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How to Rotate Crops in Raised Beds

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When I plan my vegetable gardens each year, I consider what I planted in my raised beds and supplemental pots. As with in-ground planting, raised beds also need to have the crops rotated each year for optimal growth and disease resistance.

Rotating your crops in a raised bed involves organization and refraining from planting a given family of plants in the same area each year. Soil is rested as different nutrients are utilized depending on the plants being grown. It also helps microbe diversity.

Information like possible planting schemes, benefits and possible considerations for crop rotation in raised bed gardening will be extensively covered in this article, so do read on!

Crop rotation for raised bed gardening

Crop rotation is a simple concept: you don’t plant the same crop or a similarly related crop in the same spot back to back. Instead, you rotate different crops in the same location.

Crop rotation hosts different benefits for your soil and the plants, often producing healthier plants and a better harvest than you would get if you continued to plant tomatoes in the same raised bed.

Many experts suggest a five to seven-year rotation cycle. However, it may be difficult to do if you have limited gardening space as it requires 5 o 7 raised garden beds or areas.

Crop rotation rundown process

The good news is you don’t have to completely move between raised garden beds year after year, although that is definitely the ideal situation.

Moving plants from one end of the raised bed to another or opting to plant your tomatoes in whiskey barrels for a season can be hugely beneficial during the times that you do give your raised beds a break for a year or two.

Crop rotation and its benefits

Aside from giving the raised beds rest for a time period and improving the soil quality, there are many specific benefits for the crops themselves when doing crop rotation.

Eradicate pests in raised beds by rotating crops

The main reasons for crop rotation are finding possible diseases and pests that can take up residence in a given area and multiply in your soil, even under ideal conditions.

If you do conduct crop rotation during the said resting period of the raised beds, you will be able to see said pests and diseases and move to eradicate them before they feast on your future crops.

Crop rotation can prevent nematode infestation in your raised bed

Nematodes and tomatoes are other common examples: the nematodes will stick around in your soil if you don’t move the tomatoes around, and these pests can weaken your tomato plant’s root system.

Soil improvement is a definite benefit when doing crop rotation

The other key reason for crop rotation and moving your crops around between your raised garden beds and planters are improving the soil.

Different plants utilize different nutrients when they grow and can change the properties of your soil.

Root crops like carrots and onions help break up the soil as they grow, allowing air and water to move through the soil more easily. Beans and other legumes fix nitrogen in nodules in their root systems and leave it behind after the season’s growth, helping feed plants the next growing season.

Raised bed gardening – what is it really

We have talked about the crop rotation part for this article, so of course, we also need to have a refresher of sorts on raised bed gardening itself.

Raised bed gardening is often used when the garden soil is mostly rock or not best for growing.

This gardening type provides benefits such as protecting plants against insect infestation and possible flooding during the occasion of heavy rains. It is also said to promote warmer soil conditions in springtime.

Raised garden beds have so many benefits for the garden, some of which you would never have thought of. I couldn’t possibly cover them all in this article and that is why I wrote this post that covers that subject in complete detail.

Ways to Supplement Your Raised Garden Beds

The main way to increase your available gardening space, and thus areas to rotate crops in, is to increase the number of raised garden beds you have available to use.

If you choose to build your own raised garden beds, here are a few simple tips:

Raised gardening bed sizing

Decide how big you want your raised bed to be. Ideally, it should not be more than 4 feet wide or as wide as you can reach across without stepping on the soil. This helps prevent the soil from getting compacted, which easily occurs if you’re stepping on it or leaning into it to weed or harvest vegetables.

Raised gardening bed depth and bottom

Make sure you plan your raised bed to be deep enough for any vegetables or plant root systems you might be putting in there. For example, carrots need to have ample growing room, especially if you put a bottom in your raised garden bed or are placing the bed over a hard surface such as a driveway.

It is amazing how many people ask me about adding bottoms to their raised garden beds. And you would think it is an easy question to answer, but the truth is it depends and I go into full depth on the subject in this article.

Also, consider lining the bottom of your raised garden bed with material such as mesh or chicken wire.

This will help prevent burrowing animals from getting into your raised bed.

Where to place your raised gardening bed

Don’t construct your raised garden bed on areas such as a wooden deck, where the weight of the water and the soil could cause your structure to collapse.

You can use space on your wooden deck: it’s just ideal for sticking with a smaller and lighter planting box. These can also be mobile and move around from place to place.

Irrigation considerations for raised gardening beds

As you plan your raised garden bed, decide how you want to irrigate it. It is often easier to set up a drip irrigation system before your raised bed is fully assembled and filled with soil.

You can construct your own raised garden bed. They are relatively easy to create, if not time-consuming, process. Or you can also opt to get pre-designed kits that you have to assemble yourself.

Making the Most of Crop Rotation with Raised bed gardening

First, you need to plan everything. If you have never kept a journal, now is the right time to start. A gardening journal is hugely beneficial to help you see what worked year after year, what plants you liked, and what was most prolific in your garden — intentionally or not (zucchini, anyone?).

Agriculture is not crop production as popular belief holds – it’s the production of food and fiber from the world’s land and waters. Without agriculture it is not possible to have a city, stock market, banks, university, church or army. Agriculture is the foundation of civilization and any stable economy.

Allan Savory

You really need to think about what you will grow in your garden for at least the next couple of years, if not longer. Sketch out your plan on some graph paper and consider how much space each plant will really need. You can even number sections of your raised garden beds and move plants through them in numerical order.

Consider doing square foot gardening within your raised beds

Now is the right time to consider square foot gardening. If you haven’t heard of this before, it was developed by Mel Bartholomew. He was an engineer and popularized this method of growing plants in square foot sections of your garden.

Raised garden beds are great for the square foot method, and you can rotate plants through the raised bed if it is divided up into sections.

You can opt to move plants from left to right and front to back to vary where they grow each year in your raised garden bed.

Square foot gardening has gotten very popular over recent years, But the information out there is very spartan and disjointed so I wrote this article to explain exactly what square foot gardening is and how to get the best from it.

Process of doing square foot gardening for crop rotation in raised garden beds

For best results with crop rotation, you need to move plants from raised garden beds to other raised garden beds or planting boxes or planting barrels, but even rotating them through sections can be helpful. You may also switch up what you are growing from year to year, particularly if you only have one raised garden bed.

Spend one year focused on tomatoes, and another focused on root vegetables. This can let you try new crops and varieties and change up what is growing in your soil.

Considerations for conducting square foot gardening for crop rotation in raised garden beds

Another feature when planning your raised garden bed that some people suggest is not filling in all of the “holes” in your planting scheme.

While square foot gardening does make use of every planting space, having a few areas of your garden open can help you maintain a healthy crop rotation scheme.

Freshen up your soil in your raised bed gardening for your crop rotation

Start yourself out on the right foot by using high-quality soil, amendments, and plants. When you start a raised bed, use high-quality raised bed soil that won’t readily pack down.

Every year, refresh the soil as needed, such as at the start of the spring, to make sure you have adequate levels for your raised garden bed to boost further the health and growth of the crops that you rotate within it.

You can consider the soil revitalizer company Miracle-Gro to help refresh and replenish the soil structure and nutrients within your garden bed.

These types of additions can also help your raised garden bed’s soil retain water better, as raised beds typically have much higher drainage than in-ground gardens. You have to mix it into your existing raised garden bed soil and following the directions.

Consider doing soil tests for your raised bed crops

Just like with an in-ground garden bed, it’s a good idea to have your soil tested from year to year.

You can get simple tests at many hardware stores and nurseries to check the pH of your soil. Still, more complete tests are available through laboratories and even your local Cooperative Extension office.

Before you plant your garden, it is imperative that you know what your soil consists of and its PH. There are small test kits you can buy to do this at home and also you could send samples off to a laboratory.

It might sound like a lot of work or even confuse you, but it isn’t that hard and I have a complete guide on the subject that will walk you through the whole process and why you need to do it.

Look into getting seedlings locally for crop rotation within your raised garden beds

If you don’t start your own seedlings, consider getting healthy plants that have been growing in your region from a local nursery. This helps ensure they are adapted to your growing environment and tend to do better than plants imported from a different USDA growing zone.

Feeding the plants appropriately with plant food after adding a healthy dose of compost to your soil can also maximize their growth.

Crop rotation planting schemes and also no no’s

To maximize your growing times and plant health, you really need to plan out what you will plant in your garden every year.

We will be including suggested planting schemes for four raised gardening beds in the next section.

BedsFirst bedSecond bedThird bedFourth bed
Planting scheme #1Plant onions or spinach, then tomatoes, then beans in the fall. You could plant cabbage, followed by summer squash, and then lovely ornamental corn in the fall.Opt to plant peppers and sweet corn, followed by garlic or turnipsHave the same as the third bed plants.
Planting scheme #2Plant potatoes and tomatoes in your first garden bed and then sow onions for overwintering.In bed two, sow carrots and parsley, and add manure in the winterFor your third garden bed, grow brassicas during the summer, followed by winter varieties of your favorite cabbage or Brussels sprouts.In your fourth raised bed, plant legumes such as beans. After harvesting, add lime to plant brassicas next.

Maximizing what plants you are growing in each space can help you produce healthy plants in your raised garden bed vegetable garden.

In line with these planting schemes, we will also discuss some considerations to keep in mind when planning your raised garden bed. They include:

Plant brassicas after legumes

Your cabbage and kale are best planted in areas where you have previously grown beans and peas. Because the legumes fix nitrogen into the soil, they offer plentiful nutrition to other plants. The brassicas do well in the nutrient-rich conditions that the legumes have created.

While potatoes also really like nitrogen-rich soil, you need to make sure not to plant brassicas and potatoes beside each other because they both like differing pH levels.

Legumes are great to plant after members of the nightshade family due to their nitrogen-fixing capabilities. Don’t harvest all of the beans from the plants to make the most of their ability to fix nitrogen. Then till the plants into the ground before planting your brassicas.

Don’t plant root vegetables in areas that you have fertilized heavily

When you plant root vegetables in vibrant soil, the plants tend to produce rather lush foliage rather than focusing the plant’s growing on its root veggie portion.

Consider planting the root vegetables in an area you have just harvested brassicas. The brassicas will appreciate the heavy feeding, and they will break down the rich components in the soil.

We have given all these considerations and benefits as to crop rotation with raised bed gardening. Let us also look into the other side and possible problems encountered when doing these planting methods.

Problems with Crop Rotation and a Raised Bed

Unfortunately, as noted previously, there are limitations with raised garden beds, namely how much room they take up and how many you have. For most small-scale or home gardeners, it is impractical to have five to seven raised garden beds.

Possible disease and pest build-up from select planting schemes

In addition, even with limited spaces, some people often have a specific reason for having a vegetable garden. Maybe you really like tomatoes and peppers, and that’s what you plan to grow in your one-raised garden bed.

Eventually, if you keep growing these nightshade family members in the same area, you will have a significant problem with diseases and pests building up.

Possible soil replacement from not very good planting schemes

There are some potential answers to getting around the puzzle of crop rotation, such as selecting disease-resistant plant varieties.

One way to solve wrong crop rotations schemes would be soil replacement, which can be costly and time-consuming.

You could also not grow your tomatoes and peppers for a year, letting the pests migrate somewhere else and starting over fresh the next year.

Planting methods for limited space considerations

With all of that standing in your way, finding a manageable way to rotate your crops is still the best course of action. Consider adding raised garden bed after your first year or getting a few planting barrels.

You could plant tomatoes and peppers in your new planting barrels one year and then plant them in the raised garden bed the next year.

Here are various ways you can increase your growing space, even in a limited amount of room.

Planting methods to combat limited spaceTheir benefits and how to do them
Raised planting boxesThese can also spare your back the effort of bending over to pull weeds and harvest your vegetables.
Vertical growing arrangementsYou can get specially designed growing towers or make your own. A food-grade plastic barrel can have holes cut into the sides to plant around a central section where you may put compost and worms to help the plants grow.
Planting barrelsThese can significantly add to your garden aesthetic. Wooden barrels look quite lovely positioned evenly in front of your house or around your raised garden beds. A simpler approach is using grow bags that may be disposed of r reusable year to year, allowing you to move plants around as you need to.

Consider ways to make these planting options work for you. If you normally garden in your backyard, consider adding some vegetables to your front flower bed.

Before you even start crop rotation, you first need to consider do you even need to do it at all? Let me explain. If you are growing various crops in the same bed successionally this process might not even be needed. I recently did a live stream with a master gardener and we discussed this very topic. You can watch that live below.


Conclusion on how to rotate crops on raised beds

Combining crop rotation with raised bed gardening, especially for areas with soil that cannot really foster proper plant growth, is a good way of working around a problem. This still gives you good produce from your garden, especially with different varieties that you and your family can enjoy.

However, be sure to keep careful records of where you have planted each plant. If you avoid planting your vegetables in the same place year after year, you minimize the possibility of diseases and pests developing in the same location.

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