The Circle of Your Garden: Crop Rotation

WRITTEN BY JESSICA HOLMES, MASTER GARDENER COORDINATOR 
WARREN COUNTY HORTICULTURE EDUCATOR - SARATOGA COUNTY

Many of us love to garden,

especially vegetable gardening, but not thinking about the importance of crop rotation leads to problems. Crop rotation is a practice in which you move plants around in your garden and change the location each season. This helps to reduce plant disease; insect issues and manages soil fertility. Typically crop rotation is based on the vegetable families. Many times, even though the plant is different, the family is the same. To truly do a crop rotation, you need to rotate the families. One example is tomatoes and peppers. They are in the same family called Solanaceae; therefore, you should plant something in a completely different family, like beans from the Fabaceae family, in the area that grew tomatoes or peppers the previous year.

vegetable basket
crop rotation

A partial list of plant families includes the carrot family (Apiaceae), which includes carrots, celery, and parsley; the gourd family (Cucurbitaceae) includes cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, and squash; the mustard family (Brassicaceae) includes broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, mustard greens, and more; the nightshade family (Solanaceae) includes eggplant, peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes and finally, the pea family (Fabaceae), includes bush beans, pole beans, and more.

If you plant the same families in the same location year after year, the nutrients in the soil will deplete. For example, corn and tomatoes both deplete the soil of necessary nitrogen, but legumes produce nitrogen. Therefore planting beans in that location the following year will add nitrogen back into the soil, making the overall garden healthier and more able to resist pests and pathogens.

If you are unsure about the nutrient or pH levels in your soils, you can get it checked by contacting the Saratoga County Cornell Cooperative Extension. If you have other questions pertaining to crop rotation, vegetable gardening or companion plants, please contact our office as well!

The graph (above) shows an example of how the crops could be rotated each year.

crops in a field

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