Planning for the Spring Planting Season, Part 1: Crop Rotation

It’s February already, and that means spring planting season is just around the corner. I know it may not feel like it just yet, but Punxutawnie Phil did see his shadow last Wednesday, so that means warmer temps are on the way. It is time to get ready for seed starting and planting season. This is a great time of year to allow yourself to be bitten by the planning and organizing bug.

Now while it’s still too early to start tilling and amending my soil, it’s not too early to create my 2011 garden map. I’m sure you’ve probably heard the term “crop rotation” before, but did you know that it applies to gardens on a small scale, not just been large crop fields? Crop rotation is important, even to small garden plots, because it is one of the best ways to thwart pest and disease problems, as well as prevent soil erosion and allow your soil to remain healthy. For example, tomatoes are heavy eaters. So if you plant them in the exact same spot for a few years in a row, you are likely to deplete your soil of the nutrients that the tomatoes need. However, if you plant peas the year after you have planted tomatoes, the peas will help to return nitrogen to your soil, therefore helping to keep your soil and your garden healthy. Isn’t it cool that plants have the ability to balance themselves out like that?

My goal in creating my garden map for 2011 is to insure that I am not placing members of the same vegetable family is the same place as I put them last year. The nine vegetable families are:

  1. Nightshades- Tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and potatoes.
  2. Legumes- Peas and beans.
  3. Squashes and Melons- Summer and winter squash, cucumbers, pumpkins, and melons.
  4. Brassicas and Salad Greens- Greens, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts.
  5. Sunflower Family- Sunflowers, Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes), lettuce, and endive.
  6. Carrot Family- Carrots, parsley, parsnips, and celery.
  7. Goosefoot Family- Beets, swiss chard, and spinach.
  8. Grass Family- Corn.
  9. Onion Family- Onions, garlic, leeks, and scallions.

Now, a good goal to set for your spring garden map is to plan not to plant members of the same family where they were planted last year. For example, don’t plant beets in the same place where you planted spinach last year, because these are members of the same family. So, in essence, you are rotating not just a single crop, but a whole crop family. If you planted beans in one spot last year, plant corn there this year. Members of the grass family need good fertile soil, so they will grow well in a place where legumes were planted the previous year. Members of the sunflower family are light feeders, so they will grow well in a spot where heavy feeders such as brassicas grew the year before.

Are you starting to get the big picture? Crop rotation does take some attentiveness and planning. But it is very well worth it. It not only helps you maintain the health of your soil, but also helps to insure that your spring and summer vegetable garden will have the largest output possible.  Plus, come spring, having a garden map will make planting that much simpler for you. Planning in the winter makes for ease of planting in the spring.

Other important things to take into consideration when mapping your spring garden are:

  • Taller plants should not block sunlight from reaching shorter plants.
  • Some veggies and fruits grow really well together. Check out this information from Seeds Of Change on Companion Planting for more details.
  • Will your garden be exposed to harsh elements, such as wind? How will you protect it? How about protecting it from critters?
  • If you are expanding your garden this year, will it still be within reach of your irrigation system?
  • How much space do you need between your plants? If you have a 3″ by 3″ plot for carrots, for example, how many carrots can plant in this space? It is important not to crowd your seedlings. And with climbing plants, make sure to leave enough space to stake them.

Okay, now I am sure I have given you plenty of food for thought. Time to get back to the ol’ drawing board!

Advertisements

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: