Is it obvious to people who don’t garden what it means to rotate crops? I can just imagine someone trying to figure out what to do to rotate, as in turn, their tomato plants, firmly rooted in the ground.
At least I can imagine what Amelia Bedelia would try to do.
Does anyone else remember Amelia Bedelia, the main character in a series of children’s books written by Peggy Parish until 1988, and then by her nephew Herman Parish?
Amelia had a certain knack for taking instructions and following them quite literally in a way that was never imagined by those instructing her.
When asked to ‘draw the drapes’, Amelia got out some paper and a pencil to draw a picture of the drapes. According to Diana of Sharing Nature’s Garden, Amelia also dressed the raw chickens in clothes, changed the towels by cutting them into different sizes, and put the lights out by unscrewing the light bulbs and hanging them outside on the clothes line.
What would Amelia do in a garden?
If we instructed her to get a new rose for a watering can, she would likely call a rosarian like Dee at Red Dirt Ramblings and ask her for advice on which rose a watering can would most like to have.
If we asked her to turn the compost pile, I can only imagine the effort she would put forth to get it turned 90 degrees to face another direction.
And if we asked her to rotate the crops, she might get out a shovel, dig up the plants, rotate them half way, and then replant them.
The reason I was thinking about crop rotation in the first place was because Earth Girl left a comment on my post about embracing vegetable gardens asking how I would rotate crops in a 4’ x 8’ raised bed.
My short answer is that I wouldn’t. Instead, I would add a second raised bed the next year, even a third bed, and then rotate crops between the beds each year. That’s “rotate” as in one year plant squash in a bed, then next year tomatoes, the next year beans, and so on.
We generally rotate crops for two main reasons, to control soil-borne plant diseases and some insects and to ensure we don’t completely deplete the soil of nutrients by planting the same crops in the same place every year.
In rotating crops, you should take into a account what plant family the crop is in, and try not to plant those from the same family in the same spot each year. You should also try to follow heavy feeding crops, like corn, with legumes, like beans, which actually add nitrogen back to the soil.
But if you only have time or space for one small raised bed, don’t despair that you can’t fully rotate your crops. Just remember to add compost if you have some, clear out crop debris at the end of each year, and fertilize through the growing season.
Speaking of raised beds, can you imagine if we asked Amelia Bedelia to build a raised bed in the garden? She’d probably haul out a headboard, a footboard, and a mattress, and raise it up on cinder blocks out in the middle of the lawn.
I don’t want to even think what she might come back with if we asked her to go get a hoe.