The Importance of Crop Rotation

As I begin planning for and dreaming about next year, one of the considerations for where I will plant flowers is crop rotation. This means that I will not plant a crop in the same flower bed it grew in this year. I will move the planting to a different bed.

I rotate crops for a few reasons. First, I rotate crops because of soil-borne diseases. Second, crop rotation can help with pest pressure. Finally, different plants require different nutrients in the soil and can benefit from growing in rotated spaces on the farm.

Certain plants can acquire diseases from the soil that can spread from year to year if the same plant is grown in the same bed each year. For instance, this year, my sunflowers got hit with a sunflower blight that took them down. One of the beds I used had some volunteer sunflowers that grew on it last year, even though it wasn't a planned sunflower bed last year. If those volunteers were infected last year, they were able to pass their soil-borne disease on to this year's sunflowers. This is fixed by growing sunflowers in different beds each year. This applies to dahlias, tulips, and many other flowers. As a general rule, I rotate annual crops each year, trying to go 5-7 years before replanting a crop in the bed.

Pest pressure can destroy a whole crop. Pests will overwinter in the soil and attack seedlings and mature plants in the spring and summer, especially if conditions are right, i.e. the plant is stressed. By moving the crop to a different location, it helps break the cycle of pest pressure and allows the plant to grow without using pesticides.

If I continue to grow the same plant in the same soil each year, the same nutrients will be depleted from the soil. However, if I rotate different crops into that soil each year, taking into account crops that help replenish the soil, i.e. cover crops, the soil will benefit. My flowers will benefit.

The easiest way to rotate your crops is to keep a record each year. I map out my farm and have a diagram showing what I will grow in each flower bed. You can do this in a notebook or make a diagram in a document on your computer. Having a record is the important part.

Crop rotation is an aspect to consider when farming or gardening. It is a vital part of regenerative farming. Try it in your space. Make sure to keep notes!

This post is part of a series about planning out your garden or farm beds for next year. Check out other posts in this series.

Farm map for next year

Succession Planting x 2 + Intercropping = Happy Farm