Even backyard gardeners must rotate their crops

  • Do not plant your vegetables in the same place in your garden year after year.

    Do not plant your vegetables in the same place in your garden year after year. Courtesy of Chicago Botanic Garden

By Tim Johnson
Chicago Botanic Garden
Posted5/15/2022 7:00 AM

Rotate the crops in your vegetable garden to control pest problems. This is the easiest way to practice organic, integrated pest management gardening.

Many insects and diseases attack vegetables within the same plant family. By planting vegetables from a different family in a problem area, you minimize the chances for a repeat infection.


The basic families include the cabbage family (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, radishes and turnips); cucumber family (gourds, melons, squashes and cucumbers); nightshade family (eggplant, potatoes, tomatoes and peppers); goosefoot family (spinach and beets); onion family (leeks, garlic and onions); legume family (peas and beans), and the carrot, celery and parsnip group.

• Use a mulching mower that leaves the grass clippings on the lawn. This reduces your work and recycles those extra nutrients back into your lawn. Mow more frequently in the spring due to rapid grass growth.

Mulching mowers do not work well in tall, wet grass, so raise the height of your mower, and cut a narrower path at a slower pace. Rake out any wet clumps of grass that remain on the lawn.

Keep the blades on your mower sharpened for a better cut. A good general rule to follow is to sharpen them after every eight hours of use.

Mow grass at 3 to 3½ inches in height, and often enough so that not more than a third of the total height is cut each time. Most lawns are cut too short. Maintaining lawns at a taller height promotes a strong root system and helps choke out weeds. In hot weather, short lawns can turn brown more quickly and weeds are more likely to move in.

• Tim Johnson is director of horticulture at Chicago Botanic Garden, chicagobotanic.org.

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