Have you ever heard of crop rotation and wondered if this is something you should do in your vegetable garden? Find out in our complete vegetable crop rotation guide.
Whenever you read about gardening, you will eventually be told that you should practice crop rotation.
But it can seem a bit daunting, and you might wonder how and where to start. That’s why, in our complete vegetable crop rotation guide, we will explain everything you need to know about this topic.
What is vegetable crop ration, and why should I practice it?
The first thing we want to address in our vegetable crop rotation guide is what it is and why you should do it. Because if you understand these things, you will find it easier to do it.
Crop rotation is a gardening method where you don’t grow the same type of crop in the same location. So if you grow tomatoes in one bed this year, next year, you don’t grow them in the same bed.
Sounds simple? Well, it is, all you need is a bit of organisation and planning.
However, when you do your crop rotation, you do it for the plant family, not just for the individual vegetable.
Let’s go back to our example. You have grown tomatoes in one bed this year. Next year, you don’t grow tomatoes or any vegetables in the same family, such as Aubergines or potatoes, in this bed.
That’s why you need to plan ahead, especially if you have a big garden or allotment with many beds or veggie patches.
But why is it necessary? Many pests and soil-borne diseases can overwinter in the soil. If you plant vegetables of the same family in the same spot, these pests and diseases will increase the following year.
The more the diseases and pests build up, the bigger your problem will be. Your plants might end up dying before they even started to crop.
But if you practice crop rotation, the pests and diseases won’t have any food, which will they will die.
Another advantage of crop rotation is that you can improve your soil fertility. Different plants take different nutrients from the soil. If you plant the same plant family in the same spot over years, the soil will lose these specific nutrients.
However, if you do rotate your crop around, you will ensure that the nutrients balance in the soil stay intact.
So you, see, while it involves a bit more planning, it will do your garden and your plants a world of good.
Plants Not To Include In Crop Rotation
The good news is, not all vegetable plants have to be included in your crop rotation. Phew!
Perennials, such as rhubarb or asparagus, can be excluded from the rotation. Because they will come back every year, they will not benefit from being moved.
On the contrary, moving them regularly will prevent them from getting fully established, which will reduce your yield.
So generally, you only include annuals in your crop rotation. However, there are some annuals that don’t need to be included. But it is still advisable not to grow them in the same space every year.
These annual crops include:
- squashes and marrows
- runner beans
All other annual vegetables should be included in your crop rotation.
The Best Time To Plan Your Vegetable Crop Rotation
Timing is everything, that’s why this is an important section in our complete vegetable crop rotation guide.
When it comes to timings, then you should start to plan your crop rotation before you order seeds for the new year.
Because otherwise you buy lots of seeds, but when you come to plan your cop rotation you realise, that you have too many seeds for one plant family.
After we moved to a new house, where we had lots of veggie beds and a polytunnel, I went wild and bought lots of seeds and planted them.
I did not think of crop rotation, as it was the first year and the beds were all new.
But the following year, I realised, that I planted tomatoes, peppers, chillis and aubergines in most of the beds in the polytunnel.
When I sat down to plan the next year, I had a problem. Most of the beds in the polytunnel had plants of the tomato family, the nightshades, in. So I had to reduce the amount of tomatoes I grew in order to grow aubergines and peppers.
Learn from my mistake and plan your crop rotation before you buy your seeds with our complete vegetable crop rotation guide.
How To Plan Your Vegetable Crop Rotation
Let’s get to the serious business of planning. In our complete vegetable crop rotation guide, we will show you step by step how to start your very own crop rotation.
Step 1: Grow List
Before you start, sit down with a good cup of tea and make a list of all the vegetables you want to grow.
I like to be really precise and note down how many plants of each veggie I want to grow, as I like to grow different varieties.
But I want to make sure that I have enough space in each bed for what I want to grow.
And keep in mind that different plants need different amounts of space too, so by noting down how many plants you want to grow, you have a better idea of how much space you need.
Step 2: Sort Them Into Families
Now that you have your list of veggies you want to grow, let’s move to step two of our complete vegetable crop rotation guide.
Sort all the plants on your list into their families. By grouping them together like this now, it will make it easier to create the actual crop rotation.
To help you with this task, here is a list of the vegetable families and their members:
- Nightshades: potato, tomato, pepper, chilli, aubergine
- Alliums: garlic, onion, leeks, spring onions, shallots
- Legumes: French beans, broad beans, peas, runner beans (can be left out of crop rotation)
- Brassicas: turnips, swedes, radishes, kale, pak choi, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts
- Root vegetables: beetroots, parsnips, carrots, celery, fennel, parsley, celeriac
- Cucurbits: cucumbers, pumpkins, squashes, courgettes, marrows, melons (these don’t need to be included in the crop rotation, just grow them where you have space, but avoid planting them in the same spot each year)
Step 3: Make A Plan Of Your Veggie Beds
You need to divide your vegetable garden into different plots. We have raised beds, so that is very easy, one bed or two beds is one plot.
Having a plan of your space where you can plant vegetables is very useful, because it will also show you how many plants you can grow.
We have a white board in our shed, on which we have drawn a plan of our vegetable beds. After I have made my plan on paper, I then copy it on the white board. It’s handy to have it in the shed, where I keep my seeds and tools.
Step 4: Put The Plant Groups In Your Plan
Now we are coming to the most important step in our vegetable crop rotation guide, making the actual plan.
To do this, put each plant group into a plot. You can put two groups into one plot, but they will have to stay together forever.
I only do this with alliums and root crops, because they don’t need much space, so are ideal to be combined in one plot.
Step 5: Add In Plants Outside Of The Rotation
If you still have space in some plots, you can add any of the veggies that don’t need to be included in the crop rotation mentioned above. Such as pumpkins or lettuce.
This will help you to remember where they were the previous year, so you can avoid putting them in the same place next year.
But keep in mind, cucurbits are heavy feeders, so are potatoes and tomatoes. So you might want to avoid putting these together, as they will compete for food and water.
It’s not very difficult, if you follow these 5 steps in our vegetable crop rotation guide, is it?
Put the year on your crop rotation plan and keep it save. It will be useful when you plant out your veggies, but also when you plan the next year.
The Next Year
When you come to order seeds again, the main season is over, you are ready to plan for the next year, take your crop rotation plan from last year.
Check the grow list, then take a new piece of paper and write down the plants you want to grow. You might find you want to try something new, I always do.
If you want, you can do this on your computer, which can make it much easier, as you won’t have to re-write your list again.
Then add any new veggies in your groups. Now you just move the groups on. So the plants from plot 1 move into plot 2, the plants from plot 2 move into plot 3 and so on.
As you can see, crop rotation becomes easier after the first year, because you have already done all the hard work. Just minor adjustments are necessary.
3-Year Crop Rotation
Another important topic we had to include in our vegetable crop rotation guide is for how many years you don’t plant the same group in one plot.
Traditionally, vegetable gardeners follow a 3-year crop rotation. This means you don’t plant the same group in the same plot for three years.
This also means you need at least three plots, otherwise it won’t work. If you have more beds, you can do a four-year crop rotation.
It will depend on your space though, because you might need more space for certain plants.
Crop Rotation In Small Spaces
Crop rotation is fairly easy, if you have enough space. But if you are short on space, it can become a challenge.
In some cases, it might not be possible at all. For example, if you only have on veggie bed or even two.
But don’t worry, there is a solution. You can always plant in pots. This will allow you to rotate your crops even if you are short on space.
They work perfectly fine, and I don’t have to worry about crop rotation with them.
We have come to the end of our complete vegetable crop rotation guide, and you are ready to start your own. Happy Growing!