Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Crop Rotations

The advent of fall brings with it, the lamenting of a gardening season coming to a close. Most of the northern states are bidding farewell to their gardens as the first freeze will come any day. This year’s harvest was plentiful for many gardeners. A few states: Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico had below average growing seasons because of a bashful spring that did not show her face until the middle of May. On the contrary, a few states had far better than average years, including: Nebraska, Illinois and Indiana. The rains in the Midwest were constant throughout spring and many crops grew with wild abandon yielding a harvest unlike many in years past.

This dichotomy however, brought about a unified result. For gardeners in states where the yield was below average, there is a tenacity to overcome mother-nature, to be ready for next season and show spring who is boss. For those in states where the harvest was plentiful, new inspiration was born. Those gardeners can see new crops blossoming in the springs to come. In short, gardeners around the United States are already planning the layout for next season to grow a crop that will make this year’s produce seem like slim pickings.

In light of the unbridled hopes for gardeners everywhere, it is good to take a moment to review the basic points of garden bed planning. The most important rule every gardener should follow is to rotate the crops. Nearly every garden lover knows this rule, but surprisingly few gardeners have a well rounded method for the mad dash. So, by breaking the garden crops into four categories, the gardener will establish a method to successfully replenish his or her garden’s soil nutrition while preventing insect infestation and defeating weeds.

Leafy greens—think anything that would be called a salad green—love nitrogen; they compile one category. Fruit bearing plants such as squash, watermelon, cantaloupe, tomatoes and cucumbers need phosphorus. They are a group to themselves. Root foods such as potatoes and carrots are also a group. They need potassium. The final category is legumes such as peas, soy beans, and varietal beans. They do the hard work of replenishing the soil of nitrogen and making it fertile for years to come.

The categories are not meant to be sectioned off from one another, but instead a flow should be created where a plant from the same group does not end up in a plot of his own group the following year—carrots should not chase onions. The gardener who observes the four groups and creates a plan to rotate the crops from section to section, allowing the plants to invigorate the soil, should still let his or her soil rest every seven years or so, but between fallow ground, the yield should be greater and the pests fewer. Weather permitting, next season can birth all the gardener’s dreams.

About the Author
Jody Sperlng is a contributing writer for Mike the Gardener Enterprises, LLC the exclusive home for the Seeds of the Month Club.

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