If you’re fairly new to farming and have just started planting vegetables in your backyard, it’s safe to say that you haven’t thought about crop rotation yet. So for those of you who don’t know, crop rotation is the practice of growing a different series of crops in the same soil over a period of time. This is so that the soil you prep in an area isn’t exhausted of just one type of nutrients. Not only are nutrients not sucked out of your soil, but pests won’t be able to settle when you’re moving your crops around.
A full crop rotation cycle is completed over four years since the types that need to be rotated are usually annuals and can be divided into four categories; legumes (edamame, beans, peas), roots (beets, garlic, radishes), fruit (cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers) and leafy varieties (lettuce, herbs, cabbage). To make things easier, try dividing your garden area into four parts where you plant the varieties mentioned above.
Let’s go over how crops are supposed to be rotated by using the example of a single part of your garden. Let’s say that you’ve planted a fruit-bearing crop in your first bed that takes up a lot of nutrients, so after the first year of growing tomatoes or squashes, you’ll have to replace them with legumes. They use the remaining nutrients while adding nitrogen back to the soil, an important mineral that can help you grow leafy vegetables that have to be planted in the third year.
In the third year of your crop rotation cycle, you can plant spinach, lettuce or herbs. Then, in year four, you can plant root vegetables like carrots or radishes in the same bed. Now follow this chain; fruits, then legumes, then leafy vegetables, and then, roots. Now let’s go over how you’ll work in each bed.
This is where you previously grew roots and it’s depleted of nutrients and needs to be replenished. Hence, you’ll grow ‘fruit’ types that feed on many nutrients. During fall, start adding a good amount of organic matter such as compost to your soil. Come spring, your soil will be nourished to plant your crops. After you’ve harvested, you can plant some of the legume variety.
This is where you’ll start by growing legumes and it’s not necessary that you prep the soil or were previously growing ‘fruit’ types of crops. However, they could do with some mulch because they grow pretty tall and thin.
Preferably, you can start growing your leafy vegetables wherever you were previously growing legumes but if not, simply add some nitrogen-fixing matter like manure. You can add compost to this soil during the spring before planting your crop. Later on, you can add some mulch to keep the plants protected throughout autumn.
You’ll be growing roots here in the first year and these don’t need much prepping at all. During the winter, use some green manure for the soil so that it’s filled with nutrients for the upcoming ‘fruit’ types.
Follow these simple steps so you can get a fantastic yield that makes you proud each time. Happy farming!