a.) determined what plants you’d like to grow and
b.) have ideal times for those plants,
it’s time to combine this information into a cohesive strategy for the whole year that minimizes your effort while maximizing your output.
…to satisfy myself by enquiry from the best farmers of all the circumstances which may decide on the best rotation of crops; for I take that to be the most important of all the questions a farmer has to decide.Thomas Jefferson
Planting a legume crop after growing a heavy feeding crop helped to restore some of the nitrogen in the soil.
Leaving the field fallow allowed micro-organisms that had died off from tilling to recover.
Planting different crops reduced pest populations that targetted specific crops.
Used throughout the middle ages in Europe, the three-field crop rotation system was supplanted in popularity in the 17th century by Charles Townshend’s 4 crop rotation system (that mixed in livestock feed crops) before gradually giving way to the easy promises of chemical-based agriculture in the 1950s. Most western agricultural systems have forgotten techniques of crop rotation; however, other countries in Asia and South America have continued to successfully experiment with some forms of multi-cropping.
Intercropping or “alley cropping” is a system of planting alternating crops in the same space. Usually in commercial agriculture this is done with alternating rows, but in small-scale gardens this can be done using mixed intercropping.
In mixed intercropping two plants are alternated between each other. An example would be placing a nitrogen-fixing bean between a heavy nitrogen feeder like tomato or corn.
Another example would be planting a row of quick-growing leafy greens like lettuce in between slow-growing tubers like carrots or leeks. The lettuce will fill out quickly and retain moisture for the carrots.
Planting more than one crop in the same space within one year
Planting one set of plants after harvesting the previous crop
The advantages of this technique are many:
1.) The soil is mulched by the crops so you don’t have bare soil exposed to the elements.
2.) The previous crop’s decomposing roots and leaves retain nutrients and provide aeration.
3.) You can double or triple your harvest using the same space!
Pineapple ratoon cropping
The advantage to this system is that the plants already have an established root system and can grow for a second harvest much quicker than putting in a new crop. Used for commercial crops like cotton, sorghum and rice, we can easily adapt this to the backyard for annual veggies like chard, brassicas like kale or bok choy, and pigeon peas.
“Ratoon cropping is the practice of partially harvesting leaves and fruit back to the root stubble”
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