Crop Rotation

Why Practice Crop Rotation ?

Crop Rotation is an important part of making sure that you look after your soil. If you soil is no good then neither will your plants.

The basic idea is to put veggies in soil that best suits them. Heavy feeding plants (plants that produce large fruits or have large leaves) need richer soil than plants that don’t. So when you finish up with a crop of heavy feeders, you need to either pick a plant that is suited to than depleted soil OR put a plant into the soil that puts nutrients back in. I always plant carrots after potatoes, to the point where I now only plant potatoes in soil in order to get a carrot crop.

Crop Rotation Infographic
Crop Rotation Infographic

Rotating crops like this also reduces the chances of your plants being attacked by diseases/insects. If plant A is attacked by disease B, and disease B is prevalent in a part of your garden, then crop rotation helps. If plant A isn’t there to attack or be fed on (because you have put it some place else), then disease B isn’t able to survive. This is particularly the case with tomatoes and potatoes. There is a nemotode that become present with potatoes that then attacks tomatoes. To remove the nemotode, you need to remove the food it attacks. In this case, it means that you shouldn’t plant tomatoes in ground that has had potatoes in it for the previous 3 years.

Examples of Crop Rotation

In Spring plant your nightshades like peppers and eggplant. They have high nutrient requirements because of the fruit that they produce. Once they have been through, and BEFORE you replentish the soil with a manure or compost, place in a crop that has low nutrient requirement or indeed doesn’t produce the way we want if given too much in the way of nutrient. Carrots are a good example.

So now you’ve have a heavy feeding crop through and a light feeding crop through. It is time to put in a crop that will add nutrient back into the soil. Beans, peas and other legumes are ideal for this.

Peppers that last for five years

Peppers
Over wintered Capsicum plant. Spring should see new growth and more food!
Over wintered Pepper plant. Spring should see new growth and more food!

I left my peppers in over winter and they survived. Indeed, they were even producing a little fruit for most of the time. . .at least until the first frosts of the year moved through and killed the leaves off. The plants are still alive and I’m very hopeful that new growth will start shortly. How did this even happen and what’s next?

I gave them a lot of love over spring and summer. This meant water, mulching, rotten chicken poo, and shade. Checking the soil around them now, there are lots of worms and it has that certain ‘good dirt’ feel about it. I also applied Sulphate of Potash frequently, I thought too frequently, but it seems to have worked out fine. I gave them as much shelter as I could from the frosts, and they live in a warm part of the veggie patch.

The plants have a woody stem which means that they are well established. And if they are well established that means I should be getting capsicums sooner rather than later and it is free! According to a few wise gardening heads around the traps, if I can keep give them a lot of love, they should be productive plants for 4 to 5 five years.