02 Apr Garden Series – Part 4: Crop Rotation & Soil Health
Along with seasonal rotations discussed in our last post, it’s also crucial to think about general crop rotations. By “general crop rotation”, we mean rotating your plants so that you are not planting the same thing in the same area over and over again.
Crop rotation is important to maintaining soil health, because it facilitates planting things that will deplete and then replenish the soil’s nutrients.
A typical rule of thumb for crop rotation is to plant soil enrichers like legumes (think beans/peas), then heavy feeders like brassicas/nightshades (think broccoli/kale/tomatoes), you can follow these with legumes again, or plant a light feeder like root vegetables, and repeat.
Take a look at your garden plan, figure out where you are planting what, and then make a mock 4 year crop rotation plan so that you can be sure not to plant things in the same spot over and over again. If you are container gardening, make sure to note which containers you plant things in so you can still rotate every year.
Another option to replenish your soil nutrients and increase the soil health is to plant cover crops. Cover crops can be planted in between seasons, and not only do they help add in good nutrients to the soil, but also literally cover the land which leads to less erosion and helps reduce weed growth.
Additionally, some cover crops, like clover, are nitrogen fixers. So instead of adding nutrients to the soil, they act as a sponge to take out nutrients, like nitrogen, that build up over time, which can be harmful to plant growth.
Proper crop rotation, seasonally and annually, along with cover cropping are key to building healthy soils.
Why do we care about building/maintaining healthy soil? Because soil is one of the 3 magic ingredients that allow us to grow food! So good healthy soil, translates to nutrient dense food. And then we eat that food to nourish our bodies. So in short: healthy soil = healthy food = healthy humans.
And hopefully, when you are cooking and cutting up your food, you toss the scraps and leftovers into the compost bucket to get recycled back into the growing cycle (you didn’t think we would forget to mention our favorite topic now did you?). Bonus tip: applying compost is another simple way to keep your soil happy!
Adding compost to your beds or pots at the beginning of the gardening season is recommended to jumpstart some of the healthy bacteria which help fight off plant diseases and add essential nutrients to the soil. And during the growing season, you can give your plants a little boost by side dressing plants with compost.
So let’s get starting growing not just plants, but healthy soil too!