The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Garden rotation

Tomato blightYou've probably heard the term "garden rotation" before, but what does it mean and why do we do it?

Let's start with the example of early blight, a fungal disease that hits tomatoes in warm, damp weather.  Mainstream tomato growers spray anti-fungal chemicals on their plants to keep early blight at bay, but those of us gardening organically have to come up with another solution.  I won't go into the specifics of combating tomato fungal diseases organically here.  The relevant point is that once your tomatoes come down with early blight, the fungal spores can survive in the soil for years.  So if you plant tomatoes in the same ground next year, they're going to be infected with early blight nearly immediately and you may get no crop at all.

Okay, you say, that's not too tough.  I'll just move my tomatoes every year.  But here's the thing --- tomatoes and potatoes are in the same family, and they tend to share a lot of diseases.

Weekend Homesteader paperbackLate blight is a fungal disease that's much more devastating than early blight, but, luckily for us, late blight can only survive in living plant tissue.  Since tomatoes shrivel up and die at the first sign of frost, you don't need to worry about late blight being carried over from one year to the next...unless you grow potatoes.  Have you ever noticed that it's nearly impossible to harvest every tiny spud out of the soil, and that "volunteer" potatoes tend to pop up in the spot where you grew potatoes last year?  If you had late blight in last year's garden, those volunteer potatoes will spread the disastrous fungus to any tomatoes you plant nearby this year.  So when you choose the spot for your tomatoes this year, you want to make sure neither tomatoes nor potatoes have been grown there recently.

I could tell you dozens of interactions like this that you want to avoid, but garden rotation is really pretty simple.  If you grow a vegetable in a spot that hasn't been home to any plants in the same family for at least three years, then you'll cut down on insects and diseases drastically.  Wouldn't you rather spend an hour planning out your garden than battle sick plants all summer?

This week's lunchtime series includes one of the four projects from Weekend Homesteader: November.  Stay tuned for the rest of the series, or check out the 99 cent ebook for more information on how to store drinking water for use during power outages, to put an entire chicken to use in the kitchen, and to bring in cash without going to the office.

This post is part of our Garden Rotation lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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