Once you master the basics of gardening, it’s time to move on to more complicated steps, such as rotating crops. In this article, we’ll provide you with the information you need for a healthy and robust raised bed garden.
How to rotate crops in raised beds: Each year, plant different plants of the same family in different raised beds so that they aren’t susceptible to disease and don’t take up too many nutrients from the soil. If you only have one raised bed, you can still employ crop rotation by planting crops of the same family in one year and then a new plant family the following year.
What is crop rotation?
Crop rotation is exactly as it sounds, although there are a few extra steps to it. Each year, you plant different crops in parts of your garden.
There are many reasons for this. First, some diseases attack the same family of plants, so if you have a disease lurking in your garden, it will spread to the same plant but might not attack plants from different families.
For example, if you have diseased tomatoes, don’t plant anything from the nightshade family in that part of the garden, as tomatoes belong to this family and you run the risk of more infected plants.
Another reason for crop rotation is that some plants are heavy feeders and will take up a lot of the same nutrients from your soil. If you keep planting the same plant in that location, the soil won’t have enough nutrients for your plants.
Should you rotate crops in raised beds?
We often talk about crop rotation for in-ground gardens as there is more room and thus you are more likely to be able to move crops around each year. However, many gardeners now use raised beds as they are more convenient, which begs the question of whether you should rotate your crops in this way.
Yes, you should rotate crops in raised beds. In fact, it is even more important as you have a finite amount of soil and thus it is more prone to nutrient depletion.
Can you rotate crops in raised beds?
You can rotate crops in raised beds but you will need at least two garden beds to be successful. You may be able to start the rotation process in one raised bed but it will need to be a large size or else there is no point.
How to rotate crops in raised beds
Planning is always the first step in gardening, whether you are deciding what to plant when to harvest, or what your plants need. For crop rotation, planning is imperative.
First, start with a list of what you are currently growing and what you want to grow. You should make a note if any plants are in the same family, such as broccoli and cauliflower or tomatoes and peppers.
It’s not enough to simply move different plants around. You must also move different families of plants around, so a bit of research may be needed.
Once you know more about your plants, the next step is to think about space. How many raised beds do you have?
If you only have two beds, then you will want to rotate your crops each year. However, if you have three or more, then, create a plan so you are moving the crops every year or two, depending on their plant families and your space.
If you only have one raised garden bed, you may need to make the difficult decision of only growing plants from a specific plant family one year, and then choosing a different plant family the next year.
Any good garden will start with a solid foundation, which includes your soil. The healthier your soil is, to begin with, the less likely your plants will be susceptible to disease, which lessens the pressure of a perfect crop rotation.
Be sure to place a layer of gravel at the bottom of your raised garden bed. This will allow for better drainage so your plant roots don’t become soggy.
Then, use quality topsoil and mix it with organic matter such as compost or manure. Finally, after you plant, add a layer of bark mulch as this will slowly break down and add more nutrients to your garden.
The main culprit of a disappointing garden is a disease. Always be on the lookout for changes in your plants as this is often a sign of disease.
Yellow leaves, holes in your plants, stunted growth, and low fruit yield are common signs. You should also check the root structure of your plants by gently easing dirt away as many fungal diseases will start below the soil.
If your plants show signs of disease, it’s best to pull them and dispose of them properly. Never place them in your compost as this can spread the disease to the rest of your garden.
You will also have to make the decision of changing out the whole soil or not. This is one advantage of having a raised garden bed as you know the boundaries of the soil and you can remove it and start fresh. Again, dispose of the soil in the garbage and not your compost.
Crop rotation should become a regular habit but we understand if it becomes disappointing if you no longer have the ability to plant whatever you want. This is especially true if you are short on space.
If this is the case, try to be creative with your planting. Many tomato plants are small enough for single containers and you can put them almost anywhere outside.
Even larger crops such as potatoes can be grown in tires, so you don’t need to take up valuable real estate in your raised bed. You can even train squash plants to grow on a trellis to free up space.
Crop rotation is the next step in expert gardening as it ensures your plants remain healthy and your soil is full of nutrients. While having five to seven raised beds will provide the best results, you can still rotate your crops with just one or two beds.