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How to plan a vegtable crop rotation

Vegetable crops need to be rotated in order to keep the plants as healthy as possible and keep pests away. Read on to discover how you can plan your own crop rotation.

How to plan a vegtable crop rotation

soil treatments for crop rotation

  • Manure and compost can be used on greedy feeders such as potatoes, leeks, marrows and brassicas.
  • Use lime if it's necessary to increase pH levels to cabbages in the autumn before planting. Keep away from potatoes.
  • Leafmould can be used anywhere and is particularly beneficial before root crops.

Background
Plants which belong to the same family are grouped together when planning a rotation. Related crops are prone to the same soil-living pests and diseases so moving them around in an organised rotation helps to prevent the build up of problems in the soil. Some plants are also better than others at suppressing weeds and alternating crops helps to keep weeds under control.

Planning a rotation

  • List all the vegetables you want to grow over a season, and the relative quantities of each. Remember to include green manures.

  • Group plants together by botanical family. Some relationships may seem a little unlikely, but if you were to let all the plants flower, their family likeness would soon become clear.

  • Draw a plan of the growing area. Divide it into equal sized sections according to the number of years you want the rotation to last - try three or four to start with. A "section" may be made up of several discrete areas, or you may have several "sections" in a large bed. Distribute your crops within these sections. Keep families together; if a section is to hold more than one family, try and keep those with similar growing requirements together.

  • Using a bed system can make planning a rotation easier. You may find, for example, that the quantity of potatoes you had planned might be too large to fit a section. In this case, reduce the number of plants rather than abandoning the rotation.

  • Short term crops such as lettuce and other salads, early carrots and beet can be fitted in on any plot.

  • Keep records of what actually happened, not just what you planned! Use this information when planning the next year’s cropping.

  • The usual crop rotation length is three to four years, so crops can return to their original site after this time.