Plant Rotation to Minimize Soil Depletion

by Christine Joli-Coeur
(Johnstown, Ontario)

Being a new gardener, I know I need to rotate plant locations year to year in order to minimize soil nutrition depletion and insects but what is a good rotation?

For example, I had tomatoes on a spot this year what should I plant next year in this spot or if I had zucchini on this place do I need to change it?


That is an excellent question, Christine. It is important to rotate crops for the reasons you gave.

It's also very important if you are an organic gardener and use compost or composted manure in your garden. Some crops benefit from applying compost every year, for example squash. Other crops like ground that received compost the year before, like tomatoes.

This means you can make good use of your compost by only applying it to the plants that want it that season. Then, in the following year, rotate one of the other crops to that area. Using the example above, tomatoes would follow squash in rotation.

The 'families' of plants that I group together for my crop rotation schedule are:

Nightshade family - potato, tomato, peppers, eggplant
Allium family - onions, leeks, garlic
Brassica family - cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower
Lettuce family (all types leaf and head including mesclun)
Vining crops family - cukes and squash
Legume family - beans and peas
Beet family - beets, chard, and spinach
Carrot family - carrots, parsnips, celery, parsley

In simplest terms, don't plant any member of a family where a same-family member grew the year before.

Here's a sample rotation that takes advantage of the beneficial effect of preceding crops:

beans => carrots=> lettuces => potatoes => brassicas => tomatoes => vining crops. Apply compost to the beans, the lettuces, the brassicas
and the vining crops.

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