Crop rotation entails planning a specified order for crops to plant on the same field. It also means planning the crops to succeed in the current crops in field.
There are different ways of organizing crop rotation. This depends on the gardener’s preference and knowledge. Some take 2 or 3 years. But a four-year crop rotation system is also possible.
Crop rotation allows the soil to improve structure and fertility. This contributes to better crop yield. Crops need different nutrients from the soil. They benefit more when they are rotated.
The soil also harbors different organic substances. These are excreted from the roots. Rotations allow the transformation of these substances into important nutrients.
Growing different plant families is recommended for a basic four-year crop rotation system. Involving significantly more crops makes the rotation more fruitful.
This does not require large farms to succeed. Smaller farms are considered great for a four-year rotation system.
Example of a four-year rotation system
Four main crops can be alternated in a garden over a four-year crop rotation period. This is mostly suitable for small farms.
The four include Legumes, Greens, Fruiting vegetables, and Root veggies. This is among the systems that have proven to work successfully for gardeners.
The four-year system dictates that you start with legumes in the first year. You do legumes immediately after you harvest them. Then the third year, you plant fruitful vegetables.
Finally, finish your system with root vegetables. Following this order is very important to ascertain the benefits of rotation.
Category of crops for a four-year rotation system
Legumes are a good place to start the rotation system. This includes crops such as beans, peas, soybeans, and peanuts. There is no specific reason why this is recommended for a start. But the requirement is to have plants of the same family.
Greens and Brassicas can then replace the legumes. There is a wide range of crops in this category. They include cabbage, lettuce, kale, broccoli, and other leafy greens. The order of this being the second is very important.
The fruiting vegetables are considered appropriate to replace the legumes. This is another large group of crops. They include tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini squash plant, among others.
They are considered leafy and flowery. They are also considered to require different nutrients from the legumes.
The final group of crops that can replace the fruiting vegetables are the root veggies. They are also a group of vegetables but different.
Examples include carrots, radishes, onion, leeks, turnips, and garlic. They flourish more in producing fruits without much leafing.
How the four-year crop rotation system works
The four-year crop rotation is considered beneficial to soil life. There is a benefit for each crop introduced. Some technical terms may be used to explain it. But it simply reflects how nutrients are replenished in the soil.
The introduction of legumes fixes nitrogen deficiency in the soil. They are known for forming nodules on the root of a plant. This helps with the conversion of nitrogen into ammonia. Nitrogen is retained in the soil and works as a fertilizer nutrient.
Replacing the legumes with greens and brassicas works perfectly. The greens utilize the stored-up nitrogen in the soil. This is considered very good for leafing plants. But they also prepare the soil for another group of crops.
Fruiting vegetables come in handy after the greens and brassicas. These are plants that do not need a lot of nitrogen. They need more phosphorus to produce fruits. Otherwise, they can be leafy and less fruitful.
The final rotation introduces the root veggies. These are a group of plants that feed on many nutrients. But they need potassium and phosphorus more to flourish. They are introduced at a point where nitrogen is used up. This is considered very good for their growth.
The cycle starts over again after the fourth crop. It is time to introduce nitrogen-fixing legumes again.
How to improve the four-year crop rotation system
You can improve the four-year crop rotation further. It is recommended that you add three more options.
These options include flowers, cover crops, and fallow. They do not have to be used for each rotation. They can be introduced without any specific order.
Remember to cover the soil after the fourth rotation. This works well with cover crops. It helps with soil building and replenishing nutrients. It has been preferred mostly by vegetable gardeners.
Introducing flowers for every succession is also recommended. They are good at facilitating pollination. Experts also identify them as good for breaking the pest cycle. Flowers also provide beauty and are beneficial to insects.
Importance of soil rest in a crop rotation system?
It is also recommended that you give a plot some rest. Allowing it to lay fallow is great for replenishing. This is mostly practiced after the last crop harvest.
Applying compost is the proper way of doing it. Watering the plot at such a time is also important.
Laying mulch has also been identified as appropriate. This can be done using tree leaves. The mulch covers the soil. It protects the soil’s moisture. It also encourages earthworms that are good for aeration.
This is a good time to prepare for the next crop. It is important to prepare the garden when ready. The preparation has to consider the crop it will carry. Mulch can be retained if it does not affect the next plant.
Word of advice for a successful rotation
Overall, the 4-Year Crop Rotation Plan is both easy and simple. But record keeping is important for success.
Gardeners are recommended to use a journal. This helps in tracking the rotation with ease. It also helps with the proper planning of the rotation system.
The records are also good for keeping track of crop productivity. It is a good guide on what changes are required during the rotation.
Remember that all the changes must be well informed. You must consider all factors, including the current crop and the expected replacement.