Crop Rotation for Plant Health
Learn why crop rotation is a tried and true friend of the organic gardener.
It is great fun to peruse seed catalogs or visit plant sales to find that special cauliflower you are anxious to grow. But this is just the first step in planning your vegetable garden! Where you will plant each crop is a key to garden health. If you continue to grow the same plant family in the same part of your garden year after year, pathogens can build up in the soil and cause diseases that are very difficult to control. Certain plant families are especially susceptible to specific diseases, including the cabbages (broccoli, cabbage, kale, and many more), the nightshades (tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, potatoes), and the onions (leek and garlic).
A 3-year rotation cycle is optimal for disease prevention and plant nutrition. Different types of plants need different nutrients to thrive. If you continue to plant the same crop in the same place, the soil may become depleted of certain nutrients. Rotation can also help control pests. Many pests remain in the soil over winter as eggs or larvae. If they are unable to find their favorite food source when they emerge in the spring, they can starve or become a meal for a predator while they are searching for food.
Even if you have a very small gardening space, you can still rotate crops by dividing the space into different sections or choose to not grow anything from a particular plant family for a few seasons. You can even utilize pots to rotate plants to and count that as a different bed space. Don’t forget to make a map of what you plant for future use.
Contact our Garden Hotline for more information or to get custom answers to your specific questions, (206) 633-0224. Get more information on organic gardening topics in Seattle Tilth's "Maritime NW Garden Guide" or ”Your Farm in the City.” Check out our list of classes.