Weeding, digging, watering and spraying are important for a healthy crop, but crop rotation of the plants is crucial, even in a small garden.
Asking for Advice from Gardeners Saved My Crops
I grew up in a Romanian city, so all these gardening chores were new to me when I moved out to the small village, where I am living now. One of the main reasons for moving was to have a garden, however I didn't think of having a vegetable garden as well. I knew a few tricks about growing plants, however I learned many more while caring for my garden. I didn't know anything about caring for fruit trees or roses, grapevines or strawberries, even for the lawn. Yet I had good advice from my friends, especially from my Dave's Garden friends and also, from the Dave's Garden articles.
After I had my garden all set up and I was in control, I thought about starting a vegetable garden, to have fresh and organic vegetables. I had a small piece of waste land in the back of my house, which needed to be used, so that's where I started my small vegetable garden. I had to learn everything from the beginning, since I didn't know anything at all about growing vegetables. I've learned how to dig or plow in the fall and how to grind and prepare the soil for sowing and planting in the spring. I asked my friends for advice in how to grow every single vegetable, so I got myself well trained for the new and difficult chore I had ahead of me. My friends also provided me with tomato and all kinds of pepper variety seeds, from their parents living in the countryside. That way, I could have old Romanian native cultivars in my garden. These were the ones I knew and remembered the tastes from my childhood. I started my own tomato seedlings indoors and then I planted them in my garden. I sowed cucumbers, beans, green peas, cabbage, carrots, spinach, radishes, pumpkins and planted onion and garlic sets, even potatoes. Things went well in the first year, I had good crops, considering that I was just a beginner. I had lots of surprises, good and bad, and I got answers to all my questions from my dear friends.
I enjoyed listening to my friends when talking about their experiences with growing vegetables, because I always learned something new from each conversation. This is how I've learned about the crop rotation and why I should do it.
What Is the Crop Rotation?
Crop rotation is the practice of growing different crops in succession on the same land in order to preserve the productive capacity of the soil. It's important to rotate crops because, the same crop grown over and over on the same land, can drain the soil of nutrients and lead to a high growth of the resistance of the specific pests and weeds. By rotating the crops, any pest or weed companion to a specific crop, is annihilated by the other crop, which has different specific pests and companion weeds.
For example, in my village, I saw how they rotate the last year's sunflower crop with a wheat, rape or corn crop for the current year. Then, the following year, they have a different crop.
Rotating the Crops in My Small Garden
I've learned from these examples and advice and I always rotate my crops, even if my garden is small. I always have onions and tomatoes in my garden, which are my biggest crops. They occupy most of the vegetable garden, about 3/4 of it. The rest of the garden is occupied with small patches of cabbage, carrots, squash and pumpkins. Let's not forget the early crops of radish, spinach, cucumbers, green peas and beans. Every spring I rotate the bigger crops between them, meaning the tomatoes are planted where I had onions on the previous summer and vice-versa. Usually, I plant the tomatoes and onions on the sides of the garden and use the middle for smaller crops. This crop rotation prevents the tomatoe specific pests, such as, hornworms, wireworms or white flies to multiply. They don't like onions, so they won't be able to feed and grow. It is the same with the onion specific pests, such as bulbmites, leafminers, onion flies or maggots.
These crops are easy to rotate, because I remember easily on which side of the garden the tomatoes and onions were planted. But sometimes it's hard to remember the particular location of the smaller crops, so the pictures I take during the summer are very useful. I've often had to check those, so I can be sure that I won't sow, for example, the carrots or the squash, in the same location the next year.
The cucumbers and beans have a special patch along the wired fence, so they can climb up, as they grow. However, I am rotating these crops too, so that the cucumbers are sown where the last year's beans were and vice-versa. That is very useful because I had a terrible pest, the mole cricket, which was cutting off the beans stems. It seems that I got rid of it just by rotating crops, as he didn't appear the following summer.
Last, but not least, the cabbage crop may have some troublesome pests that are are tricked by the crop rotation. I had many pests every summer, eating my cabbage seedlings, like the the turnip flea beetles, white flies or the disgusting caterpillars. But each disappeared the next summer because I rotated the cabbage crop to the onion bed after they were harvested, since I'm always growing fall cabbage for making sauerkraut.
I've even sprayed the crops with organic insecticides, to destroy the pests and save my vegetables. Since I know that they are always laying eggs and other pests would grow from them. This also helps keep the insect population down along with rotating the crops.
It really is a hard work, however I like it because with all those bugs and weeds, I never get bored. Do you?
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