Crop Rotation Promotes Garden Efficiency

Squash eventually depletes particular soil nutrients.

Maya Angelou likely enjoyed gardening. She said, “In diversity there is beauty and there is strength”. That is how the healthiest of ecosystems, including home gardens, function. Vegetable gardens are generally diverse. However, each group of a particular vegetable is rather homogenous. Crop rotation can compensate with diversity through the seasons.

Crop rotation is growing different vegetables in particular places from season to season. It is the same as growing particular vegetables in different places from season to season. Distinctly consumptive vegetable plants should relocate each season. Less consumptive sorts may perform adequately in the same place for years. Diversity makes it interesting.

Each type of vegetable plant consumes particular nutrients from the soil. Eventually, they can deplete their soil of these particular nutrients. Crop rotation allows them to utilize the nutrients they need from undepleted soil instead. Meanwhile, other vegetable plants can grow in the vacated soil. These different types of plants utilize different types of nutrients.

For example, tomato plants notoriously deplete the soil of particular nutrients. Corn does the same. However, each depletes different nutrients. Therefore, corn can be satisfied in soil vacated by tomato plants. Likewise, tomato plants can be satisfied in soil vacated by corn. Furthermore, each promotes the restoration of the soil nutrients needed by the next.

Crop rotation also disrupts proliferation of several pathogens that infest vegetable plants. Dormant spores of bean rust disease overwinter in the soil beneath infested bean plants. They efficiently infest any receptive bean plants to occupy the soil during the next spring. However, they can not infest plants that are not related to beans, such as pepper or okra.

Summer vegetables should be situated accordingly as they return to vegetable gardens. Tomato, pepper and eggplants are related, so should not grow where any grew last year. The same applies to bean and pea. Squash and cucumber are related also, but are less consumptive. They may perform adequately within the same soil for more than one year. Several summer and winter vegetables are related.


Rotation Improves Vegetable Garden Production

Summer squash are consumptive vegetables.

Vegetable plants are mostly unnaturally productive. Extensive breeding compels them to yield fruits and vegetative parts that are bigger, better and more abundant that what their ancestors produced. Increased production increases their reliance on resources. Without crop rotation, some sorts of vegetable plants noticeably deplete some of what they need. 

Rotation, which is the same as crop rotation or garden rotation, is a technique of growing vegetables where different types of vegetables grew previously. In other words, one type of vegetable does not grow in any one place for too long. Some vegetables may produce well in some types of soil for a few years. More consumptive types prefer annual rotation. 

This technique disrupts the depletion of particular nutrients that particular types of plants crave. It also allows for replenishment of depleted nutrients in the absences of plants that cause such depletion. Furthermore, some soil borne pathogens find this active cycling to be disruptive. Eventually, plants that cycled out can cycle back into a particular situation.

Tomato plants are particularly consumptive, so appreciate rotation in many types of soils. Eggplant and pepper are related to tomato, so crave many of the same resources, even if they are less consumptive. Therefore, they should not cycle directly into soil relinquished by tomatoes. Unrelated vegetables, such as squash, corn or bean, are more appropriate. 

Warm season vegetables that are now returning to the garden might appreciate rotation. A bit of research to determine appropriate placement for them may significantly enhance production. It helps to know which vegetables are related, such as mustard, collard, kale, radish and turnip (of Cruciferae Family), or squash and melon (of Cucubitaceae Family).

Because corn is so high, it should grow to the north of a vegetable garden. Unfortunately, rotation may dictate that it grows to the east for a while, or only in portions of the northern edge that it avoided for a while. Pole beans that like to climb wire fences may sometimes need reassignment to different portions of their fence. Peas should follow their example since they are related.

All Good Things In Moderation

70405thumbToo much of a good thing can be a problem. That is why bacon is not one of the four basic food groups. It is why sunny weather gets mixed with a bit of rain. It is why we can not give plants too much fertilizer. Since late last summer or autumn, there has not been much need for fertilizer. If fertilized too late, citrus and bougainvillea develop new growth just in time to be damaged by frost.

Now it is time to start applying fertilizer, but only if necessary or advantageous. Fertilizer really is not as important as the creative marketing of fertilizers suggests. It is useful for new plants, fruits, flowers, lawns and especially for vegetables, but is probably overkill for healthy and established plants. There is no need to promote growth of trees and shrubbery that are at their optimum size.

Some of the specialty fertilizers are a bit fancier than they need to be. With few exceptions, complete fertilizers are useful for most applications. As long as plants get the extra nutrients that they crave, they should not complain. They can not read the labels of the fertilizers that they receive. Plants are more likely to have problems if they get too much of something that they do not need.

Rhododendrons and azaleas might like specialty acidifying fertilizer, but should be satisfied with a complete fertilizer. Citrus might likewise appreciate fertilizer that is specially formulate for citrus, but are probably not too discriminating. Palms only want specialty palm fertilizer if they demonstrate symptoms of nutrient deficiency. (Some palms are sensitive to deficiencies of micro nutrients.)

Too much fertilizer, especially fertilizer with a good amount of nitrogen, can inhibit bloom of several plants. Bougainvillea puts more effort into vigorous shoots and foliage than into bloom if it gets strung out on nitrogen. Nasturtium will do the same. In pots and poorly drained locations, excessive fertilizer can become toxic enough to discolor foliage or even scorch the edges of large leaves.

The most justifiable uses for fertilizers now are for flowering annuals and vegetable plants. Tomato and corn plants respond very favorably to fertilizer because they are so greedy with the nutrients they require for their unnaturally abundant production. (In the wild, the ancestors of tomato and corn do not really produce like garden varieties do.) Flowers, of course, take a lot of resources too.