Crop Rotation and Raised Beds

Crop Rotation and Raised Beds

Crop Rotation and Raised Beds 560 315 Eco Garden Systems

Eco Garden Systems June 2017

Eco Garden Systems

As I pull my summer crops to prepare for fall crops I am reminded about the importance of crop rotation. This usually is top priority in the spring when deciding if you should put a tomato plant where there was a tomato plant last year? Crop Rotation is an important part of gardening that will ensure success year after year in the same garden. The whole concept of rotating your plants is to help fight disease and nutrient deficiencies that can occur if you plant the same vegetable families in the same space. Understanding how to do this in a raised bed can be complicated due to the smaller area of gardening. There is actually some conflicting information about this because not every garden is the same and not every gardener gardens the same.

After many years of gardening in an elevated self-watering garden this is my thoughts on rotating crops… I don’t really do it. I have planted tomatoes in the same spot for years and never had a real issue with the growth or with disease. I like to plant the taller vegetable plants to the North so that the smaller plants have all day sun. Because of this I usually end up putting tomatoes in the same spot. I do dig out some of the soil and replace with new soil and compost before re-planting for the next season. With raised beds this is an easy task. I had one tomato plant with hornworms and a lot of larvae in the soil. I was able to dig out all of them and it took care of the problem. I have planted beans in the same spot as well and have had no issues with production. Beans have always been my biggest producers with tomatoes following in a close second. And again, they are in the same spots year after year!

Eco Garden beans July 2017

Eco Gardens beans June 2018

Eco Garden beans August 2018 (fall planting)

The difference in terms of raised beds might also be a factor here. Crop rotation plays a more significant role in lower raised garden beds than in elevated garden planters. The reason here is your ability to replace and replenish soil in a garden planter vs just replenishing the soil in a raised garden bed. Soils will contain and harbor diseases year after year as well as lose vigor in providing nutrients to plants that are heavy feeders. Broccoli, for example, is a heavy feeder in a garden and should be rotated in ground gardens and lower raised beds due to the depleted soil. In an elevated planter the soil can be removed and replaced with new soil in that spot where the plant was without disturbing the other vegetation. This is all done while standing up, no bending, and no shoveling. If you happen to notice late blight in any of the tomato or pepper plants merely dig out the entire plant and foliage and place in a sealed plastic bag and throw away. In late fall deeply till the soil to prevent the spores from hibernating over the winter months. In the spring replace or add new soil and compost.

Due to the short growing season here in the Midwest, some crop rotation comes naturally. When potatoes are done they are done! I usually follow potatoes with peas or beans which is what most recommend. I am able to harvest peas and beans till first frost and then replant in the spring again with potatoes. As every gardener knows you eventually become very familiar with YOUR garden and gardening habits. Crop rotation is an important practice in agriculture and should be done to ensure years of healthy vegetation and soil. So if you are at the stage of pulling your summer crops and replanting, consider rotating by all means or just replace and refresh.

Eco Garden Systems June 2018

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