In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
March, 2011
Regional Report

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Rotating crops with legumes such as peas will add nitrogen to the soil.

Rotate Crops

Crop rotation is a simple cultural procedure that helps maintain a healthy garden. Annual vegetables and flowers in the same plant family are susceptible to specific pests and diseases that may over winter in the soil and plague the gardener for years. Also, families of plants tend to require certain nutrient levels and can deplete the soil of these nutrients over the long term.

By rotating plant locations in your garden each year, you can help prevent the buildup of pests and diseases as well as give soil time to replenish. Allow at least two years before replanting a location with the same crop family, although three years is even better. Keep track of what you planted where with a garden journal, simple sketches, or snap a few photos.

Because legumes naturally add nitrogen to the soil, they are always a good choice for rotation after any other family, but especially after heavy nitrogen feeders, such as corn or members of the brassica (cabbage) family.

Also, maintain healthy soil by adding plentiful amounts of organic matter before each planting season. Layer 4 to 6 inches of organic matter on top of the soil and dig it in. If you grow a warm season and a cool season garden, that means twice per year, not just annually! Following are common garden plants by family:

Brassicaceae (or Cruciferae) family: bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, kale, radish, turnip.

Curcurbitaceae family: cucumber, gourd, melon, pumpkin, squash.

Fabaceae (or Leguminosae) family: beans, peas, chickpeas, and cover crops such as alfalfa, clover, hairy vetch.

Alliaceae family: chives, garlic, leeks, onion, shallots.

Solanaceae family: eggplant, pepper, potato, tomato, nicotiana, petunia.

Umbelliferae (or Apiaceae) family: carrots, celery, cilantro, dill, fennel, parsley, parsnip, Queen Anne's lace.


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