Rotating crops is an age-old farming practice that has been largely abandoned by commercial agriculture, which relies on chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
The goals of crop rotation are to manage organic soil fertility and reduce problems with soil-borne diseases and some soil-dwelling insects.
Crop rotation helps the fertility of your soil. Some plants, like corn and tomatoes, are heavy feeders and will deplete nitrogen in the soil.
Avoid planting the same general category of crop (root, legume, and leafy/fruiting) successively in the same place.
Follow nitrogen-fixing legumes such as peas or beans with nitrogen-loving leaf or fruiting crops such as lettuce or tomatoes. Then, follow the heavy feeding crops with light-feeding root crops.
Crop rotation also discourages insects and disease. A good practise is to plan rotation based on plant families rather than on nutrient needs. Crops in the same botanical family tend to suffer from the same pest and disease problems.
For example, tomatoes and potatoes are both members of the deadly nightshade family and are affected by similar diseases. Don’t plant them in succession in the same patch of the garden.
Cover crops can be included in a rotation plan to discourage specific types of pests and to improve soil.
In our Grow Food Calgary program, our expert gardeners will teach you the fundamentals of gardening, including how to rotate your crops.