, however, we don’t all have the space for this so at least every other year is a good place to start.
Moving each plant family group one spot clockwise each year is a great system that is easy to remember year on year. However, as mentioned before keep in mind how much sunlight or protection from the elements your plant variety needs so this exact rotation plan may not always work.
To help you decide where which crop should go where it helps to learn the nutrients each crop needs the most. An example would be beans and peas, they fix nitrogen in the soil, therefore it is a great idea to plant vegetables which prefer nitrogen-rich soil like kale in this spot the following year. However, you would not want to put root vegetable plants in this spot because they would grow lots of foliage and not fleshy roots as you would want them to grow.