Staple crop rotation

A large part of our planning this winter was on how to organize our vegetable crop rotations. For instance, corn is especially demanding for soil nutrients and not everything does well when planted in succession after corn. Similarly, we don’t want to plant potatoes in a bed tomatoes were in the previous year, as nightshades they tend to share diseases and pests.

So now the plan is set into action. Here we go. We’ve got a four year rotation set up for staple crops: beans, then corn, then potatoes, then squash. The rest of the vegetables are set up on an 8 year rotation, a bit more complicated, I’ll have to put together a flip-book to explain that one.

For the staple crops, this is how it should work. Beans are fantastic, they fix nitrogen in the soil, a good prep for planting corn the following year. Although corn taxes the soil, potatoes have shown to be unhindered in growth when planted immediately after corn. Potatoes will be hilled and therefore relatively weed free and ready to go for squash the next year. Potatoes and squash, being both big leafy plants, back-to-back, will serve as a good cleaning crops to reduce weed pressure, in preparations for beans the following year. And then we’re back to corn.

There are two blocks of 16 beds, one in the front field one in the back. Each block has alternating rows of two staple crops. This year, corn and squash are in the front. Potatoes and beans in the back. We have one type of corn (popcorn), five different varieties of beans, eight varieties of winter squash, and seven different types of potatoes. The beans are inter-cropped with marigolds, which help deter the bean beetle. The beans and potatoes alternate together especially well, because beans help deter the Colorado potato beetle and potatoes also help deter the bean beetle. Along the same lines, the squash are partnered with corn in the front beds, because the squash will help mulch the corn rows during the heat of summer. Nasturtiums are planted at the end of each squash row to fend off squash bugs. There are sunflowers inter-cropped with the corn and squash ..because they are pretty, and amaranth too because it’s beautiful and delicious. We’ve held out until just this past weekend to plant our popcorn, Dakota Black, in hopes that it will set tassel after our neighbors who are growing sweet corn, and we will be able to save seed.

Rotations are go. First year. Seems like a good start, we’ll see how it works. And here are a few more photos..

We’re finding new blooms around the farm.  Peas just popped open. Clover for the bees. Arugula for us. A field of blue flax.

And some sleepy farm animals.

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