Beginners section

Growing Vegetables – Crop Rotation

Growing Vegetables places more strain on a piece of land than flowering plants or shrubs because we remove nutrients every time we harvest a crop. Vegetables are also relatively hungry plants requiring a lot of nutrients to give you the crop you’re expecting.

Crop rotation is a subject that puts some new gardeners off. It really isn’t difficult and is vitally important to the health of your vegetable garden. The idea is not to grow a crop in the same place year after year to prevent disease and nutrition problems in the garden. It requires a little planning at first but once you’ve got the basics you’ll find it a breeze. You’ll need to split your crops into 5 basic groups and they are:

Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Calabrese, Broccoli, Kale, Kohl-Rabi, Oriental Greens, Radish, Swede and turnips.

Peas, Broad Beans, French Beans, Runner Beans.

Onions, Garlic, Shallots, Leeks.

Potato Family:
Potato, Tomato, Pepper, Aubergine.

Beetroot, Carrot, Celeriac, Celery, Florence Fennel, Parsley, Parsnip and all other root crops except turnips and swede which are in the brassica section.

So why should I do it?

Disease Prevention: The main reason to rotate crops is to prevent the spread of plant disease. Disease organisms can build up over time, resulting in eventual crop failure. Rotating crops keeps these organisms in check.

Insect Control: Crop rotation also helps reduce insect infestations.

Nutrient Balance: Different families of plants require different nutrients. By rotating your crops, you keep the soil from being depleted and can target soil amendments to keep your garden balanced.

Nutrient Enhancement: Some plants actually enhance the soil, so rotating them through the garden can produce free organic soil conditioning.

What do I do?

Divide your growing space into roughly equal sections. I’m including an example of a four year rotation and for this we’ll split the garden into four sections. Move each section of the plot a step forward every year so that, for example, brassicas follow legumes, onions and roots, legumes, onions and roots follow potatoes and potatoes follow brassicas.

Year one
Section one: Legumes
Section two: Brassicas
Section three: Potatoes
Section four: Onions and roots

Year two
Section one: Brassicas
Section two: Potatoes
Section three: Onions and roots
Section four: Legumes

Year three
Section one: Potatoes
Section two: Onions and roots
Section three: Legumes
Section four: Brassicas

Year four
Section one: Onions and roots
Section two: Legumes
Section three: Brassicas
Section four: Potatoes

You will notice that the Brassicas (Cabbage family) follow the Legumes (Peas and beans), this is because Legumes actually take nitrogen from the air and store it in their roots. The roots are then dug into the soil to release the nitrogen which is good for leafy crops like cabbage etc….
The Legumes then follow the roots as legumes like a loose soil which the root crops have helped you break up. It’s all part of a very simple and sensible cycle.
It’s important too, for example if you get clubroot, a brassica disease, you will have it in the garden for up to 9 years. That’s 9 years you can’t grow cabbage!

So, if you don’t do it already, give it a go. It’s actually very handy to give you a starting framework to your garden. Once you have your plots laid out your choice of crops and varieties seem to fall effortlessly into place. It’s an ancient system built on an understanding of the importance of good soil, your vegetable gardens’ life force. Your vegetables will love you for it!

  1. Tara Craig

    Hello. I am trying to figure if I can put a second crop of brassicas in the same bed. I have harvested an early cabbage. I would now like to plant out some kale in the same bed where the cabbage was. Is this ok? Thanks

  2. Ella Fitzbag

    Don’t follow with a vegetable of the same family. The crop will have depleted the soil of needed nutrients. The resistance to disease and pests will have weakened; I’ve seen evidence of pest eggs and The soil after the first crop will be ready for crop that follows brassicas/cruciferous vegetables.with the nutrition and pest resistance that your first brassicas plants left behind. This may not be scientific but it’s what I’ve been doing for 12 years. I don’t use commercial pesticides herbicides fertilizers or compost. I DIY those. Good luck!

    1. Andrew

      Hi Stuart
      I am not aware of any issue with legumes following onions, in fact, in three year rotations legumes and onions are often grouped together. Can you let me know what problem has been reported with this pairing?

  3. Stuart

    Hi Andrew, I will try and find the (online)article and forward it to you if I do. Something to do with allium roots breaking off in soil when harvested and harbouring disease ? Anyway, if you’re happy so am I !. Just received your blog on succession cropping brilliant ! and really timely as I was just trying to work out my own patch.

    1. Andrew

      Hi Stuart
      Thanks, I would be interested to hear what the issue might be. Perhaps I have been lucky but I have had not had any issues in my garden. That’s great that the succession growing blog arrived at the right time, I hope it is helpful. Have a great season!

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