Crop rotation is the age-old practice of rotating crop families. Crop rotation is vitally important to the health and productivity of the vegetable garden. From disease prevention to nutrient balancing, the benefits of crop rotation make it well worth the extra planning.
- Disease prevention is the main reason why crops are rotated. Pathogens build up over time, reducing productivity and may eventually result in crop failure. Rotating crops keeps diseases in check.
- Insect control – Crop rotation reduces insect infestations
- Healthy soils. Different plant families require different nutrients. Crop rotation prevents the soil from being depleted of specific nutrients and keeps the soil nutrients balanced
- Nutrient enhancement. Some crops enhance the soil – so rotating and incorporating them into the ‘mix’ produces free organic soil conditioning.
Crop rotation involves dividing your vegetable garden into sections and planting a different plant family in each section after each season. A systematic rotation schedule ensures a steady balance is maintained.
Most crop rotation systems make use of 4 rotating plant groups:
1. Plants grown for leaves/flowers ie. Lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, spinach etc
2. Plants grown for fruits ie. Tomato, peppers, eggplants, cucumber, mielies
3. Plants grown for roots ie. Carrots, turnips, beetroot, radish, onions
4. Legumes – plants that FEED the soil ie. Beans, pea’s, rye & clover
(Legumes are ‘nitrogen fixing plants’. They have nodules along their roots with specialized bacteria called rhizobia that absorb nitrogen from the air and release it into the soil)
TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL CROP ROTATION
- In small vegetable gardens, divide beds into 4 different sections
- Ideally, legumes should be planted after the root crop – as these are most nutrient intensive
- Incorporating legumes increases the natural nitrogen within the soil, reducing the need for fertilizers