Planning to become a vegetable gardener? It’s a difficult but ultimately rewarding task that will feed you, your kids and others for a much cheaper price, and will also help you ensure that your plants aren’t covered with insecticides or anything you wouldn’t actively want to eat.
If you plan to keep the garden for years to come, you should consider crop rotation every year. Vegetables and other plants use the nutrients in the ground, and if you plant the same crop over and over again, the soil will quickly become bereft of such nutrients, leaving you with less and less of a harvest as the years go by.
What is Crop Rotation?
Crop rotation is growing different crops in a certain area of a garden each year. Usually, a crop rotation can take place over the course of about three years.
Perhaps for the sake of demonstration one can assume you have your garden marked with three different areas. Perhaps you plan to grow cauliflower in one area, carrots in another area and tomatoes in the third. To ensure that you harvest the maximum possible produce, assuming that all other conditions are ideal, you would grow a different crop for each area, then for the next year you would switch them around.
So if you grew cauliflower in one area, the next year you should grow carrots there, where the carrots once grew you should plant tomatoes and put the cauliflower crops where the tomatoes once were. Then the next year rotate them again. After three years, you should be able to plant the crops in their original areas without much trouble.
Crop rotation and soil fertility
Different vegetable crops need different nutrients from the soil. If you were to continue growing the same crop in the same area, the nutrients would eventually be used up. If you rotate them, however, the soil won’t completely exhaust itself of nutrients.
The reasons for growing different kinds of crops is also because some crops can provide nutrients to the soil that might benefit other crop groups. For instance, legumes, like beans or peas, fix nitrogen into the soil, which more or less preps the soil to grow bountiful, healthy leafy plants.
Crop rotation and pest control
Although crop rotation is mostly used to maintain fertile soil, that doesn’t mean that it’s the only thing it’s good for. Crop rotation can help prevent the chronic plague of pests and diseases that occur in the vegetable garden. After all, if the pests only eat a certain kind of crop, they’ll expect it in the same area the following year, and if it’s not there, they’ll have a harder time sustaining their presence in the soil.
The different crop groups
In order to maximize the effectiveness of your crop rotation, you should always plant crops from three different crop groups and rotate them in a certain order.
The first group consists of brassicas and leafy greens. These include cabbages, cauliflower, kale, brussel sprouts and others. These should replace root crops.
Root crops, the second group, is full of vegetables that grow buried in the ground. These include potatoes, carrots, turnips, and parsnips. These should replace legumes.
The third category is sort of a mixed bag. It consists of legumes and other crops that aren’t classified in the previous groups. Some examples are peas, beans, tomatoes, and celery. These should replace the brassica crops.
As with everything, the more effective a method is, the better, and crop rotation is no different. Planning a vegetable garden should take the different vegetables you are growing in considerations, so you can get the most out of each harvest.