Simple and Practical Crop Rotation
Crop rotation is extremely beneficial for not only your crops, but also to aid in building and maintaining healthy soil, to minimise pests and diseases, reduce chemical use, and manage nutrient requirements – all which will maximise your harvest. The ideologies of crop rotation have been successfully used for thousands of years in farming and are still used today. The simplicity of crop rotation allows the practice to be used in your own vegetable gardens with great success.
Crop rotation is self-explanatory – simply rotating your crops, so that no garden bed or plot grows the same crop in consecutive seasons. Doing so;
- Decreases the build-up of pests and diseases in the soil by confiscating their preferred habitat and therefore breaking the pest or disease’s life cycle, reducing and even eliminating your necessity for chemical spraying.
- Achieves the necessary soil pH and nutrient levels, to help your vegetables get the maximum supplements out of your soil. The use of composts, manures, lime and fertilisers at the correct times will also assist in producing successful crops.
To Begin with;
Just contemplate vegetables in terms of their family names. For example, in succeeding years or seasons, you do not want to plant Broccoli, which is a member of the Brassicaceae family in the same garden bed. The Brassicaceae family has many other members such as Cauliflower, Kohlrabi, Cabbage and are all affected by the same pests and diseases. So we group them together (Brassicaceae) and rotate them to another bed that hasn’t seen Brassica for a couple of years. We group certain plants together and they are rotated as a group. For instance, beans and peas are both in the Legume group, and garlic and onions are in the Allium group. With a just little preparation you will have your crop rotation structure organised in no time.
The Next Level;
Advanced gardeners should be thinking about the way plants feed or draw nutrients from the soil, for example; The Brassicaceae family (Cauliflower, Broccoli, Cabbage, etc.) require plenty of nitrogen for good leaf growth and are commonly considered substantial feeders. A crop to follow nitrogen ravenous Brassicas may be legumes such as peas, beans, and lentils. Legumes feed lightly and have the ability to ‘fix’ nitrogen into soils, improving the nitrogen content for impending plantings. Tomatoes and capsicums (acid lovers) like a lower pH, and the pH generally drops (becomes more acidic) as more compost and manure is added to soil, therefor lime should be applied after they are finished, ready for a crop that enjoys a higher pH level.
Example of a Simple Rotation Plan
Crop assemblies in a four-year rotation would be as follows;
|Legumes & Pod Crops||Brassicas & Leaf Vegetables||Alliums||Other (Root and Fruiting Crops)|
|Okra||Broad Beans||Onions (All types)||Tomatoes|
|Swedes & other Turnips||Potatoes|
A yearly rotation schedule would look something like this.
|Plot 1||Plot 2||Plot 3||Plot 4|
These examples may be used in your garden although everyone’s soil, climate and tastes vary so a little alteration will most probably be required. There are many approaches to crop rotation, some are simple like the one above but others can get relatively complex, some even include a ‘fallow year’, which is a year where nothing is grown in that specific plot.
Even if you decide to integrate other vegetables or methods, just remember the most basic rule for the best possible harvest is Annual Crop Rotation!
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