As a new community gardener, I made several mistakes in planning my haphazard garden plot last summer so I’m taking time during the winter months to work on a better plan for the upcoming season. One planning resource I’ve been using is the book “The New Organic Gardener” by Eliot Coleman. Eliot has been a market gardener for over 40 years and is quite knowledgeable about effective intensive organic gardening.
One area of garden planning I want to work on is plant rotation. Descriptions of the benefits of crop rotation can be found in the earliest agricultural writings of the Romans. Firmin Bear, a researcher at Rutgers University, has determined that a well-planned crop rotation strategy is worth 75% of everything else that might be done in an organic gardening, including pest control, tillage and fertilization. Crop rotation is the practice of changing the crop planted on a piece of ground each year. The successive plantings do not make the same demands on the soil for nutrients, nor do they share the same insect pests or diseases.
Based on years of experience and research, Colman suggests the following tried-and-true vegetable rotation:
- Potatoes follow sweet corn.
- Sweet corn follows the cabbage family (including broccoli, kale and cauliflower).
- The cabbage family follows peas.
- Peas follow tomatoes.
- Tomatoes follow beans.
- Beans follow root crops.
- Root crops follow beans and/or potatoes.
- Squash is grown after potatoes.
Happy garden planning!