Well, I’ve been slow with my gardening posts lately…but, I have a good excuse…maybe this sad photo will help explain…
- not much to write about…eh?
Basically…I don’t have much to write about at the moment…because our garden is bare. Other than a few surviving pepper plants and our strawberry patch…it’s gone…all of it. Of course, we always go through this “bare stage” during the summer…we have to pull the plants up after it gets too hot and dry here in the ATX. But, what has made me sad is that we normally don’t pull everything up so early. This has been a VERY hot and VERY dry spring/summer for us…so, we cleared the garden in the last week of June…normally we would not have done this until mid to late July.
But, on a bright note…I was talking to HealthyJenny the other day about gardening and we got on the subject of our upcoming fall gardens…and then, I got really excited again! Fall just happens to be my absolute FAVORITE gardening season. That may sound strange to some…I know that people typically like summer garden veggies and don’t get me wrong, I do too…but I LOVE our fall garden! One of the main reasons is that I love greens…kale, collard, mustard, turnip…I love them all and the best crop that we get here in Austin is from our fall garden. I am now counting down the days!
And, when I start thinking about an upcoming growing season, one of the things that I think about is crop rotation. If you are new to gardening, or are thinking about starting a garden, you might not be familiar with crop rotation…but there is a simple way to do it when you are just starting out. Basically, plan your garden so that the same veggies of the same family group are not planted in the same area every season. It sounds simple…but, it’s also vitally important to the health and productivity of your garden.
There are 4 main reasons to rotate crops:
- Disease Prevention: Disease organisms can build up over time, resulting in eventual crop failure. Rotating crops keeps these organisms in check
- Insect Control: Crop rotation helps reduce insect infestations
- Nutrient Balance: Different families of plants require different nutrients. Rotating crops will keep the soil from being depleted
- Nutrient Enhancement: Some plants actually enhance the soil so rotating them through the garden can produce free organic soil conditioning…bonus!!
To get started you can use a simple four-step system that requires little more than a basic understanding of what part of the plant you’re planning to eat. Divide plants into four categories:
Group 1: Plants grown for leaves or flowers: Lettuces, Greens, Broccoli, Cabbage, Spinach, Brussels Sprouts
Group 2: Plants grown for fruits: Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant, Squash, Corn, Cucumber, Potatoes
Group 3: Root Plants: Carrots, Turnips, Onions, Beets
Group 4: Legumes: Beans, Peas
You can develop your own rotation system based on the types of veggies that you like to grow. The main idea is that you keep moving groups around. A few tips ~ potatoes and tomatoes are actually related (they are both nightshades) and they are susceptible to the same diseases…that is why they are grouped together…you don’t want to follow one with the other. Root crops break up the soil, so they should be followed up with legumes, which like a loose soil texture. Legumes add nitrogen to the soil…so they should be followed up with a nitrogen loving plant such as your tomato plants…this will reduce the need for fertilizer and produce a healthy crop of tomatoes!
- nitrogen rich soil = happy tomatoes!
Even small gardens can (and should be) rotated and there are tons of crop rotation systems. This is simply a basic one to get a home gardener started. Once you’ve mastered the basics, if you’d like to get more advanced with your crop rotation, the next step is to group plants according to their botanical family, which gives you more specific groups, and more sections of crop rotation. But that’s a whole new ball game…or, should I say… a whole new blog post.
Have a healthy happy day! xo! HealthyMamma Melissa