February 5, 2016
Crop Rotation-The Key to Veggie Garden Success
Published by Bucks Country Gardens in Bucks Country Gardens
Most of us are strictly home gardeners. We enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of our labor, and as an added bonus, we even have fun doing so. However, growing vegetables for the first time can be tricky. But, the key to successful home gardening probably isn’t what you’re thinking. It’s not excellent fertilizer, the perfect soil, or proper watering. But, while those things are certainly necessary to aid in great crop yields, the key is actually crop rotation!
I know, I know, this may be hard to believe and wrap your head around. But I’m here to tell you why crop rotation is important and how to easily implement a three-year plan into your spring garden planning process.
Have you ever planted tomatoes, corn, potatoes, or lettuce in the same garden bed? I’m sure your first year’s harvest was great. But, then come year two and three you started to see hornworms, caterpillars, and even a powdery mildew attacking your garden. You may have even stood there and scratched your head as to why those pesky pests were choosing your garden to munch on. The answer is rather simple: monoculture. In plain terms, this is just a soiled word for home gardening. But, wherever monoculture exists, pests and disease will waste all of their energy and focus their efforts in destroying your hard work and countless hours tending to your garden beds.
For example: If a soil born fungus, like Verticillium Wilt, infests your tomatoes in year one and you go ahead and plant tomatoes in year two in the same location, your delicious tomatoes will fall to the fungus again. And in fact, the fungus will often duplicate and come back even stronger than the year before.
Another example: If aphids infest your Brussels sprouts in year one, and you plant sprouts, or another similar cold crop in the same location in year two, you’re just asking for double the trouble.
However on the contrary, if in year two you plant a crop that is resistant to Verticillium Wilt after your garden bed has surrendered to it, the fungus will subside and you’ve created a recipe for an Eco-friendly pest control!
A Few Helpful Tips
Growing different members of the same crop family together in the same bed is a really effective strategy to success. If you’re not sure which crops are in the same family, keep on reading.
Roots which plunge to different depths each year keep the soil food web active due to different amounts of nutrients being pulled from the different levels of soil. Yields will decline if the same thing is planted in the same location over and over again because of soil nutrient depletion.
Legumes, like beans, peas, lentils, clover, and alfalfa stimulate beneficial microorganisms, while big leafy greens like, kale, Swiss chard, and collard greens, are great at suppressing weeds to do the space they take up in the beds.
Have a plan! I’m sure you’re familiar with planning your gardens, which makes things easier come planting time. So, implement this easy three-year crop rotation plan into your regular planning process and watch how your garden rewards you with an even greater, healthier harvest!
Three-Year Crop Rotation Plan
The plan below is for three garden beds; if you have more or less beds, adjust it accordingly! Remember – grow plant families together in the same bed. Assign each plant family a letter and then assign them to one of the three beds.
Year 1: Bed 1: A • Bed 2: B • Bed 3: C
Year 2: Bed 1: B • Bed 2: C • Bed 3: A
Year 3: Bed 1: C• Bed 2: A • Bed 3: B
At Bucks Country Gardens, we pride ourselves on having a great selection of starter plants to choose from. Every plant listed below you can find this spring on our shelves!
Mustard Family (Brassicaceae)
Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, mustard greens, watercress
Carrot Family (Apiaceae)
Carrots, parsnips, parsley, dill, fennel, coriander
Goosefoot Family (Chenopodiaceae)
Spinach, beets, chard, Swiss chard
Sunflower Family (Asteraceae)
Gourd Family (Cucurbitaceae)
Cucumbers, watermelon, squash, pumpkin, gourds
Nightshade Family (Solanaceae)
Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, potatoes
Onions Family (Alliaceae)
Onions, garlic, shallots, chives
Pea Family (Fabaceae)
Don’t let crop rotation intimidate you. By incorporating the idea into your regular garden planning process, makes it manageable and an extremely helpful tool to excellent results. If you have questions, stop on in! We are here to help in any way we can. Until then, let the planning process begin!
Jessie Tanski | Public Relations and Social Media Coordinator
David Jones | Horticulturist, Arborist, & Customer Service Specialist