Crop rotation is a system of deciding which vegetables to plant in your garden and where to plant them from one year to the next. The main goals of rotating crop positions are to maintain soil fertility and lessen the risk of soil-borne diseases. The practice has been followed by commercial growers for years, but it is also important for the organic home grower.
Basics of Crop Rotation:
- Balance soil fertility — Different crops have different needs when it comes to the nutrients available in the soil. If the same plants are grown in the same location each year, the soil resources will deplete, making it difficult to grow anything. The general rule is to follow nitrogen-fixing beans and peas with nitrogen-consuming tomatoes and peppers; then follow heavy soil feeders with light feeders.
- Disease and pest prevention — Plants in the same families are often subject to the same disease and pests. Rotating the positions of crop families each season can help reduce the risk. For example, potato bugs are known to eat potato leaves, but they will also eat tomato and eggplant leaves because the plants are in the same family; so, don’t plant eggplants where potatoes were growing the previous season. Diseases often stay in the soil after a plant is gone, so you should rotate plant family position for this reason as well.
If you have a small garden, it can be challenging to follow a crop rotation plan that rotates based on plant family. If this is the case, stick to the basics of rotating for soil fertility and choose disease-resistant crops.
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