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Crop rotation


by Jane Moore

I always leave my crop rotation plan to the last minute. I guess I'll just have to accept the fact that I'm one of life's 'last minuters' and get on with doing my rotation plan at the eleventh hour yet again.


Crop rotationI always leave my crop rotation plan to the last minute. I guess I'll just have to accept the fact that I'm one of life's 'last minuters' and get on with doing my rotation plan at the eleventh hour yet again.

However late, I do always make sure I draw up a crop rotation plan. I actually drew a rough outline of where I was going to grow this year's crops in the autumn, before putting in the onions and garlic. Typically, I never got around to finishing it off.

My crop rotation plan comprises a sketch of the plot, including all the beds and other growing spaces. I photocopy this plan every year and write in which vegetable crops I'll be growing in each bed. I take care to check the plan I drew for the previous three years to make sure I'm not growing two crops of the same family in the same spot more than once every three years.

Of course, like every other plan, my crop rotation sketch is subject to change, according to what's ready for planting and which beds I've prepared. I'm also often given plants by my neighbours, which are planted wherever there's a spare bit of earth.

But I do try to stick to the general plan, to ensure the nutrient levels of the soil are maintained evenly across the plot, and pests and diseases do not build up in any one area. I group my crops into legumes (peas and beans), alliums (onions and garlic) roots (carrots, parsnips and beetroot) and brassicas and leafy crops (cabbages, broccoli and rocket).

As well as reducing the likelihood of pests and diseases building up, careful planning means that one crop will benefit another if planted before it. For example, potatoes are brilliant for breaking up the soil for deep-rooting peas and beans. They, in turn, fix nitrogen into the soil, which benefits nutrient-hungry brassicas.

Other growers separate umbellifers (carrots, parsley and parsnips) and cucurbits (courgettes, cucumbers and squash plants) but I don't go that far - especially as I know there would be absolutely no hope of me ever sticking to the plan.



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Gardeners' World Web User 07/03/2008 at 15:04

Being only in my second year of being what I like to call a 'proper' gardener (i.e. actually cultivating the earth and properly growing plants that I've chosen, rather than simply mowing the lawn and trying to keep the place tidy!), I'm also in my second year of crop rotation and in one particular bed I had garlic last year and this year I'm doing broad beans and sweetcorn but I wondered what category sweetcorn came under so I can start planning for next year (ok, maybe not actually 'planning', that's a bit too organised, but it's a question that's been bothering me for a little while now! :-) ). Does anyone know?

Gardeners' World Web User 07/03/2008 at 20:03

i have drawn op a plan in excel, mostly together with a book about combining vegetables to reduce diseases and pests. that's a headache in itself, but i'm not sure how i'll cope next year cos some of the plants that are staying in the same spot for years/ever like strawberries and gooseberries, rosemary and some others...i do believe it's better to rotate cos of diseases etc, but i'm not sure how to... yet ;-)

Gardeners' World Web User 13/03/2008 at 09:36

can anyone tell me anything about red champagne rhubarb please

Gardeners' World Web User 13/03/2008 at 17:09

I'm still getting my head around this crop rotation thing, but this year I'm stealing the method outlined in my dad's royal horticultural society book. You just separate your crops into "roots", "brassicas" and "other"! Seems simple enough, right?

Unfortunately cabbage is about the only brassica I can stand, so my plot is going to be lop-sided :D

Gardeners' World Web User 13/03/2008 at 18:06

How nice to hear of another 'last minuter!' Me too. I make a rotation plan on the computer, colour coded. Have divided alotment into 5 - that's 4 rotation beds and a fruit bed. Oh, and a narrow flower border for the bees. Started with rows running north to south, but noticed most people had them east to west so have changed this year. Does anyone find the direction of rows makes much difference?

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