The Q&A Archives: Crop Rotation

Question: I live in Baltimore, MD and have a small rowhouse garden. I have been planting tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. I put 10-10-10 fertilizer and cow manure into my soil each year. The tomatoes have been performing orse each year, last year the prppers were great, but I got no eggplants at all. I have tried not to put tomatoes in the same spot each year, but I think it may be time to give the soil a rest from tomatoes. Any suggestions?

Answer: Crop rotation is an important aspect of growing healthy plants. By planting different crops in your garden, you'll outwit overwintering insects and outsmart overwintering disease pathogens. The key to crop rotation is to plant members of different plant families in the sites. The plants you've been growing are all members of the Solanaceae family, so you've been defeating the purpose even though you've been rotating your crops. A good rule of thumb is to rotate your crops on a three year cycle, growing root crops one year, leafy crops the next year, and fruiting crops the following year, followed by root crops, etc. The fertilizer and manure are fine amendments to your soil, so keep adding them! Just try planting carrots, or beans or lettuce in the bed this year instead of tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. If you can't survive a summer season without vine-ripened tomatoes, grow one or two plants in containers on a deck or patio instead of directly in the garden. Hope this clarifies things for you.

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