Crop Rotation

by Juanita Schulze

What Is Crop Rotation?

When people tell me they are having problems with their crops the first thing I ask them is, "How deep did you plant your seeds?"  Now you know that we recommend planting seeds no deeper than 1/4 of an inch to one-half of an inch.

If they give me the correct answer, then I ask them, "Did you rotate your crops?"  Usually they will look at me and ask, "What is that?"

Crop rotation is the practice of growing a series of different varieties of vegetables and fruits in the same area in sequenced seasons. It is done so that the soil of your garden does not use up one type of nutrient since different crops require different nutrients to grow.

You do not want to plant the same vegetable in the same spot for more than one season. Even if you add compost or more soil, you still need to rotate the vegetables.

Some people will plant cover crops and till them in before they go to seed. This helps replace vital nutrients that have been depleted.

Even using organic fertilizers does not help much. The best way is to plant a different vegetable in that area.

For those of us who have several planting seasons, (like in the great state of Texas), we will want to rotate between an above-ground crop and a below-ground crop.

Another thing to be aware of is not to plant varieties of the same family in the same spot. For instance cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower are all part of the Brassica oleracea family. You would not want to plant these varieties in the same place year after year.

David in his garden in Colorado Springs in 1991.

Why Do Crop Rotation?

Crop rotation mitigates the buildup of pathogens and pests that often occur when one species is continuously cropped, and can also improve soil structure and fertility by increasing biomass from varied root structures.

Crop rotation is needed in organic gardening. Some farmers will even leave one field unplanted for a season. This helps the land restore nutrients that were depleted during the growing season.

Legumes provide a great advantage for crop rotation-the interrelationship of nitrogen fixing-crops with nitrogen demanding crops. Legumes, like alfalfa and clover, collect available nitrogen from the soil in nodules on their root structure. 

When the plant is harvested, the biomass of uncollected roots breaks down, making the stored nitrogen available to future crops. Legumes are also a valued green manure--a crop that collects nutrients and fixes them at soil depths accessible to future crops.

In addition, legumes have heavy tap roots that burrow deep into the ground, lifting soil for better tilling and absorption of water.

There is much more on this but I think we made our point. If you want to have a good garden, you must rotate. There is a lot of information available on the internet that you can look into on this subject.

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