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Crop rotation or poly culture

TCLynx Hatfield


Joined: May 03, 2009
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
I've been struggling with a couple concepts that don't seem to easily work together.

Crop rotation is kinda important down here since we don't have a period of frozen ground to get rid of plant pests over winter.  However, I rather like the idea of mixing things up quite a bit and poly culture food forest gardening.

How do I sort this out?  (either logistically- how to rotate when things are planted all mixed together all over -or- mentally, if I keep things all mixed together is crop rotation really not needed?)

I am currently forgoing Sweet potatoes for a couple of years since we got hit pretty bad by sweet potato weevils which is a real bummer since sweet potatoes are one of the few things we really like that does well through our summers.


TCLynx
[url]http://www.tclynx.com/[/url]
[img]http://www.permies.com/permaculture-images/2692_740/Avitar.jpg[/img]
                    


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
I don't think it would be too hard to come up with some annual guilds that you can move around a garden in patches over the years.  It would be a rotation of polycultures made up of annual plants, which would let you avoid growing the same thing in the same place year after year (causes problems like you mentioned), and get the benefits of multiple plants living in close proximity. 

Like maybe (allow me to pull this from my behind)...sweet potato (viney trailey ground cover), fenugreek (mid-height pungent nitrogen fixer and nice cooking herb), and maybe an edible taller chrysanthemum for insects and greens, to start. 

We shaped our garden beds in long cross contour rows terraced down a slope, for flood irrigation.  To avoid one row of the same thing, I had mixtures of things in the rows, but had "themes" for different areas.  One half of the garden had most of the brassicas, the other had the tomatoes, with herbs and flowers and other stuff mixed in all over.  Plus some squash/sunflower patches, and zuchinni/melon/sunflower patches. 

Because I kept certain things kinda in the same general area, I have options to move the species that really need it to new spots, even though I didn't have beds dedicated exclusively to one type of thing.  I want to make the mixtures more complicated each year, and try to get away with closer spacing next year.  I planted carrots along one edge of a bunch of different rows, that worked well as they didn't really take up any extra space like a specific carrot "patch" would.

I've noticed that underground root crop predators don't eat things quite as quickly if what they like is randomly spread around.  Planting a carrot patch would have been like giving the moles an easy food bank:  "Here they are!  All conveniently located!  Bon appetite!" I've been reading that moles don't enjoy the taste of daffodills, so we'll start putting those as permanent residents in the garden or around the perimeter.  We'll see. 
TCLynx Hatfield


Joined: May 03, 2009
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
I suppose I also have some difficulty also in that there are extra growing seasons here.  I can have a complete spring crops of squash, zucchini, melons, pumpkins etc and then come fall I want to plant them again but realize that it hasn't been very long since they were planted in just about any area of the property, they take up so much space and my property isn't very large.  Sigh.
I guess I'll just have to hope that a season off will be enough rather than keeping more than a year before planting something again.

I'm thinking I might try the three sisters guild thing (I had decided to give up on growing corn here but I might try again with the guild.)  This past summer/fall warm planting season the location I'll try this was planted with peanuts and then come cool weather it had turnips for the chickens.  I think as soon as we move the chickens out of that part of the yard we will plant corn then some pole beans and then pumpkins and perhaps also some summer squash and zucchini.  There were pumpkins and summer squash/zucchini there during the previous spring warm season.   Of course the primary bug pests of the cucubrits around here is the squash bugs/leaf footed bugs and other stink bugs, rotation doesn't really protect anything from those good fliers.  To a large extent, I've just ignored them.  Squash and zucchini are usually prolific enough to produce even when plagued by powdery mildew and squash bugs here.  I occasionally spray with BT if the caterpillars get really bad but most of the year it's too hot to use such things unless I want to spray at dusk and be eaten by mosquitos and not see what I'm doing.

Anyway, I try.  (I've been sprinkling in perennial crops among my gardens for a while now.)

Actually sweet potatoes are perennial here but the weevils made them useless.
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4432
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    4
polyculture is very important, but you can rotate the annual vegetables very easily..just take into account their needs..and move them yearly for four years..

obviously perennials are not going to get rotated, so they have to have diseased items removed and nutrients added regularly..but your annuals that aren't self seeded are going to be planted every year..so they can be given a new spot every year..

i do polyculture big time here..as i plant about 90 % of my food crops IN my mixed beds that are full of perennials, vines, trees and shrubs..

when i plant an item in the mixed beds..i dig a hole through the mulch, fill it with a good nutrient blend for that plant species and plunk in the plant or the seeds..i try NOT to put the same annual plant in the same place for another four or five years..as they may pick up some crud from the previous year.

i find vegetables are beautiful..so..they are always put in my mixed beds.

i do have a "vegetable garden" as well..but it also has some permanent things in it like fruit trees, flowers, herbs, rhubarb, asparagus, horseradish, berries..etc..i keep an inner area open for annual vegetables..esp things like corn, potatoes, grains, cole crpos..etc..that take up a lot of room and do best where they are easy to dig up ..won't damamge surrpounding plants etc..like i don't like potatoes in the flower arden, cause they gotta be dug up..corn is better in huge blocks as are grains..etc..those are rotated between more than a half dozen vege garden beds


Brenda

Bloom where you are planted.
http://restfultrailsfoodforestgarden.blogspot.com/
Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
I agree with Marina.

For inspiration, you might look at the system Emilia Hazelip worked out. It's for a mediterranean climate and probably not the best for you, but it is a year-round polyculture for a place with no hard frost.

Do strong insecticide plants like tobacco or jicama help against the sweet potato weevil?

Marina: I just read that castor beans repel moles, both the roots where they grow and the occasional seed dropped into a burrow. I'm not sure how true that is, or if the risk of ricin poisoning is worth it to you, but I thought I might mention it.


"the qualities of these bacteria, like the heat of the sun, electricity, or the qualities of metals, are part of the storehouse of knowledge of all men.  They are manifestations of the laws of nature, free to all men and reserved exclusively to none." SCOTUS, Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kale Inoculant Co.
                    


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
Will ricin just leak out from the dropped beans or do they need to be eaten?  We get a lot of rain and have porous soil, I'm more worried about too much leaching here than too little. 

Don't know if we'll go planting castor beans everywhere but --  We are compiling tips to deal with the little root munchers.  A permaculture teacher who shall remain nameless suggested putting some propane down a hole, and lighting it?  Would the shock waves kill worms and such too? 
TCLynx Hatfield


Joined: May 03, 2009
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
Joel Hollingsworth wrote:
I agree with Marina.

For inspiration, you might look at the system Emilia Hazelip worked out. It's for a mediterranean climate and probably not the best for you, but it is a year-round polyculture for a place with no hard frost.

I tried to look but got a file not found error from the link.  The main problem I have trying to grow mediterranean crops is that our wet season comes the wrong way round usually compared to the Med or CA.  For annual crops this usually isn't such a big deal though.  It's the perennials that have more trouble with the year round climate being different.


Do strong insecticide plants like tobacco or jicama help against the sweet potato weevil?

Hum, I don't know.  But I have grown jicama.  I might have to try something like that.  Jicama takes so long to get started though.


Marina: I just read that castor beans repel moles, both the roots where they grow and the occasional seed dropped into a burrow. I'm not sure how true that is, or if the risk of ricin poisoning is worth it to you, but I thought I might mention it.

I don't know about the beans leaching but I know castor plants grow around here quite a lot and I've never heard of the ground water being poisioned by them.  The soil here is so sandy that little is stopped by it.
                    


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
I'm looking forward to the point when we've been here longer and we don't have "vegetable beds" but more like what Brenda described - lots of perennial things all over with veggies mixed in as they fit.  We're starting several varieties of perennial greens this year, but won't be able to eat them for a few years.  Kale and tomatoes are the main annuals I'm attached to.  My goal is to find a hardy, all purpose tomato variety that will 'naturalize.' 

I was imagining that the beans sitting on top of clay in a puddle would probably be a bad idea, but that just can't happen with our dirt (you can let a hose run almost indefinitely in the same spot and eventually a couple foot wide area will be wet, no standing surface water).  But from the extremely brief research I did on ricin, seems it has to be extracted to get the really deadly pure form of it.  Will eating the beans poison animals?  Is that the point of dropping them down their holes?  In which case, if a bird ate the bean would it die?  Even natural poisons aren't an especially savory idea to me.  But the gophers/moles!  !!! 
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    2
Not to get off topic but I found something on weevils you may like to try.

In Kilifi, Kenya, farmers create planting mounds or ridges incorporating a good amount of fresh leaves of Lantana camara before planting sweet potatoes. This improves soil organic matter and at the same time serves as a repellent of the sweet potato weevil, thus improving both yield and quality of harvested tubers. The superior quality of sweet potatoes grown using Lantana leaves have been confirmed by Ministry of Agriculture staff in the area.

Heres info on Lanta http://www.floridata.com/ref/l/lant_c.cfm ; It only grows to 1.8 meters, so says this source, so it won't take up much room on you to have some to chop and use as mulch


http://www.greenshireecofarms.com
Zone 5a in Central Ontario, Canada
Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
TCLynx wrote:
I tried to look but got a file not found error from the link.


Sorry, fixed now. I added a quotation mark...an old habit from coding HTML.

Travis Philp wrote:
Not to get off topic but I found something on weevils you may like to try.

In Kilifi, Kenya, farmers create planting mounds or ridges incorporating a good amount of fresh leaves of Lantana camara before planting sweet potatoes.


I read this as being a method that uses polyculture (incorporating lantana into nearby perennial beds) to serve some of the functions of crop rotation (breaking up the lifecycle of main crop pests): my vote is, it's precisely on-topic.

marina phillips wrote: Will eating the beans poison animals?  Is that the point of dropping them down their holes?


From what I've read, the moles dislike the smell so much they abandon the space around it; they never get near enough that eating them is a risk. I don't trust the source 100%, but the idea was not to poison, only to repel.

In which case, it might be best to drop them in the air-intake holes, i.e. the ones without a built-up mound.
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    2
Corn aparently grows well with sweet potato, and would benefit from the groundcover. I've heard of farmers in africa planting corn on the edges of sweet potato plantings, and beans up the corn.
Chelle Lewis


Joined: Dec 10, 2009
Posts: 417
Location: Hartbeespoort, South Africa
    
    1
TCLynx wrote:
I've been struggling with a couple concepts that don't seem to easily work together.

Crop rotation is kinda important down here since we don't have a period of frozen ground to get rid of plant pests over winter.  However, I rather like the idea of mixing things up quite a bit and poly culture food forest gardening.

How do I sort this out?  (either logistically- how to rotate when things are planted all mixed together all over -or- mentally, if I keep things all mixed together is crop rotation really not needed?)

I am currently forgoing Sweet potatoes for a couple of years since we got hit pretty bad by sweet potato weevils which is a real bummer since sweet potatoes are one of the few things we really like that does well through our summers.
A book that answers exactly this is by Linda Woodrow called THE PERMACULTURE HOME GARDEN. It would probably greatly interest you. It has fascinated me even though my land is not flat enough to do her rotations... chickens included. She has got her production up and her workload to the minimal. Excellent ideas she has and can be relicated almost like a recipe on flat land. Maybe check it out next time you are in a bookstore. She has places for annuals and places for perennials... a really neat system design.

Chelle
TCLynx Hatfield


Joined: May 03, 2009
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
Cool thanks for all the good ideas.  I'll have to look for that book chelle.

The Lantana against the sweet potato is an idea I'll definitely try.  Of course Lantana is a Category I invasive exotic species here in Florida but so is the Orchid tree and that is a handy nitrogen fixer.  Both already growing around the property.  Perhaps I'll save and make use of the leaves of the Lantana instead of just hacking it down all the time.
Chelle Lewis


Joined: Dec 10, 2009
Posts: 417
Location: Hartbeespoort, South Africa
    
    1
Travis Philp wrote:
Not to get off topic but I found something on weevils you may like to try.

In Kilifi, Kenya, farmers create planting mounds or ridges incorporating a good amount of fresh leaves of Lantana camara before planting sweet potatoes. This improves soil organic matter and at the same time serves as a repellent of the sweet potato weevil, thus improving both yield and quality of harvested tubers. The superior quality of sweet potatoes grown using Lantana leaves have been confirmed by Ministry of Agriculture staff in the area.

Heres info on Lanta http://www.floridata.com/ref/l/lant_c.cfm  It only grows to 1.8 meters, so says this source, so it won't take up much room on you to have some to chop and use as mulch
Hey! This is too marvellous! An actual use for lantana! It is a real nuisance weed here... the birds love the berries.... (just had a thought... maybe my hens will too!.... no maybe not... more seeding)... anyway... birds love the berries and so spread it around so quickly. Is really difficult to keep in check. I must admit to having really searched the net for usefulness... and only came up with basketry... and didn't look so good. So thank you very, very much!

I wonder if there are other bugs it will repel?

Chelle
TCLynx Hatfield


Joined: May 03, 2009
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
The leaves of lantana do have a strong sent, I expect it could be useful.  I hope!

"imagine me going along the road sides around here harvesting lantana for use in my gardens."
Chelle Lewis


Joined: Dec 10, 2009
Posts: 417
Location: Hartbeespoort, South Africa
    
    1
Yes... they really have a distinctive scent. When young and I think it could be something else I just press the leaves.

Found this....

Lantana (Lantana camara) – mwingajini
Use against: Insects
Insects: Many species
Preparation:
1. Crush one handful of leaves in 1 litre of water, add a little soap,
spray.
2. Dry and grind ashes into a dusting powder.
3. Burn the branches and dust the ash over beetles and leafminers.


Go figure!  This is so neat.  I am definitely going to collect all leaves before cutting down... also burn the branches and save the ash for when need it.

Chelle
Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
Cyara wrote: the birds love the berries.... (just had a thought... maybe my hens will too!.... no maybe not... more seeding)


Given enough grit, chickens are champion seed-grinders: they're among the most thorough known at keeping viable seed from passing through (olive, broom, some reports say even acorn), and are no slouches when it comes to thorough picking-through. I wouldn't worry, unless the seeds themselves are particularly toxic.
Chelle Lewis


Joined: Dec 10, 2009
Posts: 417
Location: Hartbeespoort, South Africa
    
    1
Interesting. Never stop learning!  Thanks Joel.

Chelle
                    


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
TCLynx wrote:
Cool thanks for all the good ideas.  I'll have to look for that book chelle.

The Lantana against the sweet potato is an idea I'll definitely try.  Of course Lantana is a Category I invasive exotic species here in Florida but so is the Orchid tree and that is a handy nitrogen fixer.  Both already growing around the property.  Perhaps I'll save and make use of the leaves of the Lantana instead of just hacking it down all the time.


There are three species of Lantana that are native to Florida. L. camara is not native, but probably would have gotten here from the Caribbean sooner or later. The unripe berries and foliage from Lantana are rather toxic.

http://www.fnps.org/palmetto/v23n1lantanacorrection.pdf
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4432
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    4
i totally avoid monocultures and plant as much  variety in each bed as possible, and I am not really fond of crop rotation..however...i do tend to move things around that are annuals like tomatoes..etc.

i'm avoiding most starch plants now that are high in carbs, such as potatoes, corn, etc...so that gives me a lot more room in my beds now..but i've not had any serious insect problems other than some squash bugs last year..in my pumpkin patch..so I will move the pumpkins somewhere else this next year..and probalby will put a row cover over them too..
Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
I had summer legumes and squash growing in among my nightshade fruit crops, as well as some basil, marigold, etc. The lower leaves on the tomatoes have all died and been clipped away, and some fava beans, garlic, and Swiss chard that I planted earlier are really enjoying the additional sun.

Polyculture and crop rotation work OK together, as long as you aren't tilling.
Sergio Santoro


Joined: Mar 27, 2011
Posts: 228
Location: Nicoya, Costa Rica
Sweet potatoes with corn, interesting, makes sense, too. Anything else I can plant with sweet potatoes? I mean something common, though, no African plants. Then again, I live in Costa Rica and most of you in the cold USA.
I just can't think of anything that's compatible with the disruption that goes on when harvesting sweet potatoes.
I guess it'd have to be something just like corn, so when you harvest the crop, you don't care what happens to the roots of the corn when you pull out the sweet potatoes. Or something that grows and ripens much faster than SP.
I want to take advantage of the cover crop element of SP.


Writing from Madhuvan, a yoga retreat/organic farm on the West Coast of Costa Rica.
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 5851
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
  88
I was going to suggest okra, but you specified no African plants.  That is a shame, as the two plants do best in the same hot/humid climates.
Sergio Santoro


Joined: Mar 27, 2011
Posts: 228
Location: Nicoya, Costa Rica
I said no weird african plants! I was referring to some names I heard above on this thread, but maybe it's me who is not familiar with them. We love okra and have both burgundy and green okra.
It's a great suggestion actually! Anything else?
 
After burning through the drip stuff and the french press stuff, Paul has the last, ever, coffee maker. Better living through buying less crap.
 
subject: Crop rotation or poly culture
 
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