Vegetable Garden

A must do in gardening: Vegetable crop rotation

One of the wonderful benefits of living in Florida is that it allows for year-round gardening! Community gardens and yards alike are colorfully decorated with favorites such as onions, squash, basil, tomatoes and more. If you’re anything like me it can be a lot keeping up with all of the needs of a garden; each plant is almost like a person, holding individual requirements and preferences.  But never fear! Just like humans-plants share some basic beneficial commonalities across the board. Today’s topic? Vegetable garden crop rotation, that’s right, you heard me! This simple gardening practice is a great way to help manage pests while also promoting soil fertility- it’s a win-win.

So let’s look into what this “crop rotation” consists of–you don’t need to be a farmer or have your almanac on hand for this one. It’s simply ensuring that members of the same plant family are not grown in the same section of garden season after season. In previous years, I would grow vegetables in a rotation but not based on family-but rather by species. I planted lettuce one season and the next season I would grow tarragon in the same plot, which in my mind was proper plant rotation because they were not the same species… little did I know that lettuce and tarragon are members of the same plant family- Asteraceae.

I know what you’re thinking, “There are so many species and so many families, how am I supposed to know if I am properly rotating my vegetable crops or not?”. Well, we have put together a handy chart for your convenience located just below!  This chart is filled with common vegetables and herbs grown in Polk County along with all your favorite vegetable families (Typed in bold) such as Apiaceae, Poaceae, Fabaceae and more!

Vegetable plant families

Vegetable plant families

Another helpful tool you can take advantage of is the Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide (located for free online), which is full of important basics from choosing the best location for your garden to pest management and composting. As I mentioned earlier, Florida is a state where you can garden all year round, but there is a trick to this! For the best outcome, it is important to follow the correct planting dates for central Florida (trust me I learned this the hard way).  This is because planting dates can vary from vegetable to vegetable and even more so within which part of the state you live in. Again, you can turn to your convenient Florida Vegetable Gardening guide for the appropriate dates for your area.

Another step to success in achieving the ultimate green thumb is to create a garden plan; this allows you to keep track of the plants in your garden from season to season and understand how to rotate your vegetable garden by plant families. No need to worry about how to set up the layout of this “rotation plan” because we have already done the brainstorming for you and have given you an example below of a well-organized crop rotation plan! The essentials for this plan need to be a log or calendar that contains planting dates, plant names, and details about the plants.  Adding in your own growing notes is always advisable.

Sample Crop Rotation

Sample Crop Rotation

So there you have it! Vegetable garden crop rotation is an important part of gardening that can improve soil and reduce the chances of pests turning your garden into their home.  Keeping a calendar or log is a great way to keep from planting the same family in the same plot back to back while also keeping track of your plants. If you have other concerns don’t forget to visit the Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide and be sure to check out some of the links that I have listed for more in-depth information on garden upkeep and some of the interesting programs that The University of Florida has to offer.

Helpful links:

Starting your own vegetable garden

Central Florida Gardening Calendar

Workshops and classes for Polk County

This blog post was written by Horticulture Program intern, Evangelon James  under supervision of the Master Gardener Coordinator and Residential Horticulture Agent Anne Yasalonis.

For more information, contact UF/IFAS Extension Polk County at (863) 519-1041 or visit us online at http://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/polk.  The Plant Clinic is open Monday-Friday, 9:00 am-4:00 pm to answer your gardening and landscaping questions. Visit us in person, give us a call, or email us at polkmg@ifas.ufl.edu.

The Florida Master Gardener Program is a volunteer-driven program that benefits UF/IFAS Extension and the citizens of Florida.  The program  extends the vision of the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, all the while protecting and sustaining natural resources and environmental systems, enhancing the development of human resources, and improving the quality of human life through the development of knowledge in agricultural, human and natural resources and making that knowledge accessible.

An Equal Opportunity Institution.

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