rotating plants in MN

boyle014(Z4)January 17, 2009

Just checked out a gardening book. It had a chapter on rotating plants that has you planting peas in February and onions in November. Obviously, the author does NOT live in Minnesota.

What is the best way to rotate plants here, or is it necessary at all? What do you plant to extend the season? What do you plant to nourish the soil?

I planted basil in the same spot in the garden for two years in a row. The first year, the plants thrived. The second year, they never took off. Seems like I should move them to a new spot this year. What should I plant where they used to be?

BTW, I live on a very small, urban lot. Only a few choice spots are full sun. So I don't have the option to plant tons of things.

Thanks for any ideas!

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Well maybe replenish the nutriants in the same spot? How about addindind fert!

    Bookmark   January 17, 2009 at 6:38PM
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Sometimes that's the problem with many gardening books - they assume everybody gardens year around in a warm climate and knows what Manzanitas are. To plant peas in February up here, I'd be burrowing down under 3 feet of snow; making holes for November onions with a jackhammer.

You might have just gotten a bad batch of basil, or the drainage isn't quite right, the soil too compacted, or even not quite enough sun (6-8 hrs). Could be your garden space would benefit from the addition of some compost or as suggested above, a little fertilizer.

I don't grow herbs or veggies, but a lot of my 2/3 urban acre is in gardens and has been for decades. I've never "rotated" plants beyond the usual putting in, taking out, moving around type thing. I don't seem to have anything that is a noticeable soil nutrient depleter.

I do a lot of composting and topdress all the beds with that each fall; sometimes for additional organic material I'll let a covering of the fall leaves stay on the beds - they break down and get incorporated eventually.

If you don't compost but have a little out of the way space - in sun or shade, it doesn't matter - to simply pile up leaves, plant debris, used coffee grounds, banana peals, fruit rinds, shredded newspaper, junk mail etc. on the ground you'd be on your way to having the perfect soil additive or amendment.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2009 at 8:54PM
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Boyle, I don't have an answer for you other than what was already given but I do have the same problem you do; urban gardener with little space and not enought sun.
I am going to experiment with sq ft gardening and verticle gardening this year. Also, I have amassed a good quantity of compost and (shhhh-I have built a shed of sorts and am slowly digging out the dirt from it and using it on the garden. One day maybe a pond or catch basin will be there or when I remove the plaster/lathe from walls I won' have to haul it far. it will be the base of my rock garden.)
I own the house and the small plot here and I guess I can do what I want.

I also picked up an older book on mulches. Didn't know they could be so varied and beneficial. I am going to experiment with tin foil-keeps the soil temp down 10 degrees or so during the day and about 10 degrees warmer during the night according to the book. Can't hurt.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2009 at 3:30AM
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Thanks for the feedback! Sounds like everyone's experience is that rotation doesn't matter much in MN. I do add compost to the soil every spring and fall, and fertilize my plants with diluted fish emulsion from time to time (except for those that like bad soil, like nasturiums) so I don't think that's the problem. You're probably right, Duluth, that I just got a bad batch of basil. Good luck with the foil, Wiley. Let us know how it goes.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2009 at 2:07PM
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mnwsgal 4 MN(4)

I do rotate my tomatoes and beans from one section of the veg. garden to another each year. Also add compost in the fall or spring and work it in well. This harkens back to what my farmer father taught me. Fertilize and rotate your crops.

One of the sq. ft. garden techniques is adding a bit of fertilizer every time one changes out a square. My veg. beds are modified sq. ft. gardening. I have two large raised squares surrounded by long 2 foot wide border beds. I generally space plants in the squares as indicated in sq. ft. gardening.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2009 at 9:59PM
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leftwood(z4a MN)

The whole purpose of rotating crops is to 1)prevent a buildup of harmful pathogens (insects or disease) specific to the crop, and 2)to offset depletion of the soil from heavy feeding crops. It is an integral management tool for organic farmers, and homeowners with large vegetable gardens.

Example: if tomatoes are continually planted in the same place, diseases that live in the soil can build up in number, and each successive year your tomatoes may have a worsening disease problem. Rotating your tomatoes to other sections of the garden will mitigate the threat.

Unfortunately, rotating crops is not an option for gardeners with small gardens. You must rely on other means, like better disease hygiene, knowledge and management of pathogen, or closer attention paid to fertilizing.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2009 at 12:26AM
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Thanks mnswgal and leftwood for a different perspective. I'll try something different in the old basil spot next year. Is there a particular succession of plants over a few years that works well? I'd prefer to plant things that are edible that don't get real tall (the spot is toward the front of the garden).

    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 8:45AM
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leftwood(z4a MN)

If you can rotate, try to choose the successive plant type from a different plant family, and so to be not closely related. Insects and diseases tend to zero in on particular related plants, so rotating cabbage with broccoli (both in the Cruciferae family), for example, won't do much good, because they are both attacked by the same types of insects and disease.

This holds true for legumes, with an added bonus. Since legumes (beans, peas, etc.) tend to use a lot of nitrogen from the air rather than the soil, using them to replenish soil nitrogen where a previous non-legume crop grew, or for one that will, is sound thinking.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 3:10PM
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mnwsgal 4 MN(4)

I do as leftwood says, replacing with a different plant family each year. Beans are used to help replenish the previous tomato plots. I have enough area that I can usually rotate on a three year cycle.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 4:12PM
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What families are part of your three-year cycle, mnwsgal? Tomatoes/basil/peppers, beans/legumes, and then the Cruciferae family? (Thanks for the new vocab word, leftwood.) I've only got the one spot, but I can vary what I plant in it.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 10:37PM
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mnwsgal 4 MN(4)

I plant beans, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, peppers, spinach, lettuce, and sometimes radishes for veggies. These are the veggies we like to eat. Don't plant peas as frozen ones are delicous and easy. Anything else we want we buy at the farmers' market. Also plant a few marigolds, snaps, alyssum etc in the veg beds.

Pole beans replace the tomatoes, tomatoes replace cucumbers/carrots, cuck/carrots/peppers replace beans. Spinach and lettuce get planted here and there. Radishes in with lettuce and carrots. There are only two of us and I only grow enough for fresh produce and freeze a few tomatoes.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2009 at 3:44AM
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leftwood(z4a MN)

If you know the botanical name of the vegetable, you can look here to find what family it is in:

Punch in the botanical name of the plant in the search box, and then scroll down for the tax chain (taxonomy chain) where it will list the species, genus, family, order, etc.
Some of the better seed catalogs, like Territorial Seed Company will give the botanical names, along with the common vegetable names.

For instance, if you punch in Lycopersicon lypersicum(tomato) in the search box, you find that the family is Solanaceae.

This can get kinda tricky until you realize what's going on. Notice the tax chain of Capsicum annuum(pepper). It has similar words in its tax chain that are similar to that of tomato's, but they are different families.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2009 at 8:58PM
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