Rotate those Rutabagas: How to Rotate your Veggie Garden for Healthier Crops

Rotate those Rutabagas: How to Rotate your Veggie Garden for Healthier Crops

Well, folks, 'tis the season.  Oh gross--NOT the cold and dreary winter holiday season.  Nay, 'tis the season during which time we are reaping what we've sown.  Now let's not get all philosophical here; literally, we're harvesting our crops in our vegetable gardens and perhaps eating healthier than we do the rest of the year!  Though you likely have some mileage left in most of this season's veggie plants, make sure you're prepared for the next few weeks when you'll start getting rid of those plants that have run their course.  

If you haven't already, it's crucial that you either make some solid notes in that impeccable memory of yours regarding where you've placed this year's veggies.  If your memory is more "impressionable" than impeccable, you need to get out a pen and paper (yeah, right now is good--go ahead, we'll wait).  What you need to do is make note of where your veggies are in this year's garden.  Once you've done that, you need to resolve to "change it up" next year.  Here's why planning next year's garden is easily done, and likely should be done, now:

One of the best ways to thwart pests and disease problems in your garden is changing up where you plant certain types of vegetables. Vegetables within the same "family" are often attacked by the same diseases and insects, and if you keep planting members of that family in a particular spot, they're more susceptible to problems.  If "families" of veggies are confusing to you, or unclear, keep reading! 

There are nine families of vegetables.  They will be listed below, as well as with some cues for planning next year's veggie garden based on where you placed the plants this year:

  1. Nightshades: peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, potatoes.  These guys are heavy feeders and will definitely deplete the soil of nutrients if planted in the same spot year after year.  Also, they become very susceptible to tomato hornworm or blight, to name a couple of unwanted pests or diseases. 
  2. Legumes:  peas and beans.  These babies fix nitrogen that has been lost in the soil in previous years by nitrogen "suckers."  Rotating them means avoiding pests and disease that can over-winter, but replenishing your soil with a much-needed nutrient.  Love it!   
  3. Squashes and Melons:  summer and winter squash, cucumbers, pumpkins, and melons.  Heavy feeders as well, squashes and melons are known for depleting the soil of nutrients, and are also very susceptible to squash bugs that also over-winter.  Boooo.  Rotate and avoid!
  4. Brassicas and Salad Greens:  arugula, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, and brussel sprouts.  Nitrogen suckers because of all of their green growth (as opposed to fruit plants or flowers).  
  5. Sunflower Family:  sunflowers, Jerusalem artichokes (subchokes), lettuce, and endives.  These crops are light feeders; it works best when these guys are followed by brassicas.  
  6. Carrot Family:  carrots, parsley, parsnips, and celery.  These plants like lots of organic matter in the soil, but too much nitrogen causes misshapen growth.  So, don't plant these in a spot you planted legumes in the previous year!
  7. Goosefoot Family:  beets, Swiss chard, and spinach.  Weird name, but great plants because they grow well even in soils with low fertility.  So, they're a great plant to put in places you previously planted brassicas or nightshades.
  8. Grass Family:  corn.  Hopefully you grew lots of beans this year because corn requires nitrogen-rich soil.  Consider placing your corn, next year, where you put your legumes this year.  
  9. Onion Family:   onion, garlic, leeks, and scallions.  Just like eating too much of these bad boys repels, well, people, planting from the onion family repels many pests, but requires much fertility in the soil.  


Try to remember to not plant members of the same family in the same spot two years in a row. You also want to keep the fertility needs of different families in mind, and try to follow heavy feeders with light feeders.

Bam.  Now you're a pro gardener!

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