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Importance of crop rotation?

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Importance of crop rotation?

Post  gwennifer on 6/5/2011, 2:40 am

I took a gardening class at the community center before buying Mel's book and the instructor brought up crop rotation. She uses four garden beds, and rotates the plantings in them each year according to these four categories: Greens, Roots, Squash/Tomatoes, and Legumes.

Mel touches on crop rotation briefly in his book, basically saying it's so easy to re-plant a square at a time as it needs it that crop rotation is naturally happening.

I only have a very limited space to build some garden boxes. Would it be better to maximize the number of squares I can fit in that space (easier to do with one or two big beds so I'm not wasting space for aisles between beds). Or should I really focus on fitting in four separate beds for proper crop rotation?

I've never gardened before. I have no preference. Any advice would be appreciated!


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Re: Importance of crop rotation?

Post  Barkie on 6/5/2011, 8:07 am

I expect the tutor will have said why rotation is done, ie to avoid specific nutrient depletion, disrupt pest life cycles and minimise diseases. In SFG (and cottage gardening) you add compost every time you replant which replenishes the nutrients so that is taken care of.

To an extent pests can find it more difficult to find their target plant in amongst differently planted squares. More difficult but not impossible. A lot of us use tulle or other netting to keep flying pests off our plants. It doesn't matter if the beds are separate or not as you can still cover part of a bed if you are growing something up trellis or the whole bed if you aren't growing something up a high trellis. You need to let pollinators in to plants that need them though so it depends what you grow in the same bed or section.

In a small garden disease can drift from one plant and plant family to another whether you have 24 feet between them or 24 inches. The closer together the more likely cross infection will be between plants of the same family but vigilance pays off.
The downside of separate beds is a big loss of space because you need a path for access.

Hope that helps anyway.


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Re: Importance of crop rotation?

Post  pattipan on 6/5/2011, 8:45 am

We rotate the Mel's Mix. Since there is limited North sides for tomatoes on our boxes, rotating the soil makes more sense to me. For example...start by removing most of the MM from the tomato squares and put it in a wheelbarrow or on a tarp. Then move soil from another box that did not grow the tomato family to replace what you removed, and then put what is in the wheelbarrow to replace the other. Add more blended compost or MM as needed. Tada!

Kind of reminds me of those sliding number puzzles, only we're allowed to remove the number tile and put it where we want!


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Re: Importance of crop rotation?

Post  boffer on 6/5/2011, 9:59 am

When presented with choices in the garden, I usually opt for the one with the least work. I don't rotate. No disease; no problems. I figure that since we're stuck with lousy weather frequently in the PNW, the upside is that we don't have to fight many bugs or disease problems that seem to plague warmer weather gardeners.

You definitely don't want to go wider than 4 feet, but making the boxes longer is OK to gain space.

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Re: Importance of crop rotation?

Post  jymarino on 6/5/2011, 11:11 am


That is a really cool idea!


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Re: Importance of crop rotation?

Post  gwennifer on 7/7/2011, 7:15 pm

Sorry I never thanked you all for your input. I did read all your replies. I tend to be on the forums when I'm nursing the baby (sorry if that's TMI!) so I just surf around with one hand and read.

I figured the limited North sides thing would make it difficult to rotate crops. And I didn't want to waste space with aisles in my tiny yard. So I went with one slightly longer 4'x6' bed and will just go for it. I'm encouraged that Boffer hasn't had any problems. I like easy too!

Patti, I admire your dedication to your 'maters! The sliding puzzle thing was the perfect description. Smile

And baby just woke up so my typing time is up... Thanks again everyone!


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Re: Importance of crop rotation?

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 7/7/2011, 7:46 pm

@boffer wrote:When presented with choices in the garden, I usually opt for the one with the least work.

I agree all day and twice on Sunday! Hmmmm, I wonder why we chose SFG?

OP, it helps to rotate. If you plant a carrot square, next time plant lettuce. If you plant beans, next time plant kohlrabi. Or whatever. I try not to put the same thing in the same square back to back plantings, but that's all I ever worry about. And, when I clear out a few squares, I mix them all around. I'm a sloppy mess. But, that all serves to kick up enough when it comes to "rotation." Mel, himself, says it's not all that important. But, I do believe it has to help a little bit.......but not enough to lose sleep over.

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