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Crop rotation in the home garden
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Hi permie friends,
I'm taking an online permaculture course. They have us reading a Bill Mollison pamphlet called PERMACULTURE TECHNIQUES BY BILL MOLLISON Pamphlet IX in the Permaculture Design Course Series. In it, he states,

Now what you do is set up proper,
permanent, well-designed small systems
for each plant you are going to
grow. If you are going to grow cucumbers,
you make these holes, put
up a wire mesh cylinder, about four
feet high, and it's permanent, and you
always grow your cucumbers there.
You work all this out. In the general
garden, you do a sort of spot rotation.
Wherever you are manuring, as in cucumbers,
potatoes, and things like
your asparagus bed, you never rotate.
For tomatoes, rotation is disadvantageous.
Tomatoes grow better on the
same spot. So you set up a permanent
tomato bed. You treat each vegetable
as a design problem.
In any community situation, it is a

Now, this is contrary to everything I have ever been taught about gardening! Won't pathogens and pests build up if you keep the same plants in the same place year after year? And won't those plants deplete the soil of certain nutrients? I am confused.
I think it works because you're continually renewing the soil with compost, mulch, etc , what Mollison calls "manuring." So in effect you actually aren't growing on the same soil, because it is largely replaced each year. It is my belief that very actively managed soil like this doesn't get a chance to build up disease - the worms, fungi, etc are too busy turning it over and digesting it, basically cleansing it of pathogens.

I don't rotate crops just for the sake of rotating. I do add soil amendments between each crop......i harvest, test the soil pH, note to condition of the soil, then add an appropriate amount of compost, a bit of manure, a sprinkling of lava sand and coral sand, a sprinkling of processed bone, and if the pH is too low, then a dusting of wood ash. This gets lightly tilled in to the top few inches. I could use a shovel and just flip it in or a garden rake to mix it up a bit, but the small Mantis tiller does it much quicker without beating up my old body. Then I'll replant whatever crop was growing there.

The only time I rotate is if I am seeing disease or pests. Here in the tropics, they are always a problem. It's just a matter of when they appear. Moving the problem crop to a different location often solves the problem for a year or even several years.
From my experience, crop rotation in small city lot situations doesn't seem very practical.

If you are only moving the crop several feet each season, you are not accomplishing very much.
If you have disease, or pests (who lay their eggs under their target), then moving that crop to the next bed has not done much to eliminate the problem. If you are walking back and forth between the beds, or using the same tools without sanitizing them between vegetable types,you are just transfering the problem to the new area.

By mixing the various veggy families in the same beds, you are adding enough diversity that disease should not become problematic. Concentrating one veggy family enmasse is what attracts diseases, and over-populations of pests.

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I haven't planted tomatoes in 5 years. They come back from the few that drop on the ground.

It's amazing how lazy and inexpensive gardening can be if you skip all the stuff we were raised to believe. Like tilling every year. No weeds. Rotating crops. Poison. Etc. Etc.
[quote=John Polk

By mixing the various veggy families in the same beds, you are adding enough diversity that disease should not become problematic. Concentrating one veggy family enmasse is what attracts diseases, and over-populations of pests.

But it seems to me that what he is suggesting in the above quote is to make specific beds and stick to them for certain vegetables. I don't see him mentioning mixing in other things, unless he asumes it's understood?
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To me, by saying "small systems", he's suggesting polycultures in each permanent bed. I would be planting, or allowing to self seed, radish and dill within the cucumber bed for example.
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I have been asking myself the very same questions. Is it really necessary to follow a strict crop rotation if all of the beds are planted with a wide variety of plants mixed together? I planted my two 40' beds with short rows of this next to short rows of that, with small patches of other things, and various herbs and flowers tucked in here and there. And next year, the bed will probably be planted with the same general mix, but things might be in different places within the bed - all rather haphazardly. I like it that way.

I actually worked out a strict rotation plan for when all of my beds are completed, but now I'm questioning whether I want to basically plant monocultures in each bed. I really like the look of the mixed beds, and am hoping that this technique, which I have heard of people using with success, will negate the need for rigid crop rotations. On the other hand, I don't want to end up with a failed garden. I will be market gardening next year when all of the beds are finished, and although I want to do the best thing for the plants growing in my garden, I also don't want to make more work for myself than is necessary. And having structures for climbing plants placed in a permanent home sounds like a great way to reduce the work load.

All beds will get compost/mulch layers added regularly; all beds will get amendments when needed; and all beds will be planted with all of the beneficial companion plants that seem to be effective. Many elements that attract beneficials are also being set up in the garden - plants and flowers that attract beneficial insects; a small pond for frogs; perches and birdbaths for birds; rock piles for snakes and lizards. You know, the usual suspects. So, still pondering whether strict crop rotations are necessary.

I hope others chime in with their actual experiences regarding this issue.
Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more ... richsoil.com/wd-gardening.jsp

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