Type your question here!

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Rotate Plants to New Locations Regardless of Area

            A YouTube video of a home gardener caught my attention recently who said that crop rotation (putting vegetables in different spots each time you plant to reduce disease and insect problems) wasn’t important for home gardeners. He said it was meant for commercial growers.

            I could not disagree more! Crop rotation has been around for over 150 years as a good management technique for reducing disease and fertilizer problems, whether you grow a small number of plants or large numbers. I have seen this technique violated by small-scale growers in other countries with total disease devastation to tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers.

Some vegetable families to keep in mind include:
  • Tomato Family: Tomato, potato, eggplant, peppers
  • Cucumber Family: Cucumber, melons, squash, pumpkin, gourd
  • Lettuce Family: Lettuce, endive, salsify, Jerusalem artichoke
  • Onion Family: Onion, garlic, leek, shallot, chive
  • Carrot Family: Carrot, parsnip, parsley, celery
  • Cabbage Family: Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, turnip, radish, Chinese cabbage, kale, collards, rhutabaga
  • Beet Family: Beet, Swiss chard, spinach
  • Pea Family: Peas, snap bean, lima bean, soybean
  • Corn Family: Sweet corn, field corn, wheat, barley, oats

            This technique switches the growth of vegetables to new locations every 3 to 5 years. It’s best to understand the families that vegetables belong to but if you don’t, then always grow vegetables that produce root crops (carrots, beets) in spots that previously had vegetables from flowers (tomato, pepper, eggplant) and follow that by growing leafy vegetables (lettuce, spinach, chard).
            If you are using a single raised bed, then simply grow these vegetables in new locations in the raised bed so they aren’t grown in the same location. Don’t grow vegetables in the same location for 3 to 5 years.
            An alternative method is to loosen the soil, lightly water it and then cover it tightly with clear plastic for three or four hot days in full sun, letting it bake. This method, called soil solarization, controls several plant diseases inhabiting the soil, as well as many insect pests and weed seeds.
              In the Mojave Desert we see dry soil surface temperatures reach 170F routinely in the middle of summer. We need that temperature to about 8 inches deep so cultivate and water the soil before covering it in plastic.
             This YouTube gardener may have success now without using crop rotation but he will learn this lesson the hard way in future years. Let’s not “throw the baby out with the bathwater.” Probably the worst part is that this propaganda will circulate on YouTube for many years to come and will lead home gardeners down a very dangerous and uneducated horticultural path.