Crop rotation is one of those expressions you hear about quite a lot in the world of vegetable growing. Unfortunately, it is not always well explained and can sound laborious when it fact it is a complete doddle.
WHY BOTHER WITH CROP ROTATION?
The whole point of crop rotation is to avoid growing the same family of vegetables in the same bed for consecutive seasons. This is done to make it less likely for them to suffer from diseases and pests.
Here’s an example. You grow potatoes in Bed ‘A’ in year one and they get potato blight. You clear away the old plants and burn them, but some of those potato blight spores still lurk in the soil. In year two you plant potatoes in Bed ‘A’ again. Guess what happens? Yup, they succumb to potato blight in no time at all. But if you’d planted them in Bed ‘B’, they probably would have been ok.
HOW TO ROTATE YOUR CROPS
First allocate each area of your veg patch to a different veg group. Now, you can get quite hung up on this because there are lots of different ways of grouping your veg plants, but we’re always keen to keep things simple for you, and this is how we would (and do) divide them up:
Brassicas: Cabbages, Kales, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Kohl Rabi, Swede, Turnips
Root Veg: Pasnips, Carrots, Celeriac, Beetroot
Everything Else: Um, everything else!
So, in Spring 2017, all brassicas will be planted in zone 1, all root veg in zone 2 and everything else in zone 3. Simple.
Then, in 2018, move them all forward a bed. Brassicas now go to zone 2, root veg go to zone 3 and everything else goes to zone 1.
In 2019, yep, you guessed it…they all move forwards again. Brassicas to zone 3, root veg to zone 1 and everything else to zone 2.
DO I HAVE TO USE CROP ROTATION?
No. It’s a technique that is usually successful, but it’s not the be all and end all. Some people plant veggies from all sorts of families in a single raised bed and they get on just fine. And, if your garden is quite small, then crop rotation will not make much difference anyway.
What we would say is that if you have quite a sizeable veg patch (anything bigger than a large swimming pool) then it will make things much more manageable for you. Firstly you will need to look after plants from a particular veg group in the same way, e.g. avoiding cabbage root fly and pigeons with all brassicas, so you can just net the whole bed rather than individual rows. Secondly, if you do suffer from a certain pest or disease it will be much easier to control in the future using this method.