How many of you stick with a crop rotation schedule? Think it is too complicated? Not worth it? It's not and it is sooo worth it! Crop rotation greatly decreases your chances depleting your soil of vital nutrients and limits disease and pests problems. Very worth it!
Today I'm going to show you a simple 4 group crop rotation plan that is very doable for even the small scale home gardener. I've even included and handy dandy printable so you can keep the information on hand for easy reference! So let's get started!
Simple and Effective Crop Rotation
Some crop rotation plans can be very complicated and have 9 or more groups. Yikes! That sounds overwhelming. Thankfully the rotation plan I'm sharing with you today is a simple 4 group, 4 year, rotation plan. This means you are going to be rotating 4 groups of crops over a period of four years. So a member from one crop group will be planted in a location but no member of that crop group will return to that location for four years. This helps with soil health and at the same time disrupts the life cycle of pests and disease. The system really comes into focus when you look at the info graphic.
You might be wondering why potatoes are grouped with the fruits. Well, let me explain. Potatoes are in the same family (nightshade) as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant therefore they are susceptible to many of the same pests and diseases. We group them together so we do not perpetuate pests or disease, planting them in the same spot after one another.
As you can see in the info graphic, each group has a dominate nutrient need. The order in which the groups are rotated takes this into account and uses it to benefit the crops groups. Once you see it laid out like this, also knowing that each crop group is susceptible to many of the same diseases and pests, it seems pretty logical doesn't it.
You can still use companion planting and put well suited companions near each other. It is also good to consider planting smaller plots of individual crops. This is a practice in permaculture. It is more natural to have smaller plots of a given crop. When planted in smaller plots, near companion plants, perennials, and plants that attract pollinators and beneficial insects, the pest pressure is once again reduced.
We have a large family (our eighth will be here in just weeks!), and we also run a CSA. In order to get the kind of yields we need, and to be able to efficiently harvest them, we do utilize rows but at a far smaller size than the majority of small farmers. I incorporate perennials, trees, shrubs, and habitat for beneficials and pollinators in every garden in the form of borders, islands, and rows through out the gardens. Using these techniques as well as crop rotation is quite beneficial and I would even say crucial to our organic gardening methods.
So let's take a look at how the crop rotation schedule is implemented.
Year one plant out your crops keeping crops groups separate from each other. If you plant and abundance of one thing you may have entire plot of that crop. Or if you have a smaller garden you may put several crops from the same group together which is what I did for the examples. For an easy example, I also placed the crops in order of the crops rotation schedule. It is not necessary that you do this it just makes it easier for me to show you.
Year two you are going to rotate them being sure to follow the rotation plan. Roots move to where the fruits were in year one. Fruits move to where leaves were, leaves move to where legumes were, and legumes move to where roots were.
Again, rotate crops in the same rotation. Roots move to where the fruits were in year one. Fruits move to where leaves were, leaves move to where legumes were, and legumes move to where roots were.
Real simple. Same process as previous years. Please note that in each section, the fruit section for example, you can plant anything from the fruit group. It doesn't have to be the exact same thing from that group each year. Anything from the fruit group can follow anything from the leaf group and so on.
You will notice that once everything is rotated from year four, year five will have crop groups in the same place as year one. Different crops in my example but from the same group. Legumes are in the same place as they were in year one. So are the roots....
Keeping Good Records is Vital
Keeping good records is important for all aspects of gardening including crop rotation. Every year you should make a layout of your garden. This will allow you to look back and see which crops groups were planted where. In addition to garden layout it is important to keep track of any pest or disease issue. What was the weather? Could it have affected your crop in one way or another? What varieties did you plant? Were they a good match for your growing environment...?
Recording details like these insures that you can make the needed adjustments in future years and thus have a more successful garden. Use a notebook and a calendar for a simple method or you may want to check out my Ultimate Garden Planner and Journal. It is a simple and easy to use system that includes many gardening guides and worksheets along with monthly calendars, week at a glance, and journaling pages. Everything you need to easily keep organized records of your garden. Just be sure to use some method of keeping records so that you can get the most out of all the work you put into your garden!
Downloadable Crop Rotation Guide
Now it is my turn to hear from you. Do you rotate your crops or is this new to you? Let me know in the comments below and remember that your questions and comments are always welcome!
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Hello, I'm Jaci. I look forward to sharing my gardening and homestead adventures to help you reach your gardening goals! If you have any questions then don't be shy, I'd love to hear from you. Send me a message and I will be glad to help!