Crop Rotation Planning at the TC3 Farm

This post by Logan about crop rotation planning at the TC3 Farm is the second in our Spring 2016 Sustainable Farming and Food Systems student series. You can find the first post here: – Taylor

The class at the TC3 farm finally came together and started planning where the crops are going this season. Sitting around the class, students started brainstorming on the whiteboard talking out what crop rotation worked best. With some diverse experience, a lot of advice and tips from Todd, there is pretty good start to this season’s crop rotation. The rotation of crops is important to the survival of the plants and there is a lot to be taken into consideration when planning for the season. Pest and disease pressure, nutrient needs and crop families play a key role in the rotation.

crop rotation planning
Working out the crop rotation plan for the TC3 Farm

Keeping in mind the previous year’s crop rotation, the plants are moved from where they were planted last season. This helps the insect and disease pressure by moving the food source, or plants, away from where these pests may have over-wintered in the soil. When the insect pests come up this year the plants they may have been feeding on will be far enough away to help mitigate an early season loss. This rotation will also facilitate the plants nutrient requirements. Some plants require a lot of one nutrient. Using tomatoes as an example they require a large amount of nitrogen from the soil. It takes time for those nutrients to return making it unhealthy for the plants to go back in the same bed. Rotating in a plant, like beans or peas, can fix the low nitrogen in the soil for the following crop.

The crops are broken up into some of the main families such as, nightshades, alliums, cucurbits and spring and fall brassicas. On the wood line side of the field there are four blocks with twenty four beds. The nightshades, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers, are going to be at the furthest block. The spring brassicas, including cabbage, kale and broccoli, will be the block above that. Cucurbits including cucumbers and squash, will be in the next block. Following those are the alliums, including the onions, at the top. Four beds of garlic have already been planted along with three beds of strawberries.

TC3 Farm Greenhouse
TC3 Farm Greenhouse in the first week of April, 2016

Getting ready for the growing season is always very exciting, knowing that soon the days will be spent outside in the great, unpredictable, New York weather. It was a pleasure sitting down and really getting to know and work with the people that, for the next few semesters, we will be seeing a lot of. Making the crop plan and putting to work what has been learned about pests, disease, nutrient needs and plant families is an exceptional hands on experience.

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