If you have been gardening for more than a few years, you may have already realized that planting the same crop year after year realizes diminishing returns. You might have already heard of crop rotation and tried to vary your planting, but don’t quite know what you should plant in the stead of your preferred crop to prepare the soil to grow that favored fruit or vegetable again.
Here are tips that will help you maximize the potential of your garden with crop rotation.
1. Divide Your Vegetable Garden into Sections
The first step in crop rotation is to divide your garden into at least four sections. While you can choose to create more sections, four is good for a start. Make sure each section is of an equal size to accommodate different crops.
2. Pick Which Crops You’ll Plant
Most gardeners who are starting out with simple crop rotations recognize four distinct groups:
1) Leafy Vegetables
2) Root Crops
|Green Beans||Peas||Yellow Wax Beans||Lima Beans|
While each category has more examples of crops that fit the bill, each category has a vital role to play in keeping the soil healthy.
3. Make a 4-year Vegetable Garden Plan
Once you have designated the four crops to start with, make a chart of this first four plantings followed by three rows of four empty boxes. Next year, move each planting one step to the right and place the one on the far right at the far-left position. Repeat this one-step-to-the-left movement for the next four years and form a template for your upcoming planting schedule.
4. You Can Rotate Crops & Plant Categories
Keep in mind that you don’t need to plant the same crop in each category every year. Variety within a category is as good for the soil as rotating categories. Even if you have loved planting tomatoes in the past, give squash a try one year. Not only will this lead to a more productive garden, but you can also try some new recipes for your homegrown produce.
5. Plant Cover Crops to Improve Soil Health
Planting cover crops instead of a legume planting, or once you have gone through one full rotation, is a great way to give the soil a chance to recuperate and produce a truly wonderful crop in the coming year. These may include grains that can be used in recipes, like rye, or plants that can be harvested as a garnish, like clover.
Proper crop rotation not only helps to develop and maintain healthy soil but also opens many possibilities to broaden your horizons by raising unfamiliar plants. You may find that these tasty new sensations will become a favorite of both yourself and your family, bringing both pleasurable gardening and healthy meals to your home for years to come.
If you’re new to gardening, you’ll want to check out our great tips for starting a small vegetable garden.