Photo copyright © Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc.
Crop rotation is an old method of rotating the edible crops grown in a certain place, so the garden soil stays fertile and healthy. Basically, you want to avoid planting edibles from the same plant family in the same place in your garden, more than once every three years – sometimes longer.
To practice crop rotation, you’ll need to know the plant families of your edibles. Check here for that information. You’ll also need to keep good gardening records, so you’ll remember what you’ve grown over the years. That way you can avoid growing your favorite edibles and their siblings in the same spots in your garden.
Thomas Jefferson not only practiced crop rotation, but he also grew cover crops like clover and peas that added nitrogen and healthy organic matter to the soil. These living mulches suppressed weeds, and attracted beneficial insects as well.
As he explained in a letter dated 1798, “My rotation is triennial… one year of wheat and two of clover in the stronger fields, or two of peas in the weaker, with a crop of Indian corn and potatoes between every other rotation, that is to say once in seven years.”
Using this method, wrote Jefferson, “aided with some manure, I hope my fields will recover their fertility, which had … been completely exhausted by perpetual crops of Indian corn and wheat alternately.”
Learn more about cover crops, crop rotation … and Monticello.
Source of Thomas Jefferson quote – “Nature’s Bank – The Soil,” (National Wildlife Federation; 1953).