Crop Rotation Plan: How To Do Crop Rotation

Crop Rotation Plan: How To Do Crop Rotation

Contrary to popular belief, understanding crop rotation and creating a crop rotation plan is quite simple. When starting out, many gardeners may not know much about crop rotation. This can lead to low yields, even if plants and vegetables have been grown well and looked after properly.

In this article, we are going to take you through the basics of crop rotation, how to do crop rotation and what the benefits are. By the end you will be able to create your very own 4-year crop rotation plan to ensure you’re getting the most from your garden or allotment. Let’s get started. 

 

What Is Crop Rotation? 

Crop rotation is a method used by gardeners to reduce disease and soil malnutrition to ensure they have a healthy crop of fruit and vegetables every season. To do this, gardeners grow specific groups of fruit and vegetables in different parts of the garden or plot every year.

Regardless of the size of your garden, crop rotation is an important activity. Because different plants and vegetables take different amounts of nutrients from the soil, planting the same species in the same plot every year will quickly lead to malnourishment and poor results.  

Additionally, it’s essential to know which types of plants and vegetables to plant together to increase the efficiency of crop rotation. We will cover this later in the post.   

 

How To Do Crop Rotation

Carrying out crop rotation is a straightforward task. Still, it does take some planning and prior knowledge to ensure it’s done effectively. Once you know where everything will be planted, it’s merely a case of planting and sowing. 

Most annual vegetables can be included in your crop rotation plan. On the other hand, perennial vegetables like rhubarb, asparagus and artichoke do not need to be included in the crop rotation as they are grown all year round. 

Other annual crops like pumpkins, runner beans, sweetcorn and squashes also don’t need to be included. You will know where vegetables like these grow best in your garden, avoid growing them in the same place too often. 

 

Crop Rotation Plan - What Is It?

A crop rotation plan is a drawing or layout of where your vegetables have been, and will be planted. Emphasis here on ‘have been’. Crop rotation can only be successful is you have kept accurate records of which part of the garden vegetables have been grown in the past. 

Your crop rotation plan should divide your vegetable garden into sections of equal sizes. Of course, this will depend on how much of each crop you are planning to grow this season. You should also add one section for your perennial vegetables which, as we said above, are safe to be kept in the same position each year. 

With your current and previous, crop rotation plan in hand, you can plot where each group of vegetables will be planted. There are five main groups that you should plan for which are:

  • Brassicas: Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohl-rabi, oriental greens, radish, swede and turnips
  • Legumes: Peas, broad beans (French and runner beans suffer from fewer soil problems and can be grown wherever convenient)
  • Onions: Onion, garlic, shallot, leek
  • Potato family: Potato, tomato, (pepper and aubergine suffer from fewer problems and can be grown anywhere in the rotation)
  • Roots: Beetroot, carrot, celeriac, celery, Florence fennel, parsley, parsnip and all other root crops, except swedes and turnips, which are brassicas

With the garden plotted out, you can move each section 1 step forward every year in the same direction, apart from the perennial vegetables.

 

Image courtesy of Dig For Victory.

 

Crop Rotation Examples

To give you a better idea of how a crop rotation might look this is an example of a 4-year crop rotation. We have combined the onions and roots into one section and left legumes in their own area as they take up much more space than the others. 

 

Year One

Year Two

Section One: Legumes

Section Two: Brassicas

Section Three: Potatoes

Section Four: Onions & Roots

Section Five: Perennial Vegetables

Section One: Brassicas

Section Two: Potatoes

Section Three: Onions & Roots

Section Four: Legumes

Section Five: Perennial Vegetables

Year Three

Year Four

Section One: Potatoes

Section Two: Onions & Roots

Section Three: Legumes

Section Four: Brassicas

Section Five: Perennial Vegetables

Section One: Onions & Roots

Section Two: Legumes

Section Three: Brassicas

Section Four: Potatoes

Section Five: Perennial Vegetables

 

As you can see, each crop moves one step every year into a new section. In addition to rotating some gardeners like to add nutrients to the soil after each rotation to re-balance the area. Typically these are:

  • Potatoes > Lime
  • Legumes > Additional Manure 
  • Brassicas > Lime added around planting time
  • Onions & Roots > Heavy Manure 

Benefits of Crop Rotation 

There are three main benefits of crop rotation which are maintaining and improving soil fertility, better control of weeds and reduced chances of pest and disease control. The overall benefits of crop rotation is that you will have healthier crops and better yields. 

Looking at soil fertility specifically, each vegetable that you plant has different nutritional requirements. So, if you grew them in the same place every year, the soil would soon be devoid of the nutrients that plant requires. Rotating crops helps to soil to re-balance the nutrients so by the time you plant there again plants vegetables have everything they need.

Another benefit of crop rotation is a reduction in the weeds you’ll see in your plot. Vegetables that have dense leaves and foliage like potatoes have effective weed suppressing properties. This means that when you come to plant on that plot the following year, you will have less weed-related issues. 

Finally, pests and disease are a part of gardening, but crop rotation is a great way to reduce the chance of these having more impact than they should. Leaving crops in the same place every year would create a build-up of pests, eggs and disease which would become very difficult to manage. 

 

Crop Rotation In Summary

Understanding what crop rotation is any why it’s important will help to get better results from your garden. Not only will you have happier, healthier veg, you will reduce the chances of vegetables developing disease and keep your soil nutrient-rich.