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Can a cover crop be considered a crop rotation?

 
Posts: 73
Location: Suffolk County, Long Island NY
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I'm talking small scale here, just some raised beds.  If I throw in a late season cover crop, do I still need to rotate next spring?
 
steward
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In my worldview, crop rotation is something done by robot agriculture. It doesn't make sense to me in small scale settings.
 
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To me the cover crop is the rotation. if you were growing onions before and than planted the cover crop next. Next crop rotation could be carrots.

so that is allium, cover crop(or carbon depending on what you use), and than carrot family.

We use rotations, this is mostly due to trying to avoid having brassicas being used in the same bed( club root).

I would love to hear more of what Joseph means by "In my worldview, crop rotation is something done by robot agriculture" care to expand your thoughts? :)
 
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My guess on what Joseph meant is something like they do around here where each year they burn down thousands of acres with some nasty chemical and plant corn. Next year they burn it down and plant soy, see, rotated.

I also have a small garden, my idea of rotation is I generally don't plant the same crop in the same spot as the year before, plus something is about always growing. Right now I have short season pole beans growing on spent corn stalks. The corn was harvested, leaves stripped and beans planted a couple weeks ago.

Any empty spot gets planted with something about any time there is season enough to grow it. Also plant stuff for winter cover, mostly turnips and radish. I have pounds of seed so in a few days I will just throw it pretty much everywhere to come up as it wants as things like tomatoes are harvested.  

I don't compost I just pick out spots where I throw everything and later rake off the big stuff, pitch it in another spot and plant something.  Noting except what is eaten ever leaves my garden.  Even diseased tomato plants are composted in place, I just plant something else where the tomatoes were the year before so I guess that also is rotation. I don't have time or inclination to worry to much over what specific thing should follow what other specific thing.

I don't till or hardly even dig, just rake if necessary and hoe a little to plant. If a bed is badly weedy I scrape it all off with a sharp hoe into the paths. Later when the crop is up I scrape it back up and toss between the rows.

I am still in awe of how much easier it is and how much better my stuff grows than back when I did use a tiller.
 
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cover crop can be a good way to fix some nitrogen into soil and thickly planted stuff like buckwheat will crowd out a whole bunch of weeds. I say go for it, why not? but I'm not the best authority my green thumb turned black this year
 
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crop rotation does two things:
1) allows pest eggs/spores in the soil to die after going a season without their partner crop to finish their life cycle.
2) re-balance the minerals in the soil

A cover crop is better than doing zero crop rotation. But I think of it as only a single part of a crop rotation. I don't think it is enough time to break the pest cycle, but it is probably enough time to re-balance the soil minerals.


 
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My answer is no. The idea of rotation is to kill any build up of bugs/disease so I do not plant potatoes in the same spot for 4 years, planting peas after them will not remove any blight spores or wire worm or anything else that might attack the potatoes.
 
Susan Mené
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Thank you all.  Very interesting assortment of opinions, all of which were running around my head and caused me to ask the question in the first place.  
 
Joseph Lofthouse
steward
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Crop rotation seems meaningless to me in my small garden. What, a wireworm can't crawl 4 feet to munch of the carrots growing in the next bed over the next year? The Colorado potato beetle can't fly 30 feet? Somehow the fungus on my weeding hoe or my bare feet miraculously doesn't move from bed to bed as I move through the garden. What? The wind can't blow blight spores 200 feet from one side of my garden to the other? That's why I say that crop rotation doesn't make sense to me in small gardens, because the entire garden is within easy migratory range of nearly every pest and disease that occurs in the garden. And it just makes extra paperwork and labor to keep track of what grew where. I'm not interested in doing the extra record-keeping.

 
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