Crop Rotation in the Home Garden

Crop rotation is the practice of growing different crops, on the same land, in sequential planting cycles ranging from 2 to 8 years. Farmers have used crop rotation for centuries as a means of reducing crop lose due to disease and insects, as well as replacing essential nutrients, used by plants while growing, back into the soil. It was first mentioned in early Roman literature, and George Washington Carver is widely credited with introducing crop rotation to the United States by rotating peanuts, sweet potatoes, and cotton.

Insects and Disease
Soil borne pathogens, and insects, that attack one member of a plant family frequently will infect or attack other plants in that same family. Planting similar plants in the same location, year after year, tends to make the soil in that location much more prone to the diseases and insects that harm those plants.

Soil Nutrients
Different crops take varying amounts of different nutrients from the soil as they grow and produce fruit or vegetables. If similar plants continue to be planted in the same location year after year, the nutrients in the soil inevitably become unbalanced to the point where even the addition of fertilizers may not entirely correct the deficiency.

Preferred Method
There is no hard and fast rule as to which plants should be planted after another when practicing crop rotation, whether in the farmer’s fields or in the home garden. The most effective, and easiest crop rotation system involves grouping vegetables into six ( 6 ) different groups, each of these groups having similar insect, disease, and soil nutritional content characteristics. Never plant a vegetable from the same group, in the same location, two years in a row. Waiting three years before planting a vegetable from the same group is even better.

For example, if this spring you plant Tomatoes, a Group III plant, in a particular spot in the garden, you could plant Broccoli, a Group II plant, in that same spot this fall, and then Cantaloupe, a Group I plant, in that spot next spring. By sequentially planting warm and cool season crops from different groups, you will maximize your garden’s production while maintaining good crop rotation practices.

Here is a Garden Planning spreadsheet that I use with my raised beds utilizing “square foot gardening”, to help keep track of what has been planted, where it was planted, and when. Use it as it is, or feel free to modify it to better meet your particular needs.

Although it takes a little advance planning to implement crop rotation in your home garden, the increased health and production of your vegetables will make you glad to put the effort into doing so.

Crop Rotation Plant Groups
[ Group I ]
• Cucurbitaceae (Gourd Family)
– Cucumber
– Watermelon
– Cantaloupe
– Honeydew Melon
– Summer Squash
– Winter Squash
– Pumpkin

[ Group II ]
• Cruciferae (Mustard Family)
– Cabbage
– Broccoli
– Cauliflower
– Kohlrabi
– Collard
– Kale
– Brussels Sprouts
– Chinese cabbage
– Turnip
– Radish

• Chenopodiaceae (Beets Family)
– Swiss Chard
– Spinach

• Compositae (Sunflower Family)
– Lettuce
– Globe Artichoke
– Jerusalem Artichoke

[ Group III ]
• Solanaceae (Nightshade Family)
– Tomato
– Pepper
– Eggplant
– Potato

• Convolvulaceae (Morning-glory Family)
– Sweet potato

• Malvaceae (Cotton Family)
– Okra

[ Group IV ]
• Alliaceae (Allium Family)
– Onion
– Garlic
– Leek
– Shallot

• Chenopodiaceae (Beets Family)
– Beets

• Umbelliferae (Parsley Family)
– Celery
– Carrot
– Parsnip
– Parsley

[ Group V ]
• Gramineae (Grass Family)
– Sweet corn

[ Group VI ]
• Leguminosae (Pea/Bean Family)
– Snap Bean
– Pea
– Cowpea
– Black-eyed Pea

New year, new coat of paint: Success tips for DIY painting projects

(BPT) – Painting projects are more popular than ever with do-it-yourselfers with 94 percent planning a painting project in 2015, according to a Sherwin-Williams survey of homeowners. DIYers are also planning their painting projects earlier in the year, with January, February and March marked as popular months to upgrade homes with color.

If you plan to paint this year, here are some tips to help prepare you for success.

Choose colors with confidence
A fresh coat of paint in the right color can quickly transform the look and feel of any space. To help choose the perfect color for your space, take advantage of the easy-to-use color selection tools available to help you find and try colors before you paint. Homeowners can use the online Color Visualizer, for example, to virtually paint a space and try on different color combinations, making it easy to choose colors with confidence.

Find color inspiration
Choosing the perfect paint color is key to creating the look you want, but how do most people find the right color? More than half of DIYers (56 percent) say they look to nature for color inspiration, while more than a third (36 percent) take their color cues from Pinterest images.

For added color inspiration, consider the 2015 Sherwin-Williams color of the year: Coral Reef, described by the survey respondents as “cheerful,” “upbeat” and “energizing.”

“A mix of pink, orange and red, Sherwin-Williams Coral Reef embodies the approach to design that we’re seeing for the coming year,” says Jackie Jordan, director of color marketing at Sherwin-Williams. “Its unexpected versatility brings life to a range of design aesthetics, whether traditional, vintage, cottage or contemporary. For a more relaxed look, it can also be paired with earthy neutral colors such as slate grays, medium-brown wood tones such as driftwood, and metallic finishes to complement its garden hue.”

Select the right finish
Once you’ve decided on the perfect color, make sure you’re getting the best finish for the space you are painting. For durability and washability, choose a semi-gloss paint. Semi-gloss is a good option for areas such as bathrooms and kitchens, as well as trim. For high-traffic areas, like a hallway or a kid’s bedroom, satin and egg-shell paints are preferred as the finish is easy to clean and maintain. High gloss paints are also extremely durable and easy to clean, making them perfect for windows, doors and trim. For spaces that have something to hide, a flat finish will work to your advantage.

Paint your space in the correct order
When planning your painting project, also consider the order in which you paint your space. Start with the ceiling, followed by the walls. If two coats of paint are needed, finish both coats before moving to the next step. Then, paint the windows from top to bottom. After the windows, paint the baseboards, trim and doorframe. Finally, paint the door. Following this order will help ensure a smoother painting process and will require fewer cleanups.

For more help in planning your next painting project, visit your local Sherwin-Williams store or

Plant Bulbs This Fall for a Spring Blossom Bonanza

One of the simplest, least expensive, and most rewarding fall gardening activities is planting spring flowering bulbs. Although they appear to be nothing more than small, dead, brown orbs, bulbs are very much alive. They contain everything needed to survive cold winter temperatures, produce a wide array of beautiful flowers in the spring, and to return and reproduce year after year.

Bulb Selection
The key to having success with spring flowering bulbs is purchasing healthy, quality bulbs. Purchase bulbs early from a reputable source and store them in a cool, dry place that is well ventilated. In general the larger and healthier the bulb, the better flowering it will be.

Planting Tips
– Plant bulbs in the fall once night time temperatures consistently fall to between 50° F and 40° F for two weeks straight
– Plant bulbs in an area that receives full sun
– Plant bulbs in holes that are three times their height (ex. plant a 2” tall bulb in 6” deep hole).
– Plant bulbs with their tip pointing up, and their base down
– Plant small bulbs about 2” apart, and large bulbs about 6” apart
– Water the planting site well after planting

Bulb Life Cycle
Once planted, the bulbs roots begin to develop in the fall. During the winter, the bulbs roots continue to develop and the floral and leaf meristems (the initial emerging leaf and flower stems) start to develop. In the spring, the shoots elongate, flowering occurs, and daughter bulbs (new bulbs attached to the sides of a bulb) form. In the summer, shoots senesce, or wither, daughter bulb formation is complete, the original old bulb separates, and the new daughter bulbs may be harvested.

Forcing Bulbs
A great way to get even more enjoyment out of your bulbs is to plant a few in containers for “forcing” to create indoor flowering container plants. Forcing a bulb is simply a means of tricking the bulb into thinking it has spent a long cold winter outdoors in the ground, and that it is now spring and time to bloom.

Place 1” of gravel in a small pot. Using a light weight potting soil, place several bulbs in the soil in the pot about ½” apart. Leave the tip of the bulbs just showing above the soil. The potted bulbs now need to be stored at between 50° F and 40° F for 10 to 12 weeks to simulate winter. The vegetable drawer in your refrigerator is the perfect environment for this if you have the room. After this time, move the potted bulbs to a cool dimly lit area for a few days, and finally move them to a brightly lit area where they will bloom. Be sure to keep the bulbs slightly moist.

Favorite Varieties

Dutch Hyacinth (Hyacinthus orientalis)
Paperwhite (Narcissus papyraceus)
Daffodil (Narcissus pseudonarcissus)
Tulip (Tulipa gesneriana)
Summer Snowflake (Leucojum aestivum)

Spring flowering bulbs, planted in the fall, can provide a vast assortment of colors, textures, and scents in your garden for years to come. Experiment with different types and cultivars to see which ones grow best for you. Once you’ve found your favorites, dig up and share the daughter bulbs, that grow along side the original bulb, with friends and loved ones. A little time spent planting bulbs this fall will be rewarded many times over this spring, and for many springs to come. Enjoy.