While the idea of raised-bed gardening is simple — fill a framework with dirt, pop in some plants each year and harvest — several insidious challenges accompany growing crops at a limited distance from year to year. Vegetables, more than most other kinds of crops, are vulnerable to pests and diseases; left unattended, these nuisances multiply exponentially after established. Crop rotation is an effective way of combating a plethora of plant maladies.
Basics of Crop Rotation
The concept of crop rotation trusts in the gardener’s comprehension of vegetable plant households and their related pests and quirks. Rotation means not developing the exact same or a related crop in the exact same area in consecutive years, which will help reduce the buildup of illness germs and insects. Experts recommend a five- to seven-year rotation cycle, and this, in theory, means that a garden must include at least five to seven elevated beds. The gardener plants each raised bed with another crop each year until the cycle comes full circle.
Raised Bed Rotation Challenges
Notably in small arenas, obtaining a large number of raised beds is impractical and crop rotation has to be approached creatively. For some people, tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum) are the singular reason to cultivate a vegetable garden, but they and other members of the nightshade family such as peppers (Capsicum annuum), potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) and eggplant (Solanum melongena) cannot be grown in the exact same region from year to year without illness finally turning into a serious problem. Soil replacement is an expensive but workable alternative, as is choosing disease-resistant varieties. In the smaller backyard, abstaining from developing a specific crop another year is just another approach to maintaining healthy crop rotation.
Sample Planting Plan
With some careful planning and good record keeping, a backyard can have good crop rotation with as few as four raised beds. In each succeeding year, plant crops from one bed into the subsequent one from the line. For instance, at a four-bed backyard, the first frame might comprise onions (Allium cepa) and spinach (Spinacia oleracea) from the spring, berries at summer and beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) from the autumn. A second frame may hold spring cabbage (Brassica spp.) , summer squash (Cucurbita spp.) And decorative corn (Zea mays) from the autumn. In the third frame, a spring cover crop like yearly rye (Secale cereale) will be followed by peppers at the summertime and garlic (Allium sativum) in the autumn. The fourth bed could be implanted with peas (Pisum sativum), followed by sweet corn in summertime and turnips (Brassica rapa) in the autumn.
Supplementing Raised Beds
In areas where many multiple beds are impractical, using large containers to grow individual plants is one approach to enhance crop diversity while still maintaining the integrity of a crop rotation schedule. Many smaller varieties are available that are especially suited to container growing. Half-barrel planters are ideal for potatoes and tomatoes and can be implanted in succeeding years with unrelated plants while the nightshades get a twist in the raised beds.