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Garden rotation at Potawot Food Gardens
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Crop Rotation is a practice in gardening in which different crops are planted in different areas of the field each year to prevent deterioration of the soil. It can improve soil fertility and structure with the right technique. The herb and vegetable gardens at Potawot Indian Health Facility use the method of crop rotation as a part of their organic gardening routine.
Why Crop Rotation is Important
Rotating your crops is an essential part of sustainable organic gardening. Without crop rotation the soil is weakened by one crop repeatedly season after season taking out specific nutrients from the soil. Also without crop rotation specific pests and pathogens will build up in the crop growing area. With crop rotation soil weakening can be avoided by changing the crops season to season because the different crops pull out different nutrients from the soil and attract different pests and pathogens.
Crop Rotation Techniques
Plants in different taxonomic groups are rotated to ward off pests. This generally means deep-rooted plants are rotated with shallow rooted plants. Also certain plants renew different nutrients i.e. legumes (like a kidney bean or vanilla) replenish nitrates in the ground and cereals need nitrate rich soil, therefore it is beneficial to plant legumes before cereals. In ideal conditions it is best to wait three years to plant a crop in the same place as before. Crop rotation techniques ultimately vary depending on the soil quality, precipitation and climate.
The different families are as follows
- Legume (Peas, /Bell Peppers, Fava Beans, ect.)
- Mint (Basil, Sage)
- Alliums (Onions, Garlic)
- Grass (wheat, Rice)
- Nightshade (Eggplant, Tomatoes)
- Umbel (Carrot, Dill)
- Composite (Lettuce, Artichokes)
- Crucifer (Radishes, Turnips)
- Goosefoot (Beets, Chard)
- Squash (Winter Squash, Pumpkins)
Crop Rotation at Potawot
The Potawot Gardens grow a variety of different crops including artichokes, sugar snap peas, broccoli, carrots, celery, chard, tomatoes and many others. There are four main fields with varying number of rows in each. Each season a chart is drawn up to organize the crops so that none are in the same places they were the last two years. The charts also rotate cover crops throughout the garden to restore nutrients into the soil for future growing. Then the rotation charts are displayed in the volunteer house showing in what week and what row to plant the crops.
"Gardening With The Helpful Gardener." Helpful Gardener. <http:/http://www.helpfulgardener.com/organic/2006/crop.html>.
Tanner, Eddie. The Humboldt Kitchen Gardener. Arcata, CA: Eddie Tanner, 2008. 16-31.
Shonnie, Eddie. Personal Contact. 28 October 2008.
"Potawot Community Food Gardens." California Area Indian Health Services. Federal Health Program for American Indians and Native Alaskans. 28 Oct. 2008
Ogden, Shepherd. Straight-Ahead Organic : A Step-by-Step Guide to Growing Great Vegetables in a Less Than Perfect World. New York: Chelsea Green, 1999. <layout name="Project" />