Head Starts and Crop Rotations

In early spring it is very hard not to dream of the summer growing season.

Gardeners who want an early start often start plants indoors. These are usually the heat-loving plants like tomatoes and peppers.

With our very short growing season it is to the Yukon gardener’s advantage to start other plants as well — every little bit counts.

Lettuce can be grown on the windowsill and enjoyed long before the snow is gone. Just start it once the days begin to get longer. Otherwise, it will stretch out to find the light and there won’t be much leaf to harvest.

Most herbs also benefit from a head start. Some can even be enjoyed year round if they are planted in a pot and only moved outside during the summer.

Long-season crops like onions and cabbages benefit from the extra time as well.

A gardener would be wise to plot their garden on paper. By making a map of the area to be planted and marking where last year’s vegetables were, it is possible to rotate crops around.

Crop rotation is a term is usually applied to large tracts of farmland. But the same method can be used for backyard gardeners. It’s an age-old method of avoiding disease build-up in the soil and keeping a step ahead of any insects that have wintered at the roots of last year’s plants. It also prevents the soil from being depleted of the same micronutrients year after year. Consider adding a rest year, or summer fallow, into the plot rotation.

As long as similar plants are kept together, this works. Cabbage pests and diseases will also prey on broccoli, radishes and turnips. By keeping these crops close to each other in the garden they will be easier to move (on paper) as a group.

Peas and beans, in combination with bacteria in the soil, will take nitrogen out of the air and fix it in nodules on the plant roots. If the roots are allowed to remain in the soil to break down, the nitrogen becomes available to other plants the following season.

If deep beds are used in crop rotation you could keep root crops in one, the cabbage family in another and peas or beans in a third. Or it could be as easy as dividing up the garden into 3 or 4 sections and rotating what is planted on each section.

We have more than one garden so we rotate the different plants from one garden to the next. Sometimes this has it’s own unique challenges because the gardens aren’t all the same size.

But still, crop rotation is a strategy I like to follow.

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