The Importance of Crop Rotation and How to do it Effectively
The definition of crop rotation is simple. It is the act of planting crops in a specific order in the same ground to prevent soil depletion, diseases, pests and to control weeds. For example, in one year, you plant corn and the next year you might plant green beans in the same spot.
Planting the same crop in the same soil year after year will attract pests to the area and deplete the soil of nutrients more quickly. Plants use the nutrients in the soil differently, and some plants help to put back those nutrients, so it's important to rotate crops. Rotating crops will also help to disrupt pests life cycles.
If you have a large garden, crop rotation is fairly easy. Some sections of the garden may be planted with a green manure (i.e. cover crops), for a year or two while the soil recovers and rejuvenates. But in smaller gardens, space is at such a premium that you may not be able to afford to plant a cover crop and reduce your productivity. But fear not. By dividing common plants into four groups, it's easy to rotate your crops.
- Leaf producing plants: broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, lettuce, spinach
- Fruit producing plants: eggplant, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, squash, cucumber, corn
- Legume plants to feed the soil: beans, lentils, peas, soybeans, cover crops
- Root crops: turnips, carrots, beets, radish, onions
Simply divide your garden into four areas (leaf, fruit, legume and root). To keep it simple, I just rotate a section, clock-wise, each year.
- Plant legumes the year before you want to plant leafy greens in that area.
- Plant legumes the year after you plant root crops in that area.
- Potatoes and tomatoes are closely related, so if you have blight problems and a small garden, avoid growing either the next year.