Crop Rotation For Home Gardeners

There’s nothing more satisfying than growing your own vegetables but perhaps you are looking for a way to increase your yield, or grow healthier vegetables. Well, if you’re not already practising crop rotation, you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes.

What is Crop Rotation?

The concept became popular in the 18th century. The practice was immensely successful and revolutionary. The method involved dividing land into four sections, and planting three crops annually. The crops were rotated to a different section every year, with one section always remaining empty. This system is still in use on agricultural land, but you can adopt it to suit your garden or allotment too. You don’t have to leave an empty area and by carefully selecting the crops you grow, you can enjoy the benefits that crop rotation brings.

The Advantages of Crop Rotation

You’ll know all about the importance of protecting nutrients in your soil, but you may not realise that planting the same plants in the same area of soil, year after year, can have an adverse effect. This is particularly true if you plant leafy crops such as tomatoes, lettuce or cabbage. These plants use lots of nitrogen, so if you plant them in the same spot you’ll find that the soil rapidly becomes depleted of nutrients. To correct this, simply rotate these leafy vegetables with crops that add nitrogen to the soil – legumes such as peas and beans are particularly useful for this. Crop rotation also helps combat disease in your garden, as new crops are immune to any crop-specific bugs or diseases that developed over the previous year.

A Simple Crop Rotation Plan

The benefits are huge for the home gardener, and it’s easy to put a crop rotation scheme into action. Here are a few simple suggestions of which vegetable to rotate with which:

Onions: Rotate with peas and beans.

Carrots, parsnips and herbs: Follow with legumes.

Leafy vegetables (cabbage, lettuce, broccoli, turnips, sprouts): Rotate with legumes to re-balance the soil.

Peppers, aubergines, potatoes and tomatoes: These vegetables are susceptible to fungal attack. Prepare the soil by planting cereal crops in the period before these vegetables, and follow with beans or peas.

The Golden Rules of Crop Rotation

  • Never grow the same crop in the same area of soil two years in a row.
  • Always rotate heavy feeding vegetables (leafy vegetables, potatoes, tomatoes) with legumes or clover to add vital nutrients back in to the soil.
  • Avoid planting root vegetables on areas, which have been heavily fertilised, as this will cause lush foliage at the expense of the edible parts of the plant.

However big or small your garden, you’ll notice the difference in the soil, as also in the quality and taste of your vegetables.

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