Crop rotation is the practice of planting different crops sequentially on the same plot of land to improve soil health, optimize nutrients in the soil, and combat pest and weed pressure.
For example, say a farmer has planted a field of corn. When the corn harvest is finished, he might plant beans, since corn consumes a lot of nitrogen and beans return nitrogen to the soil.
A simple rotation might involve two or three crops, and complex rotations might incorporate a dozen or more.
The sight of enormous fields choked with one type of crop farming within the sun could currently be an illustration a part of the country, however, this mass-production method of cultivating a single species has long been known to cause problems. That’s why crop rotation needed.
Large teams of constant crop build an easy target for pests. For this reason, non-organic industrial growers feel compelled to spray the total area with pesticides. Soil nutrients are depleted when the ground is occupied by a large number of the same type of plant.
This problem is compounded if the ground is used for the same crop next season – often the soil becomes so impoverished that artificial fertilizers are needed. And soil subjected to the same mechanical processes year after year will inevitably become compacted for crop rotation.
While the gardener won’t be growing as intensively as the farmer, these problems may also be encountered on a smaller scale. You may see a come by plant health and productivity if crops are grownup within the same spot for several years.
To avoid these pitfalls, adopt a crop rotation set up. The principle is straightforward enough – the same vegetables should not be planted in the same place year after year.
As a system of organic horticulture, crop rotation has several advantages:
- It lessens the need for pest control
- You reduce the spread of soil-borne disease
- It avoids nutrient depletion in the soil
Combined with other organic methods (see our Natural Pest Control GrowGuide), crop rotation offers an excellent defense against all kinds of pests and diseases.
Grouping crop families together for crop rotation and maintenance.
Simply divide your growing house into a variety of distinct areas, identify the crops you would like to grow so keep plants of a constant kind along in one space. Every year the plants grownup in every given space are modified so that each group (with its own requirements, habits, pests, and diseases) can have the advantage of new ground.
Most crop rotation schemes tend to last a minimum of 3 or four years, as this is the number of years it takes for most soil-borne pests and diseases to decline to harmless levels. If your beds are divided into four teams, this means that members of each plant family won’t occupy the same spot more than once in a four-year period. Perennial vegetables like soft fruit, rhubarb, asparagus, and globe artichoke are not replanted every year, so they may need their own dedicated bed.
The traditional advice is well-intentioned, but also flawed. It recommends that you simply divide crops into four main teams as follows: Legumes (bush beans, peas, pole beans, broad beans); root vegetables (radish, carrot, potato, onion, garlic, beet, rutabaga, sweet potato, shallots); leafy greens (spinach, chard, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach); and fruit-bearing(tomato, sweetcorn, cucumber, squash, pumpkin, zucchini, eggplant).
While it is certainly beneficial to move crops around, this practice on its own is somewhat hit and miss. What’s more, such simplified groups don’t tell the whole story, as the growth habit (i.e. root, fruit, leaf etc) doesn’t bear on the classification of the plant. For instance, though they appear radically completely different, potato and tomato are in fact members of the same family. According to the traditional scheme, one could follow the other, but since they are so closely related, they will attract the same pests and use up the same nutrients from the soil. To avoid this type of confusion, our Garden Planner tool uses a more sophisticated classification system which is convenient color-coded for ease of use:
These classes supply bigger flexibility and permit a wider permutation of crops grownup over the seasons. In addition, our Garden Planner allows you to look back over five years of your plot’s history, warning you when you try to replant the same crop too soon and creating it easier to style an extended rotation set up.
Some vegetables are not prone to soil-borne disease, which means that they don’t need to be part of your rotation plan. You can thus sow plants from the Miscellaneous cluster (grey) where you’ve got a free house. Members of the Chenopodiaceae (pink) family, such as beets and spinach are also relatively unproblematic and can follow most other crops.
Brassicas follow legumes: Sow crops like cabbage, cauliflower, and kale on soil previously used for beans and peas. The latter fix nitrogen within the soil, whilst the former benefit from the nutrient-rich conditions thus created. Potatoes additionally love nitrogen-rich soil, but should not be planted alongside brassicas as they like different pH levels.
Very rich soil and roots do not mix: Avoid planting root vegetables on areas that are heavily fertilized, as this will cause lush foliage at the expense of the edible parts of the plant. Sow parsnip on an area which has housed demanding crops (such as brassicas) the previous season, since they will have broken down the rich compounds.
Enrich space with compost and plant potatoes and tomatoes (Solanaceae). When the crop has finished sow onions or leeks (Allium) for an overwinter crop.
Sow parsnips, carrot, parsley (Umbelliferae). Fill gaps with lettuce and follow with soil-enriching green manure during winter.
Grow cabbage, kale, rocket (Brassicas) during the summer and follow with winter varieties of cabbage and Brussels sprouts.
If this is often your second or consequent year, harvest the onions or leeks previously growing here over winter. Then sow peas and beans (legumes). When the harvest has finished, lime the soil for brassicas which is able to move from space 3 to occupy the space next.