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Whether you're a beginning vegetable gardener or one with a lot of experience, the valuable lesson you can learn about replanting your vegetable garden year after year, is the importance of crop rotation. Many of the diseases that affect plants lie dormant in the soil. During the growing season, while vegetables are growing in the ground, or in raised beds, the plants leach nutrients from the soil. This occurs naturally, and leads to the need for fertilizers.
Soil Nutrient Depletion
When the soil loses nutrients, and those aren't replaced by things such as green manure or compost, the soil becomes more susceptible to diseases. It's kind of like the things that happen to people to compromise their immune systems. The healthier the quality of the soil, the more capable it is of fighting off disease spreading insects, or worse, diseases that lie dormant in the soil.
Why Rotate Crops
The purpose of crop rotation is two-fold. On one hand, it prevents the soil from getting more and more depleted of nutrients, something that leads to severe soil erosion. Soil erosion compromises the integrity of top soil, potentially contaminating nearby water sources, and turning into dust producing dust storms when winds are exceedingly strong. The Dust Bowl of the 1930's affected the entire state, but the most severe damage occurred in the panhandle area. Drought and overuse of the land were the chief causes of this because cattle grazed on the land where grass had kept top soil in place. The more people plant the same crop in the same place, the greater the likelihood that the same thing could happen again.
The Irish Potato Famine was initially caused by an airborne fungus that traveled to the United Kingdom from Mexico. The fact that the poor Irish peasant farmers continued to plant potatoes just caused the fungus to spread, ultimately resulting in a famine that killed many thousands of people from typhus and other diseases. By continuing to plant potatoes after the initial fungus outbreak, the farmers insured that the fungus would continue to spread.
What is Crop Rotation?
Crop rotation simply means planting different vegetables in different places year after year. It requires that gardeners remember where different vegetables were planted each year. Garden design software or a simple pencil and paper drawing can accomplish this. Ideally, you should avoid planting the same types of vegetables in the same place. In other words, if you plant butternut squash in a certain location, you wouldn't want to plant other types of squash there. Likewise, it would be wise not to plant vegetables that grow on vines that run along the ground there.
Plan your garden so that vegetables that are more sensitive to the hottest part of the sun can be protected by the foliage of other plants. When planting, allow enough space that plants won't touch or create concealed places where insects can nest or diseases can lie dormant. Remove diseased plant debris as soon as you discover it, and keep your garden weeded. All of these things will prevent the development and spread of diseases and prevent insects from laying eggs there and spreading disease as they travel between plants.
|Sheri Ann Richerson|