Although most of us are familiar with crop rotation when it comes to farming, keen and knowledgeable gardeners will also understand the safety benefits of crop rotation even within a garden setting.
At its most basic level, it’s not too difficult to achieve and can also make gardening even more interesting as it will change the appearance of your garden each season, keeping it looking fresh and intriguing. However, its purpose is far more important than that.
The Aims Of Crop Rotation
There are 3 main purposes behind the concept of crop rotation:
- To prevent attacks from insects and other diseases
- To deter weed growth
- To correctly maintain and balance the nutrient demands of the various crops you’re growing which also keeps the soil healthy
Without establishing a crop rotation pattern, your crops are more likely to be affected by pests, disease and a decrease in their yield because of the same demands you’re placing on the soil each year which allows fungi, viruses and other types of bacteria to thrive during the growing season.
Crop Rotation Considerations
It’s important to understand that different groups of plants are related to each other and to establish which plants belong to which ‘family’ and not to plant members of the same family in successive seasons as this is the main reason why weeds, disease and pests can take hold of a particular area.
Grouping Plants & Nutrient Rotation
Each group of plants will demand different nutrients from the soil so you should try to establish a pattern whereby each season, you’re planting different crops which require different nutrients from the soil. One of the easiest ways of doing this is to divide your crops into four distinct groups:
- Leafy vegetables
- Root vegetables
- Soil cleaners and builders
Each of the above groups require completely different nutrients from the soil so you should adopt the practice of focusing your attention on one group each season and then moving on to the next group the following season and so on so that you establish a 4 year growing rotation cycle. This might be a 2 or 3 year cycle if, for example, you only grow leafy and root vegetables but to illustrate this, let’s assume you’re growing all four different groups.
These thrive on nitrogen from the soil. Examples would include lettuce, cauliflower, cabbage, spinach, broccoli and salad greens.
These thrive on phosphorus from the soil. Examples would include tomatoes, melons, cucumbers and peppers
These thrive on potassium from the soil. Examples would include carrots, turnips, onions, leeks and radishes.
Soil Cleaners & Builders
These store the nitrogen from the air and then they release it into the soil. Examples of cleaners include things like potatoes and corn and peas and beans are great soil builders.
Therefore, if you follow a pattern of planting leafy vegetables the first season then follow successive seasons with fruits, then root plants the season after and then finally your soil builders and cleaners, you’re establishing a good crop rotation system which not only deters weed growth but keeps disease at bay as the different families of plants are more prone to different diseases.
Therefore, by rotation, you’re reducing a disease’s potential for incubation which could then take hold if you are planting crops from the same family year upon year. This is also true for pests and insects. If they know exactly where their preferred food is located, it will be a natural instinct to head for that area each year so by rotating the types of crops you plant each season, this only adds to their confusion so they are less likely to cause devastation to a particular crop.
By adopting a garden crop rotation policy, you’ll find that the yield from the crops you plant will be greater and of better quality and that your soil will healthier in which means each group can thrive.