Life would be easier if we could lay out our vegetable garden plan once and simply re-plant it each spring. Unfortunately planting crops in the same spot each year allows problems to multiply. Pest insects will lay their eggs nearby or right in the soil, ready to hatch and start feeding the minute you put your seedlings out in the spring. The spores from fungal diseases can easily over-winter, even under snow cover, and re-infect in the dampness of spring.
Even if we could control these lurking problems, repetitive planting depletes the soil nutrients in areas where heavy feeding vegetables, like corn, cucumbers and broccoli, are grown. Alternating what you grow in each bed allows you to build up the soil’s fertility and structure.
Crop rotation is one of the oldest organic gardening practices and one of the easiest ways to keep your vegetable garden growing healthy. Many experts suggest rotating by vegetable family, since pests and diseases often favor all the relatives in a family. Cabbage worms also love broccoli and kale. Early blight is not just a concern for tomatoes and potatoes, it can affect their cousins, eggplants and peppers, too. But the length of time and distance of separation for this type of rotation can be impractical for small backyard vegetable gardens. Who can find a new spot to grow tomatoes every year for 6 to 10 years?
A much easier approach that still offers the benefits of preventing pest build-up and soil depletion is to group your plants by the part of the plant you eat. This also roughly organizes them by their feeding requirements: leafy vegetables (nitrogen), fruiting plants (phosphorous), root crops (potassium), and legumes, vegetables in the same family as beans and peas, which add nitrogen to the soil. Grouping plants with similar nutrient needs together makes it simple to add fertilizer or amendments. You even get the bonus of having nitrogen fixing legumes beef up the soil for the following year’s nitrogen gobbling leafy vegetables. Check out the full planting chart, below.
|Cauliflower||Melon||Onions & Leeks|
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