November 2, 2022

Crop rotation - noun

Definitions: Alternating crops from different families on the same piece of land over time to utilize different nutrient profiles and reduce pest infestations.

Crop rotation in the Forest Garden:

Forest Gardeners apply crop rotation to ensure that their land can remain productive in the long term. Different crops require different nutrients to grow, so if a farmer repeatedly plants the same crop, the soil will soon eventually run out of the necessary nutrients to make it grow and lead to a failed or underwhelming yield. By planting a crop from a different plant family to the one previously planted, farmers can better balance the use of available soil nutrients, and in some cases even inject nutrients like nitrogen back into the soil for the subsequent crops to use.  

Similarly, pests tend to feed on crops in the same families. So, if a certain crop or crop family is planted repeatedly, the pests that attack them will begin to colonize around them, where they’ll remain from season to season. Planting a rotation of different crops each season will deter pest populations from getting out of control. 

The Forest Garden Approach recommends a cycle of planting a leafy crop (which needs more nitrogen), followed by a fruit crop (like tomato, which needs less nitrogen and more phosphorous), followed by a root (which needs little nitrogen, more potassium, and some phosphorous), followed by a legume (which returns nitrogen to the soil). 

Want to learn more about agroforestry? Sign up for our FGTC newsletter here. Plus, join our FGTC Facebook Group to get connected with a global community of agroforesters.