We get this question a lot: “This year, I grew a bunch of eggplants, eight tomatoes, and several chile pepper plants in my elevated raised beds, planters, and a 3×6 raised bed. I have read that next year, I should not plant any of these in the same place as I did this year. What is a small-space gardener to do?”
There’s the ideal world, then there’s reality. You are right; rotating crops minimizes pest problems and avoids nutrient deficiencies (among other things). However, it’s not necessary to remove all the soil in beds or planters. Instead, focus on rejuvenating the existing soil and preventing carry-over of disease.
At season’s end, remove all of the spent plant material. This includes plant foliage and roots. Do not wait until it’s time to plant again. Compost the healthy stuff; toss diseased or insect-affected material in the trash. If you’re feeling ambitious, plant a cover crop, such as winter rye or winter wheat, which will nurture beneficial microorganisms to help control disease pathogens.
If there’s a known soil-borne pest that’s caused trouble with your crops in the past, be prepared to keep it under control in the new season.
Another key to success: Fertilize regularly throughout the growing season. Most “potting soil” is blended to ensure good drainage, which is crucial when you’re planting in any kind of container or raised bed. Even if you added a slow-release fertilizer at planting time, most crops benefit from regular feeding throughout the growing season with a water-soluble fertilizer such as Plant Health Care®.
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