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hello, and question on crop rotation  RSS feed

 
Megan Wantoch
Posts: 25
Location: Northern England
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Hi Permies

Thanks for all the great reading so far!

I'm fairly new to gardening, and totally new to permaculture, although I've been pleasantly surprised to see that I'm doing a lot of it already. I've been reading this forum nonstop for about three days- to the point where I'm getting funny looks off himself- and I've got a million questions now, so I hope you'll forgive the ensuing stream of ignorance... Btw, I've got the books on my wishlist, but until my financial situation looks up, or the local library gets them in, I'm kinda relying on you folks.

So, my first question: Do most people maintain a strict rotation of annuals in their permaculture gardens, or do you rely purely on polyculture to keep your plants disease and pest free(ish), or something in between? How is it working out? I read an earlier thread on the subject, which was helpful; Brenda Groth (I hope I got the name right) recommended rotating annuals through beds planted with a variety of other things, which seems really sensible to me. I'm wondering, though, whether it's possible to get away from rotation entirely.

The reasons I'd like to not have to rotate are:

1. in my cool-temperate climate I rely heavily on brassicas, and more than 1/4 of my crops come from that family, so it's hard to squeeze them through my four year rotation system, and with space at a premium for them I begrudge sharing it with other plants.

2. trying to keep polyculture beds organised in such a way so there is no crossover is a nightmare (eg. I want to plant radishes amongst non-brassica vegetables, or perennials in the beds which are from the same family as some of the rotating annuals). Maybe I'm over thinking this? I've been accused of being, well, retentive, before now...

3. certain parts of my smallish garden are much better suited for certain plants than others, and it annoys me to have to put them somewhere less suitible next year, and move in something else that was happier elsewhere. Examples are areas of part shade vs. full sun, and some areas being more suitable for vertical growing. I'd love to be able to just plant everything throughout the garden, each plant in a place where it will be happy. Apart from anything else it would look a lot nicer!

Having said that, I live in fear of clubroot and other problems, and there is also the issue of the cabbage whites, whose caterpillars normally destroy (and I don't mean nibble, I mean destroy) any cabbage, kale, or broccoli grown without netting.

My current plan for this season is to grow all the big brassicas in one (rotational) bed, under netting, but I instinctively dislike having a monoculture like that, and I now know that there are good reasons to! I can include some beneficial ground cover plants with them, but it's still not really polyculture, and there isn't room for anything else.

Hmm, my crop rotation question has turned into brassica themed rant somehow. They're just trouble makers I guess, and provide the best examples of what's making me crazy!

Any thoughts? I appreciate any feedback, even if it's just to tell me I've got my head up my behind Mostly I'm interested to know what other people do, though I know every situation is different.










 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9741
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I generally try to avoid planting close relatives one after the other in a bed, but otherwise I mostly rely on polyculture.
 
Shawn Harper
Posts: 360
Location: Portlandia, Oregon
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Policultures work well for me in both my parents and my own garden. We have ranging diversity from poly 3-5 in both locales and from what I've heard even higher poly counts help more.
 
Shawn Harper
Posts: 360
Location: Portlandia, Oregon
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Btw, have you tried what I like to call the sage guild. Onions (can replace with garlic or chives), sage, and rosemary. Interplanting these should help as both the onion family and rosemary repel pests, I am unsure about sage.
 
Megan Wantoch
Posts: 25
Location: Northern England
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Thanks guys!

Shawn, when you say you have poly 3-5, do you mean 3-5 kinds of plants together, or something else? If so, that's good for me because most of my beds have 4 or 5 in already I haven't tried sage and rosemary within the beds, but I have them (and other aromatic herbs) along the borders and generally throughout the garden. I don't know whether there are enough yet to keep pests away, but the beneficials definitly like them! Alliums I've generally been scared to scatter around too much because of the whole rotation thing, with the exception of garlic around my apple trees. I'm think I'm going to stop worrying about them, though, as I don't really even know why I'm rotating them (and I want to start collecting some of the perennials).

Anybody else?
 
Shawn Harper
Posts: 360
Location: Portlandia, Oregon
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Megan Wantoch wrote:Thanks guys!

Shawn, when you say you have poly 3-5, do you mean 3-5 kinds of plants together, or something else? If so, that's good for me because most of my beds have 4 or 5 in already I haven't tried sage and rosemary within the beds, but I have them (and other aromatic herbs) along the borders and generally throughout the garden. I don't know whether there are enough yet to keep pests away, but the beneficials definitly like them! Alliums I've generally been scared to scatter around too much because of the whole rotation thing, with the exception of garlic around my apple trees. I'm think I'm going to stop worrying about them, though, as I don't really even know why I'm rotating them (and I want to start collecting some of the perennials).

Anybody else?


Yup that's exactly what I mean.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9741
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Getting over the idea of "pests" will solve a lot of "pest" problems.
 
Megan Wantoch
Posts: 25
Location: Northern England
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Fair point, and I don't mind the buggies having a share, but I'm a ways off from feeling philosophical about it when they don't leave me any!

That said, I'be never sprayed, and I've noticed an interesting trend, with aphids particularly: first year, very few 'pests', second year, lots of 'pests', third year, less 'pests' and lots of things which eat 'pests'. I guess it could be the weather, but I think they're reaching dynamic equilibrium.
 
John Polk
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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From my point of seeing things, crop rotations don't make a significant difference in small plots and gardens. Each plant family has its own set of pests/diseases. These will increase each year, but as you have seen, they also attract their predators if they increase a lot in populations.

On a small plot, if you are merely moving your brassica (or legume) plot a few yards each season, you are not isolating them from where the problem was last season. Likewise, if you are using your shovel and other tools in last years plot, and then taking them into this years plot, you are probably taking the problems to the new plot. The same can be said for your hands, pant cuffs and shoes. If you are taking the problem with you from patch to patch, your rotation has accomplished nothing.

Insects vector in on their preferred food choice. A 100 by 100 plot of their favorite crop will attract them, whereas a 5 by 5 plot probably will not. If enough non related plants are mixed together, the insects will likely miss the plot, or get confused if they do find it. Typically, insects make random landings looking for their target. If they make several consecutive false landings, they get discouraged, and often go elsewhere, so if their target plant is outnumbered 5:1, or 10:1 they probably won't stick around long enough to do serious damage (AND decide they found a good spot to lay their eggs). Diversity is a key in controlling the populations of pests. Many insects also target sick plants, so keeping the soil as healthy as possible will also reduce the pest problem.

 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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you might be able to not rotate entirely, but it might require a goodly amount of clean up if there is any disease problem in the garden..

I am trying to use less and less annuals when possible..just received perennial wheat seed in the mail yesterday and am looking for other perennial seeds..so that will eliminate more rotating..but when it comes to things like say corn, even though you buy OP, you still may have borers living in the stocks..you could just chop them, and hope you get them all..but if you rotate you won't have to go through all that..

I'm sure there are ways to get around it.

I had a problem 2 years in a row with squash bugs in just one small spot in one of my garden areas..so I'm not going to put any squash relatives in that area this year for sure !!! they killed off 2 good plants for 2 years..

i did find that you can put a board down and they may crawl under there until you lift it up and destroy them,but them little buggers are fast !!!

even tried putting a bird feeder there ..as some birds like cardinals will eat them..but they preferred the bird seed.

if you have an outbreak, try to find the most natural way to eliminate it..and sometimes rotation might be the best answer..i'm rotating all squash plants a long way away from that area for sure !!
 
Megan Wantoch
Posts: 25
Location: Northern England
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Thanks John and Brenda, really helpful again! I think I'm starting to get my head around it more.

I think its a good point about rotation in a small garden- I often find myself wondering how effective it can be to move things a few yards, or even feet in some cases. Plus re-using tools, pots, etc. and my perpetually grubby hands...

I guess the traditional books assume that you're going to deplete the soil using one type of plant on it for a whole season, dig it up, leave it bare, then chuck some manure and/or fertilizers on it to make it all better... I guess *not* doing that should be pretty effective at controlling disease.

We have bird feeders (and so do the neighbours) and lots of birds (i counted 12 species one day!), now I just need to convince them that caterpillers are more tasty than our berries Haven't had squash bugs yet but growing a fair bit of it this year, so keeping fingers crossed. Hoping to confuse them with climbing beans, herbs, radishes, nasturtiums and sunflowers, but I think squashes are pretty obvious- especially on a trellis! Not even sure if we've got them in this area- anyone know about that?
 
Ben Stallings
Posts: 160
Location: Emporia, KS
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With sheet mulch and pretty intensive polyculture (10+ kinds of plant in a bed) I've had little trouble with pests; in particular I've had good luck attracting beneficial wasps with aromatic herbs to keep the caterpillar population down. However, there's another reason for rotation which is that some plants don't get along... I've had particular trouble with peas and potatoes. The peas will grow fine until the potatoes start to develop; then the peas near the potatoes waste away while those farther from potatoes are fine. So now I'm making a point of keeping known incompatibles away from each other, and designing a rotation system around those incompatibilities.
 
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