Jacob asks about crop rotation:

“I stay within the Higher Midwest (Zone 5a), and thought with the latest chilly snap, I would spend a while planning our backyard for 2024. I’ve watched lots of your movies and browse a number of of your books, so I began looking for your concepts on crop rotation and  succession planting… and didn’t actually discover any. I believe I bear in mind some concepts you shared in Develop or Die – a six or eight crop rotation, possibly? – however didn’t actually discover something in your Youtube channel or web site.

So, I believe I’ve my reply already – it’s in all probability extra necessary to only get one thing within the floor, combine it up, and never plant one thing back-to-back in the identical spot yearly – however you probably have time, I’d like a extra specific reply: what are your opinions on deliberate crop rotation and succession by plant household? In your expertise and studying, is there any benefit to following sure plant households with others when planting in the identical spot – for instance, brassicas with nightshades, and so forth.?”

Although I did write about crop rotation in Develop or Die, I’ve stopped paying a lot consideration to it through the years.

We don’t utterly disregard it as a apply, however we spend little time planning rotations.

It really works extra like this:

In February of 2023, we planted potatoes in a patch of backyard that was beforehand a garden.

Potatoes

After we harvested the potatoes, we planted the realm with a canopy crop of sunn hemp.

david with sunn hemp

We slashed that down and canopy the realm with woven nursery cloth within the fall.

Subsequent month, we’ll plant it with one thing else. In all probability cabbages or radishes. Or possibly corn.

Then subsequent yr, it’ll in all probability be planted in potatoes once more. Who is aware of?

We have now varied backyard areas and kinds we use, from row gardens to tighter, extremely improved beds, to our Grocery Row Gardens.

What I’ve realized through the years is that nature doesn’t rotate crops all that a lot. Typically, you probably have cleavers or chickweed or another weed rising in a patch, that very same patch tends to self-seed and regrow yr after yr. It could have some completely different crops rising there at different instances of the yr, but it surely’s typically rising the identical issues yr after yr.

If we’re tearing the bottom down to reveal soil and replanting the identical crop with out anything rising at different instances, crop rotation could also be extra necessary. It’s additionally extra necessary to rotate if we’re rising a crop with out including any vitamins again to the soil earlier than we develop it once more. If potatoes are pulling what they want from the bottom, after which we plant them repeatedly with out correctly re-mineralizing the soil, we’re prone to get deterioration in high quality and yields. We’re additionally prone to have a build-up of potato pests and ailments.

But if we develop potatoes, then observe them with peas, then observe the peas with mustard, we’ve in all probability starved out the potato pests, or confused them till they left, or they had been consumed by one thing else.

We don’t attempt to get “excellent” rotations. We simply don’t plant the identical factor in the identical spot repeatedly.

That mentioned, I had a neighbor in Florida who planted the identical zipper peas in the identical spot yr after yr and at all times appeared to do advantageous with them.

Within the Grocery Row Gardens, we now have perennials that stick round for years, with annuals that come and go as we discover gaps to plant them. Some assume that maintaining sure plant species round from year-to-year, even annuals, could hold their useful micro organism and fungi within the soil for them, making them develop higher somewhat than worse. Maybe this balances the pests that will additionally stay. I don’t know. However I don’t sweat over rotation all that a lot.

And I wager if I put some compost on the previous potato patch and replanted it this spring, it might do exactly advantageous.

There’s clearly some profit in rotating legumes with different crops, since they add nitrogen. See: corn / soybean rotations in industrial farming. Or cotton / peanut right here within the South.

Nature is advanced and stuffed with variables. We simply do our greatest to determine what works. But I wouldn’t fear an excessive amount of with attempting to get issues excellent.

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