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Crop rotation

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Post  Turan 1/6/2013, 2:00 pm

I group my solanacea in 3X8 bed and one side of the greenhouse. That way helps me with the rotations and with their similar needs for cold protection. I am fussing with my rotations right now. I think I will follow last year's solanacea bed with 3 sisters this year.

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Post  JeanneRamick 1/6/2013, 9:10 pm

quiltbea wrote:As for squash bugs, I have to tell you that unless you cover them with light row cover early in their growth, the bugs will invade. I was amazed when I started to water a zucchini and right out of the center of that plant at least a hundred squash bugs came scuttling up the stalks and across the leaves. I hadn't covered them. That zucchini was a goner in a week.
So cover them against the bugs. Uncover them for pollinating which you can do by hand.
You can bet my row cover will be handy from the beginning of the season this year. I stick several wire clothes hangers, formed into half circles, around my plants and hold the cover in place with spring clothes pins. Pour some soil on the ends touching the ground to keep bugs from going in underneath.

My daughter loves zucchini, her's didn't do well last year. She lives in an old established neighborhood where every other house has a huge Rose of Sharon bush. When she put up one of those pheromone traps, she caught almost 2 POUNDS of those Japanese beetles on the first day. I think they'll eat anything, she had lots of 'lacey leaves' in her garden.

So about this cloth row cover for zucchini to keep out squash bugs ... do you keep that in place the whole season? My daughter had some pretty massive leaves on her zucchini.

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Post  camprn 1/6/2013, 9:13 pm

The Japanese beetle traps are sure to bring them into the yard. Best to let a neighbor with no vegetable garden to put up the traps. Or so I was told by an old time gardener. Wink

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Post  JeanneRamick 1/6/2013, 9:24 pm

camprn wrote:The Japanese beetle traps are sure to bring them into the yard. Best to let a neighbor with no vegetable garden to put up the traps. Or so I was told by an old time gardener. Wink

I've heard that, too CampRN ... but there is one of those giant Rose of Sharon bushes right on the property line. The neighbor lady planted it when they moved into the house in the 1940's! So the beetles are already in her yard.

Sitting on my daughters deck, looking at that RoS ... you can see a SWARM of the beetles ... almost makes it look like the bush is vibrating.

She ended up setting two traps near that big bush, one in the back corner of their lot and one by the front porch (the bugs would almost dive-bomb you as you were going through the front door!)

The traps were a help because her plant leaves became a lot less lacey.

We looked into that milky spore to kill off the grubs .... but it's very expensive and with a hyper-infested neighborhood like hers, we weren't sure it would be worth it.

So ... should she put cloth covers over her zucchini for the full season?


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Post  Pollinator 1/6/2013, 11:59 pm

Assassin bugs have decimated the Japanese beetle population here over the last five or six years. Now I see only a couple each season on the crape myrtles. They used to devastate my grapes. My garden is overrun by assassin bugs and I will do nothing to hurt them.
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Post  Cincinnati 1/7/2013, 12:29 am

johnp wrote:I know that we are supposed to plant a new and different crop when we replant. I do however, have two (2x4) tomato boxes with the angled trellis on each side and three others (4x4) that are also just for tomatoes. So what do others do from year to year? These boxes are three years old this spring.Thanks, I'm brand new at this forum.


I have a similar issue with trellises anchored behind a few of my boxes. Even thought I can sometimes get a different crop in between crops of tomatoes or cukes, I find it easy to rotate my soil (aka MM). I have just blended the soil in the entire box. However, by mixing all 16 squares together, I would only be redistributing a disease that is established in one square, among all the squares of that box.

I have also drug one 4x4 box away from the trellis, and moved another into its place.

I find it easier to remove the MM from one box into a wheelbarrow or trash bin, and adding MM from another box plus aged compost to create a "new soil".
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Post  quiltbea 1/7/2013, 11:43 am

Pollination and Row Cover.......I would cover mine from when they are transplanted or when they germinate, if directly sown. Leave on the cover until the female plants start to blossom. Usually the males grow first so I'd leave on the covers until the females grow. Then I would uncover during the daylight hours if you are going to allow insects to pollinate. Cover again at night against moths who lay eggs. That's if you let nature pollinate for you. Still risky with bugs finding your plants when uncovered.

You can use a soft artists's brush or look up pollinating by hand on utube. There are some good videos posted that can help you. If you hand pollinate, your crops are covered all the time until you move them aside to do the hand pollinating, thereby keeping your plants safer from the bugs.

In the case of many crops that don't blossom til the end of their lifetime (cabbage, broccoli, carrots) you can leave on the covers til you harvest.
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Post  LivingTheDream 1/16/2013, 8:21 pm

I just read a thread on adding new boxes and people were talking of "crop rotation". I had totally forgotten about that!!! Shocked Is it in the book of what can't be planted after what? (I had gotten the book from the library). I'm just now sitting down to figure out this years garden. This will be our 2nd year doing SFG. Excited to have even more success. Very Happy
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Post  Lemonie 1/16/2013, 10:57 pm

I know it does talk about it in the book, but don't have mine near me (surprise!) for a change to look up where. If I remember correctly, you want to rotate plant families and heavy feeders. Also, keep in mind if you had any disease issues that might infect similar plants.
Someone w/ more experience please chime in here and feel free to correct me! thinking
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Post  camprn 1/17/2013, 7:05 am

There are a few old threads about this. You may use the search feature to find them.

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Post  Rustic Patriot 1/20/2013, 6:04 pm

After struggling with soil viruses and terrible nemetodes, I had covered my garden in plastic for 6 months. With that behind me, now I've just built 2 4 x 6 foot boxes and filled them with Mels mix with the intention of using the square foot method. I've ordered the book but it hasn't arrived yet.
My question is how can I avoid repeating my past soil problems. One thing I do plan is start my own seeds, never again to buy plants from stores which is where I believe my issues started.
Should I rotate my crops from box to box? I'm starting with 2 boxes but have space for at least 2 more once I get going. My location gets full sun all day but is quite breezy.
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Post  bnoles 1/20/2013, 8:22 pm

According to Mel, if you follow his teachings to the letter, crop rotation is not critical. It will pretty much take care of itself, especially if you grow more than one crop per square per year. Be sure to read your book before getting too far along so you will understand the full process.
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Post  yolos 1/20/2013, 9:02 pm

If you have soil born diseases, then you better rotate. If you do not have soil born diseases then it is not as necessary. But if you do not rotate then make sure you remove all plant debris from the bed to get rid of any diseases that may be on the vegitation. I always rotate some crops. Every book I read except Mel says to rotate certain crops such as Tomatoes and broccoli and potatoes because of diseases. I never rotate lettuce, corn, field peas because they never seem to get diseases.

If it were not for diseases, I do not think you would have to rotate because of putting the 5 way compost in the square each time you replant. But here in the south we get all kinds of diseases because of the heat and humidity.
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Post  Bud Alexis 3/6/2013, 5:08 pm

I know that in farming rotation of crops are important, but I am not sure about gardening in Mels Mix. thinking One other thing. Is it normal that when I water MM for the first time, there is a layer of vermiculite left on top. Even tho it is mixed well, that stuff seems to float to the top. Should I mix it in again before I plant? :scratch:
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Post  H_TX_2 3/6/2013, 5:23 pm

I don't think it is necessary. The reason for crop rotation is because different crops pull different nutrients out of the soil. The SFG method you add new compost with each new planting so there shouldn't be any lack of nutrients. Some still do rotate or move their plants around from year to year. I have read how some people move their squash to different places each year because of squash vine borer problems the previous year. They will still be able to find your squash plants but there might be SVB cocoons in Mels Mix where the squash was planted last year. I would say it is not necessary from a nutrients stand point but there are other reasons where it might make sense to rotate the crops.

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Post  Hardcoir 3/6/2013, 6:03 pm

We always rotate our squares. We use a four-year rotation, and still we have to watch for those nasty pests. It can be hard to use biodynamic and organic farming methods because of pests, but rotation is one thing that can help. We always leave one section empty, which is where we set a lot of our containers.

For example, we rotate tomatoes and peppers to the squash and cucumber section; the squash and cucumbers to the lettuce, radish, and onion sections; the lettuce, radish, and onion sections to the empty section, and the empty section to the tomatoes and peppers section.

All of our herbs, except basil, make it through our mild winters, and we plant our basil with our tomatoes. This year, we made an 11th-hour decision to try Jerusalem artichokes, and they will go in the new square. We decided against potatoes.

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Post  quiltbea 3/6/2013, 7:53 pm

In theory crop rotation should not be necessary in SFG because each square has a different crop unlike row gardens where you plant 25 feet of turnips or 25 feet of tomatoes. In a 4 x 4 you plant probably 12 to 16 different crops and the following year you do it again but not in the same squares. In theory, the squares are used by different crops.

Nonetheless, I still rotate at least a little. All my vining crops are in the northside squares so one year I have tomatoes in some and peas or pole beans in the others. The following year I swap, putting peas where the tomatoes grew, etc.
Then I basically just don't put cole crops in the same squares as the year before and instead might put peppers, eggplant, chard, spinach, bush beans instead. I also try to not follow a root crop with another root crop. It means keeping last year's plan so I know where I last planted something but it works well for me.

I agree that adding fresh compost at the end of each season and then more when I plant a square is the best process, but I like a little added insurance.
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Post  CindiLou 3/6/2013, 7:57 pm

**wonders if QB can plan my garden** rofl You are soo much more organized than I am! I do still have last years plans..and this year is planned. Maybe I better go take another look! rofl
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Post  didomach 3/9/2013, 5:15 am

When you're planning for your this year's garden, and you need to consider shade (ie: corn in the north), how does that work with crop rotation? It seems that it limits how often you can plant corn. You can't just pick one of the squares for corn.
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Post  CapeCoddess 3/9/2013, 8:33 am

When planting in MM, you don't have to worry about crop rotation since compost is mixed in after every harvest.

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Post  Tris 3/9/2013, 8:54 am

I think Mel's book says something about not needing crop rotation because you continue to plant different stuff in the squares in the different seasons. I'm not sure the life of corn though, do you start it in spring and harvest in fall? Could you plant something there for the fall/winter season?
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Post  edfhinton 3/9/2013, 9:28 am

I am new to SFG as well and am curious about this. While I undestand the idea of differet season crops, I'm wondering how this would work in my zone 5b. A lot of disease articles I've seen talk about not planting certain crops in the same place more often than every three years. I had thought time was a key component as pests in the soil can be there a while. But if it is just the need to have two different crops grow there in between, I still am unclear how to accomplish that in a single year in a northern zone, especially if the main summer crop in a set of squares is corn. I think I will likey plan to still rotate from box to box until I master this over a few years, but I do have limited full sun space so it is something I will want to learn more about.
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Post  quiltbea 3/9/2013, 1:24 pm

Corn is sown in blocks because it is wind pollinated and needs to be near other corn to produce. Just one block will not produce well. You have to have several squares adjoining each other. Or you can help pollinate by brown-bagging the tassels and the next day checking the bag for the pollen which you can shake over the silks below.
It should be an easy matter to sow 12 squares of corn in a box leaving the north side for tall tomatoes or peas, beans or malabar spinach. Then the next year, moving to another box and then another the 3rd year. Adding fresh compost after harvesting and before sowing the next spring keeps the soil fertile.
That's my plan this year since I want to grow my own at home.
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Post  yolos 3/9/2013, 6:29 pm

quiltbea wrote: Or you can help pollinate by brown-bagging the tassels and the next day checking the bag for the pollen which you can shake over the silks below.

Quiltbea - I researched hand pollinating corn last year before I planted my corn although it turned out not to be necessary because I planted a big block of it. BUT, I don't remember reading about leaving the pollen in the bag until the next day. Why would you have to wait untill the next day to see if you have any pollen in the bag.
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Post  Pollinator 3/9/2013, 6:39 pm

quiltbea wrote:Corn is sown in blocks because it is wind pollinated and needs to be near other corn to produce. Just one block will not produce well. You have to have several squares adjoining each other. Or you can help pollinate by brown-bagging the tassels and the next day checking the bag for the pollen which you can shake over the silks below.
It should be an easy matter to sow 12 squares of corn in a box leaving the north side for tall tomatoes or peas, beans or malabar spinach. Then the next year, moving to another box and then another the 3rd year. Adding fresh compost after harvesting and before sowing the next spring keeps the soil fertile.
That's my plan this year since I want to grow my own at home.

Planting in blocks will not guarantee corn pollination - sometimes there is no wind. Any gardener should LOVE a morning Thunderstorm during corn pollination, because of the rush of wind that accompanies.

But you can insure pollination, because hand pollination is so easy and only takes a couple minutes to do: http://gardensouth.org/2011/07/09/you-can-avoid-corn-pollination-failure/
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