Rotate Your Crops

    • Begin spraying roses now for insect and disease problems. Neem oil is a good product for a less toxic solution.
    • The average date of the last frost in Willits is May 12. So protect young flowers and vegetables on clear, cold nights.
    • Hang up Codling moth traps now to reduce the number of wormy apples in your harvest this year.
    • Begonias bulbs can be started indoors now and set out after danger of frost. You’ll enjoy their beautiful flowers this summer.
    • Tomatoes and peppers can be set out now, but be ready to cover them if cold weather returns.

Crop Rotation

Deciding what to plant and sketching a layout for this year’s vegetable garden are
among the joys of gardening. When planning your vegetable garden, remember the importance
of crop rotation.

To keep your vegetable garden happy and healthy year after year, it is important to rotate your crops. You do this by shifting the locations of crops within the garden each season so the same crop does not grow in the same place year after year. This practice cuts down on pest and disease problems and balances the soil nutrients.

Another reason to rotate crops is that different crops have different nutrient requirements, and they affect the soil balance differently. Growing the same crop in the same spot can deplete the soil of those nutrients.

Some plants, like corn and tomatoes, are heavy feeders that quickly deplete the nitrogen and phosphorus in the soil. Root vegetables and herbs are light feeders, and peas and beans add nitrogen to the soil but need lots of phosphorus.

To rotate crops, divide your vegetables into root crops (carrots, beets, onions), legumes that feed the soil (peas and beans), leaf crops (including broccoli, cabbage, lettuce and other greens), and fruiting crops (tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, squash, cucumbers and corn). Plant each group of vegetables in a separate bed or two and then establish a rotation order. Where you plant peas and beans one year, plant leaf crops the next year and fruiting crops the year after that. Follow these heavy feeders by light-feeding root crops the next season. Then start the rotation over again.

Since legumes add nitrogen to the soil, they are followed by nitrogen-loving leaf crops, which reduces the need for fertilizer. Root crops break up the soil, so they are followed by legumes that like the loose soil texture.

Try not to plant crops from the same family in the same bed two years in a row. This will discourage the build-up of diseases and pests that prefer one group of vegetables. When plants change from year to year, the disease organisms don’t have a chance to build up large populations. Leave at least two and preferably three or more years between the times that you plant members of the same family in an area of your garden.

Potatoes are a little tricky to work into the rotation. They can be planted with the root crops, but be sure they’re planted in a section of the bed that has not recently held tomatoes, peppers, or eggplant, which are in the same family. Instead, plant them where the squash and cucumbers were the year before.

The concept is simple, and keeping a notebook of your crops from year to year is a great way to keep your crop rotation in line!

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