Organic Agriculture Part 2 Soil Health
Myth Busting: Soil Health and Crop Rotation
“The rotation of crops is designed to nourish, exercise and rest the soil.”
In our last blog we talked about large scale organic agriculture and how those farmers nurish their soil and maintain plant health. Now lets discuse small farm soil and crop health. At Field To Fork CSA we have a integrated soil health and pest managment plan. We divide our fields into sections and have a three year plan for most crops. Those crops are moved throughout the field beds based on plant family and season. Our crop rotation is on a cycle.
For example let’s say tomatoes, which are in the nightshade family, were planted in bed #1 this season. They will grow in bed #1 until they stop producing in early fall and will be pulled out. Next year, tomatoes will be planted in, say, bed #2, and something else, like peas, which are in the legume family, will be planted in bed #1. And the next year, both crops will be moved again. Bed #1 will not be planted with another nightshade plant, like tomatoes, peppers or eggplants, for three or more years after the tomato crop was pulled. Same goes for the legumes, and every other plant family. It is even three or more years between plant families being grown in the same bed.
This kind of crop rotation helps balance the biological health of the soil, for different plants and families give and take different nutrients from the soil. Even over the winter, when not all of the beds are growing crops we think of as harvestable, the beds are planted with cover crops to perpetuate the nutrient exchange and to protect the soil from erosion.
With balanced, nutrient-rich soil, we are building the foundation of a healthy farm and food system—one that is sustainable, flourishing with seasonal and regional crops, and does not rely on chemical inputs.