Tony O’Neill, gardener and author of the popular “Composting Masterclass” and “Your First Vegetable Garden,” combines lifelong passion and expert knowledge to simplify the art of gardening. His mission? Helping you cultivate a thriving garden. More on Tony O’Neill
When I plan my vegetable gardens each year, I consider what I planted in my raised beds and extra pots. As with in-ground planting, raised beds must also 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 grown plants. 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 or similarly related crop in the same spot back to back. Instead, you rotate different crops in the exact 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 challenging with limited gardening space, as it requires five o seven raised garden beds or areas.
Crop rotation rundown process
The good news is you don’t have to move completely between raised garden beds year after year, although that is the ideal situation.
Moving plants from one end of the raised bed to another or planting your tomatoes in whiskey barrels for a season can be hugely beneficial when you 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 period and improving the soil quality, there are many specific benefits for the crops 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 reside in a given area and multiply in your soil, even under ideal conditions.
If you 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 between your raised garden beds and planters is 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 discussed the crop rotation part for this article, so we also need a refresher on raised bed gardening.
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 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 cover them all in this article, so I wrote this post covering that subject in complete detail.
Ways to Supplement Your Raised Garden Beds
The primary way to increase your available gardening space, and thus areas to rotate crops in, is to increase the number of raised garden beds available.
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 without stepping on the soil. This helps prevent the soil from compacting, which quickly occurs if you’re stepping on it or leaning into it to weed or harvest vegetables.
Raised gardening bed depth and bottom
Ensure your raised bed is deep enough for any vegetables or plant root systems you might be putting in there. For example, carrots need ample growing room, especially if you put a bottom in your raised garden bed or place the bed over a hard surface such as a driveway.
It is incredible 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 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 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 ideal for sticking with a smaller, 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 to irrigate it. Setting up a drip irrigation system is often easier 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 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 must consider what you will grow in your garden for at least the next couple of years, if not longer. Sketch your plan on graph paper and think how much space each plant will need. You can even number sections of your raised garden beds and move plants through them numerically.
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 into sections.
You can 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. Still, the information is very spartan and disjointed, so I wrote this article to explain precisely what square-foot gardening is and how to benefit 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 barrels, but even rotating them through sections can be helpful. You may also switch up what you grow yearly, 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 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 suggest is not filling in all the “holes” in your planting scheme.
While square-foot gardening uses 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 on the right foot using high-quality soil, amendments, and plants. When you start a raised bed, use high-quality soil that won’t readily pack down.
Every year, refresh the soil as needed, such as at the start of the spring, to ensure you have adequate levels for your raised garden bed to boost further the health and growth of the crops you rotate within it.
You can consider the soil revitalizer company Miracle-Gro to help refresh and replenish your garden bed’s soil structure and nutrients.
These 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 must mix it into your raised garden bed soil and follow the directions.
Consider doing soil tests for your raised bed crops
Like with an in-ground garden bed, having your soil tested yearly is a good idea.
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 your local Cooperative Extension office.
Before you plant your garden, you must know what your soil consists of and its PH. You can buy small test kits to do this at home and send samples 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 seedlings, consider getting healthy plants growing in your region from a local nursery. This helps ensure they adapt to your growing environment and 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-nos
Plan what you will plant in your garden every year to maximize your growing times and plant health.
The next section will include suggested planting schemes for four raised gardening beds.
|Beds||First bed||Second bed||Third bed||Fourth bed|
|Planting scheme #1||Plant onions or spinach, then tomatoes, then beans in the fall.||Planting Scheme #1||Opt to plant peppers and sweet corn, followed by garlic or turnips||Have the same as the third bed plants.|
|Planting scheme #2||Plant 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 winter||For 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 when planning your raised garden bed. They include:
Plant brassicas after legumes
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 ample nutrition to other plants. The brassicas do well in the nutrient-rich conditions that the legumes have created.
While potatoes also like nitrogen-rich soil, you need to make sure not to plant brassicas and potatoes beside each other because they like differing pH levels.
Legumes are great to plant after nightshade family members 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 grow root vegetables in vibrant soil, the plants produce lush foliage rather than focus the plant’s growth 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 break down the rich components in the soil.
We have given all these considerations and benefits to crop rotation with raised bed gardening. Let us also look into the other side and possible problems with 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. Having five to seven raised garden beds for most small-scale or home gardeners is impractical.
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 like tomatoes and peppers, which 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 rotation 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 elsewhere and starting over new the following year.
Planting methods for limited space considerations
With all 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 following year.
Here are various ways to increase your growing space, even in a little room.
|Planting methods to combat limited space||Their benefits and how to do them|
|Raised planting boxes||These can also spare your back the effort of bending over to pull weeds and harvest vegetables.|
|Vertical growing arrangements||You 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 barrels||These 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 more straightforward 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. Consider adding vegetables to your front flower bed if you usually garden in your backyard.
Before starting crop rotation, you must consider if you even need to do it. Let me explain. This process might not be required if you grow various crops in the same bed successional. I recently did a live stream with a master gardener, and we discussed this topic. You can watch that life below.
FAQs on How to Rotate Crops in Raised Beds
What crops should be rotated?
All of your vegetable plants should be rotated in your raised bed gardens. Consider companion planting to maximize the health of your plants. Square foot gardening, which is halving your raised bed garden into sections, can be beneficial to make the most of your crop rotation and raised garden beds.
How can you avoid crop rotation?
If you can’t rotate crops, water only at ground level, such as drip irrigation. Consider replenishing the soil of the garden beds at the end of every season to boost the plant’s growth. It is also best to clear away foliage and plants at the end of every growing season.
What crops to rotate with tomatoes?
After you plant tomatoes and harvest your crops, you should consider planting legumes to fix nitrogen and bring it back into the soil. When said the crop is done growing, till the entire plant into the ground to help preserve the nitrogen in your soil and follow it up with brassicas.
What are the possible disadvantages of crop rotation?
One disadvantage to crop rotation would be the inability to specialize in fostering one specific plant. Due to the need to have different plants growing in the same space and rotating them for maximum soil boosting and saving space, you cannot just have one specific plant growing in bulk.
What is four-crop rotation?
Four-crop rotation is a planting method wherein four crops are. Usually, wheat, barley, turnips, clover, fodder, and grazing crops are grown sequentially. This ensures that the livestock will have food year-round and boosts the soil’s health due to the variety of cultivated plants.
Conclusion on how to rotate crops on raised beds
Combining crop rotation with raised bed gardening, especially for areas with soil that cannot 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, 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 exact location.
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