(Lori Adams, who owns Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden and is a frequent vendor at the Sitka Farmers Market, will be writing a regular garden column in the Daily Sitka Sentinel this summer. The Sentinel is allowing us to reprint the columns on this site after they first appear in the newspaper. This column appeared on Page 4 of the Wednesday, April 18, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)
GARDENING IN SITKA
By Lori Adams
UNDERSTANDING CROP ROTATION
It’s time to start transplanting and direct sowing seeds for most crops, but before you put them in your beds you should be aware of the benefits of crop rotation. Each separate crop depletes the soil of specific nutrients and attracts specific pests. If you plant that same crop in the same place year after year that crop will decline in quality. It is good to determine to not place the same crop in the same spot for at least three years.
Different crops can be grouped together based on similar qualities and be considered “family groups”. To begin planning your crop rotation plan, familiarize yourself with the different plant family groups. There are many books and articles written on the subject. Many books I have read confused me because they separated the plants into too many groups and included too many things that don’t grow well here, like corn and eggplant. But I have used their information to separate my crops into these basic family groups:
- First year (new dirt) — potatoes, radishes
- Second year (amend with organic material and plant legumes that bring nitrogen into the soil) — peas green beans, fava beans
- Third year (amend with nitrogen rich material and plant heaviest feeders) — lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, celery, zucchini, fennel
- Fourth year (amend again but not as heavily as previous year and plant heavy feeders that attract root maggot flies) — broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, cabbage, kohlrabi, kale, Chinese cabbage
- Fifth year (amend with phosphorus and plant light feeding root crops) — beets, turnips, carrots, parsnips, garlic, onions, leeks
This plan is not perfectly by the book, and I apologize if I forgot anything, but it works for my garden. Rhubarb, berries and asparagus stay in the same spot every year and I am planning to keep my herbs in the same spot also because many of them over-winter well and I don’t like disturbing them in the spring to move them to a new bed.
If you feel that you need less than five groups for your garden just minimize your plan to this type of rotation: new dirt (potatoes), heavily amended soil (heavy feeders), used soil (light feeding root crops). If you don’t have the same amount of beds as you have family groups simply divide your beds into sections. Once you have your crop rotation plan in place it is a good idea to draw a diagram of your garden on paper each year and note which crops were grown in each area. Time has a way of helping you forget what you did the years before!
Many gardeners swear that growing specific crops together is beneficial — that the crops help each other in some way. There is a good book written on the subject named, Carrots Love Tomatoes written by Louise Riotte, that you should read if you are interested in learning more about the technique.
Next week’s column — Transplanting time.
Brought to you by Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden
2103 Sawmill Creek Road
Open June-August / Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
747-6108 or 738-2241