Today I am spending a rainy day planning next years kitchen garden. An important thing to remember when planning your vegetable garden is to ensure you practice good crop rotation. Why is that? If you rotate your crops you will help to prevent the spread of diseases and insect problems.
If you have ever grown potatoes in a new garden that used to be in sod the previous year, you may have had an issue with wireworms. I did when I planted the first community garden bed with potatoes. I harvested the first potatoes with no issues and thought I would leave the potatoes in the soil to harvest in late July.
Wasn’t I surprised to see this on my freshly harvested potatoes that summer. Ugh, I didn’t want to look at a potato after that. I had to toss all the damaged potatoes away. The next year I grew the potatoes in a different raised bed following a crop of pumpkins from the previous year. I made sure to harvest the potatoes promptly to avoid any wireworm problems. Wireworms are the larva of the click beetle. This time I beat the wireworm problem.
So what is crop rotation? It’s a method of moving your crops from year to year. You do not grow the same crop in the same location each year. That’s a good way to exhaust the soil of nutrients. You need to think about planting to add to the soil as well. Above I have drawn out the plan I used in 2015 for my six raised beds. I want to do this now before I forget. The bottom half of the paper is a tentative plan for 2016.
It’s also best to plant your vegetables according to their plant family. Not everyone has six raised beds to grow in. If you have one raised bed it means moving your crops around within the same bed. So for example, if you planted peas or beans at one end, try moving them to the other end. If you plant garlic in one bed and you have rust problems and nowhere else to plant it, you may want to skip a year planting it.
It wasn’t until I sat down to figure out the plan for 2016 that I realized I had the same plant family in three beds. I planted two beds of tomatoes and one bed of peppers in 2015. They all belong to the family Solanaceae. That only left me one choice for rotation as I have a permanent crop of raspberries in one bed and garlic in the other. I have cut back the tomato bed to just one this year. I will either surround the plants with a border of basil or peppers, maybe a mix of both. I certainly don’t need 72 basil plants like last year. I have a freezer full of pesto. Since the garlic will be harvested in late June I can add some late crops to that bed.
I have forgotten to add a bed of Brassica family vegetables such as kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips and kohlrabi to the plan so I may have them share a bed with the carrots and beets. Carrots can have problems with carrot rust fly and the Brassica are a favourite host plant for the cabbage moth. If I plant them all together in one bed I can use a floating row cover for pest control. Above is a row cover I used at the Ladner Community Garden. It kept the cabbage moth at bay until the plants were large enough to fend for themselves.
The best idea is to draw a plan similar to this one. Rotate bed four to bed three and three to two and so on so you have a four-year rotation. Think about dividing your in-ground vegetable garden into four quadrants and rotate that way.
Here is a list of the most common plant families to help you plan:
Brassica-Cauliflower, Brussel Sprouts, Broccoli, Kale, Turnip, Kohlrabi, Radishes, Collard Greens, Bok Choi, Pac Choi, Mustard, Rutabaga, Watercress
Allium-Garlic, Onions, Chives, Shallots
Fabaceae or Legumes-Peas, Beans, Peanuts, Lentils, Soya Beans, Edamame
Cucurbits-Cucumbers, Pumpkin, Squash, Melon, Zucchini, Gourds
Solanaceae-Tomatoes, Potatoes, Peppers, Eggplant, Tomatillos