Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
September, 2007
Regional Report

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Every plant family appreciates the gift of compost, which sometimes bursts into bloom as it's decomposing.

Choosing Crops in Rotation

At the end of each season we have to decide what future crops to plant where. Even if we have only a tiny space or a group of containers on our patios, it's always wise to rotate crops according to families. That is, choose a plant that's in a different family from the crop previously growing in that spot. This can help the soil as well as the plants.

Plants in the same family tend to have similar nutrient needs and can deplete the soil of that specific balance of nutrients. Plants in the same family both attract and are susceptible to the same pests and diseases, which can overwinter in the soil and attack related plants year after year.

Try to refrain from planting members of the same family in the same spot in your garden for at least two and preferably three or more years. This will give the soil time to recuperate from overuse by that crop family and support the needs of another crop family.

Now, following our hot weather harvests, we're planting crops that will overwinter and produce all winter long. Use these guidelines in developing your planting schedule.

Plant Families
Tomatoes, like eggplants, peppers, and potatoes, are members of the Solanaceae family, which are heavy feeders with many fungal enemies. It's best to follow these crops with legumes like beans, peas, clovers, and vetches.

Cucumbers, melons, squash, and pumpkins are all Cucurbitaceae family members and also should be followed with legumes.

Corn, wheat, oats, and rye are in the Graminae family, which are best planted before crops in the tomato or squash families to control weeds and improve the soil's ability to handle water.

Carrots, parsley, dill, fennel, and coriander are in the Umbelliferae family (think of upside down umbrellas), and are moderate feeders. Incorporate compost before planting them, and follow these crops with legumes or a thick layer of organic mulch.

Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, radishes, and turnips are all in the Cruciferae family -- heavy feeders requiring a lot of compost incorporated into the soil, and mulch on top while growing. Precede with legumes, and follow with compost.

Onions and garlic are in the Liliaceae family and best rotated with legumes and planted with thoroughly decomposed organic matter.

As you can see, legumes (beans, peas, clovers, and vetches) are the garden's great revitalizers. They're beneficial to the soil and should be alternated with all other garden crops whenever possible.

Of course, it's a good idea to incorporate at least 2 inches of compost before planting any of these crops!

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