Thanks to my husband who can build anything, I have twelve, 3.5’ x 12’ raised vegetable beds. We established these beds four years ago, and I am confident that I got the hang of this growing-your-own-food-homesteading thing as we now grow a good chunk of our vegetable produce for three seasons. But as with any gardening project, there are always ways to improve techniques, productiveness, fertility, and sustainability.
While I have made haphazard attempts at rotating the beds to avoid planting the same vegetable in the same spot, year to year, this winter I spent a good chunk of time developing a six-year crop rotation schedule that ensures that I do not repeat the same plant family in a bed or directly adjacent bed for at least two years. I have been pretty lucky regarding pests and diseases in the vegetable garden, and the only real problems that I have had are cabbage worms and slugs attacking (and sometimes destroying) my brassicas and some damage to my tomatoes from the brown marmorated stink bug. I did have a pretty bad case of powdery mildew on my pumpkins last year and ended up losing the whole crop. But practicing purposeful crop rotation will hopefully keep pests and diseases from multiplying as well as maintaining soil fertility.
The vegetable families that I grow in my raised beds are:
Brassica/Mustard Family [brassicaceae]—Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale
Nightshade Family [solanaceae]—Tomatoes, peppers, potatoes
Amaranth Family [amaranthaceae]—Beets, swiss chard, spinach
Gourd Family [cucurbitaceae]—Cantaloupe, watermelon, cucumber, squash, zucchini, pumpkins
Carrot Family [umbelliferae]—Carrots [though I grow dill, cilantro, and parsley in the herb garden]
Allium Family [amaryllidaceae]—Onions, leeks
Lettuce Family [compositeae]—lettuce
Legume Family [leguminosae]—beans, peas
If anyone sees any glaring problems with the cycles I have posted below, I’d love to hear from you with your suggestions. In addition to having a visual crop rotation document, this plan allows me to develop a schedule for cover cropping, which I have never done. But that topic will have to wait till my next post.