Crop Rotation Posted in Seasonal, Tips & Tricks Tagged Crop Rotation 09 Feb '11
Crop rotation has been part of crop production for hundreds of years and the principles behind it are very simple. Today, when we are in our vegetable gardens aiming to produce chemical free food, crop rotation is as relevant as ever. Above is a diagram of a 5 part rotation which we have stuck to in the garden as much as possible. Some crops such as sweetcorn and squashes can be fitted in anywhere in the system to draw out the length of time the same crop is grown on the same patch of land. The longer the period of time between having the same crop in the same place the less likely it is for pests and diseases to take hold.
Add manure, organic fertilizers and lime or calcified seaweed between crops to create the most beneficial environment for the following crop. So for example adding lime before brassica reduces the incidence of club root and putting manure on before potatoes increases potassium and phosphate levels which in turn increases tuber production. Legumes fix nitrogen in the soil therefore increasing fertility for the hungry brassicas that follow.
Rotation also helps in the control of weeds. Potatoes are good crop for cleaning the soil of weeds as they produce a thick canopy and the mechanics of digging and earthing up the soil encourages germination and subsequent extermination of seedling weeds. The next onion family crop benefits as they do not do well in a weedy plot.
The Plot Garden Diary February Posted in Diary, Tips & Tricks Tagged Borders, Tips & Tricks, Veg Patch 03 Feb '11
Now is the time to tidy up and generally take stock of your garden. During the winter months the bare bones of your garden are obvious, it is the easiest time of year to evaluate the layout and general structure of your garden, and plan projects for the coming year.
Planning your borders and crop production for the coming months can be a bit of light relief from all the winter doom and gloom around at the moment. The Plot garden diary is for you to read, it contains reminders, hints and tips about what you can be doing in your garden and a few design notes and ideas along the way.
Rake over your borders and trim back any remaining perennials from last year. Remove any dead leaves and weeds. Give your borders a good mulch of either leaf mould or well rotted compost. The advantages of doing this now are that a good covering of mulch will help to suppress annual weeds this spring and help to retain moisture in the soil over the summer. Mulching improves the soil by adding organic matter which improves any kind of soil be it heavy clay or light sandy soil. Mulching borders now saves you having to work around those little spring bulbs peeping through the soil in a few weeks time.
Most things in the garden are still pretty dormant, so now is the ideal time to divide perennials. I try to leave as many perennials with seed heads intact for as long as possible in the winter, not just to enjoy their forms and shapes, but to provide seed for birds e.g. Echinacea and of course the teasel, loved by gold finches. Many herbaceous plants, in particular, grasses such as Miscanthus provide a winter habitat for ladybirds, lacewings and butterflies.
Now is the best time to get in bare root fruit trees. We have a selection of apples, pears, cherries plums and damsons ready for dispatch now.
Your Veg Patch
February feels like the start of a new gardening year. Potatoes to chit, greenhouses and polytunnels to clean and prepare for the new growing season. Get your pots seed trays, modules and rootrainers clean and at the ready. If you haven’t already done so think about what you want to grow this year, how much time and space you have available and what fruit and veg you really want to eat from your garden.
Start chitting your seed potatoes in egg trays in a cool place with plenty of light.
In milder areas particularly if you use cloches to warm the soil and protect young plants, chard, spinach and early carrots can be sown. Broad beans and garlic can be sown now into deep root trainers to plant out next month. Mixed salad leaves can be started off on modules in the greenhouse or polytunnel now ready to go out when the soil outside warms up. Lettuce and salad leaves do well started in modules as they can be planted out at the correct spacings and root disturbance is kept to a minimum. If the weather is kind onion and shallot sets can be planted out later this month.
In the fruit garden now is the time to plant fruit bushes and raspberry canes. Cut down last year’s autumn fruiting raspberries to the ground and either mulch or add a little bone meal.
Wildlife is an important part of biodiversity in the garden. Birds, mammals and insects play a vital role in fruit and vegetable production and pest control in the garden. Make sure you have suitable nest boxes sited in your garden or allotment, to provide a home for blue tits who love to eat aphid eggs and thrushes and blackbirds who feast on slugs and snails.