Each plant family has a special mode of nutrition, it draws some specific nutrients from the ground and return others. Thus, long-term cultivation of the same family of plants on the same plot will deplete the soil, which will cause production to decrease. Therein lies the relevance of crop rotation. In doing so, the soil naturally keeps a certain balance of nutrients and remains productive.

Practising crop rotation maintains the soil’s balance of nutrients. To do this, it plays on the elements that plants draw from and restore to the ground.

The basics of crop rotation

The vegetables can be classified into three groups, the first includes leafy vegetables and those of the Solanaceae family such as eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, etc.. They are greedy plants that require a rich soil, especially in nitrogen content. The second group consists of root vegetables, like carrots, turnips, radishes, celery, etc.. They collect the nutrients they need deep in the soil and require little fertilizer. In the third group, we find plants of the legume family such as beans, peas, etc.., and those of the Cucurbitacea family that include melons, winter squash and cucumbers. This group releases nitrogen in the soil through their root nodules. Because of these different properties, these plants greatly influence soil quality, which is why it is therefore advisable to practice crop rotation.

How to rotate crops?

After understanding the classification of vegetables, the basic principles of crop rotation can be summarized by the words: parcelling and planning. Parcelling consists of dividing the vegetable garden into four plots. Each of them will receive each year, and sequentially, a plant family. To illustrate with an example, consider that, for the first year, parcel number one accommodates leafy vegetables, the second parcel hosts root vegetables, and the third plot of land is reserved for the legume family. The following year, leafy vegetables will be planted on the second parcel, root vegetables on the third, and legumes on the fourth parcel. As for plot number one, it will lie fallow while accommodating green manure. Over the following years, the crops will be displaced in the same direction, from plot to plot, to eventually regain their original position, which means that there will be a full rotation every 4 years.

In regard to planning, it is used as a guideline to avoid being lost in the rotation of crops. It’s like a multi-year plan of the vegetable garden which determines in advance the group of plants that will be planted on each plot in the years to come. Given that the rotation takes place over four years, the plan is conceived in the same manner. Note that in general, crop rotation recommends that the crop sequence be arranged as follows; first the legumes, then the root vegetables, then the leafy vegetables to finish off with green manure.

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Published in Basics by Alexander on 06 Jul 2011