Crop Rotation Basicsphoto 1

An allotment usually has relatively large beds of crops, each hosting plants of one family. Growing the same crop in the same bed year after year causes 2 problems:

An ideal environment in which the pests and diseases for that vegetable will thrive; and the crop makes the same demands on the same specific nutrients it needs.  Put the two together and you have a recipe for epidemics striking down even more sickly plants.

Rotation is essential – the KISS principle, just keep the crops moving! Leave at least a year, or better a 2/3 years gap, before a crop returns to the same bed.
Set aside an area for the “permanents” – the fixed beds for asparagus, comfrey, fruit bushes, herbs, rhubarb, and strawberries.

Know your crops strengths and weaknesses.

Rotation applies to vegetable/plant families, NOT to individual crops.
Think about how susceptible your crops are to soil-borne disease, bugs and pests.
Some crops “must have” rotation, as they are VERY susceptible to disease and pest damage – potatoes and brassicas are obvious examples of crops which should not return to the same bed for 3 to 4 years.
Some crops “are keen on” a rotation – the onion family (unless you have white rot); and the carrot family. Leeks are probably the least susceptible of all the onions, so they are quite flexible – and can fit in a number of places (mine go in after early potatoes).
Some crops “are generally not that choosy – but it’s worth humouring them” – peas and beans.
And some, bless their cotton socks, are just “eager to please”, and can go anywhere – beetroot, the leaf-beets, spinach, lettuce, the squashes and cucumbers, sweetcorn, salsify and scorzonera.
Some crops benefit the following crop.
Beans and peas fix nitrogen – so let nitrogen-hungry brassica follow them (possibly in the same season);
Potatoes don’t like lime, so follow them with liming in the winter; next season, plant the crops that like lime most (brassica, or beans/peas);
Roots dig deep and break up the soil – so follow them with potatoes;
Peas and beans like the rich deep dug soil left behind after the potatoes;
Brassica like a firm soil, so don’t follow potatoes very happily;
The onion family are generally happy in the firm soil left by the brassica.
Working out all the permutations gives an “ideal” 5 or 6 year sequence like this –
Year 1 – Beans/peas,
Year 2 – followed by Brassica,
Year 3 – followed by Onion family,
Year 4 – followed by carrots/parsnips,
Year 5 – followed by potatoes, (add lime in winter),
and back to the beginning
Think of winter treatments –
Digging in manure in the winter before the potatoes;
Adding lime before the peas and beans;
Adding compost before the brassicas;
Growing a winter cover of green manure as preparation for the onion, and roots crops.

One response to “Tips

  1. Susan Campbell

    My tips for growing on our allotment site are to observe where water gathers on your plot and either add drainage medium to the soil in that area or grow varieties that don’t mind having wet feet! I bought strawberries that are specifically for the wet Scottish climate (often known as summer, although not this year!)
    Also wind is a real issue as we are situated on an open aspect so again put in protection or arrange crops in order that they will shelter the next row.
    No more rabbits or sheep this year, yippee! However the bird population is thriving so netting is vital, especially for the delicate tasty crops. Please ensure you add something visible to your netting to prevent feathered friends becoming stuck in your netting. I collected old CD/DVDs from friends/family and tied them onto jute string. There is a plot near to mine where they have made fantastic UFOs from beer cans, you know who you are!

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