Make a rotation plan

imageMake a rotation plan to plant vegetables in different areas every year.

If you grow vegetables, it’s very important to plant them in different areas every year – a practice called crop rotation. This discourages the build-up of soil-borne diseases and pests and also improves yields, because different crops deplete the soil in different ways.

Moving them on ensures that each crop finds the nutrients it needs in fresher ground. So, while your memory is still fresh, write down what was growing where and work out what to plant next.

The simplest method is a four-year rotation plan based on four easy categories – potatoes, legumes (i.e. peas and beans), brassicas and roots, in that order. The theory behind this is that potatoes exhaust the soil. The legumes replace nitrogen used by potatoes and that feeds the brassicas that follow on. Onions and roots are last and they do best on ground that has been fed a few months before. Confusingly, some root crops are also brassicas: these include turnips, swedes and kohlrabi. These are subject to brassica pests and diseases and are therefore included in the brassica section, rather than the roots.

Ideally, a four-year rotation needs four equally sized pieces of ground to work. However, any practical gardener knows that sticking to a rotation plan is difficult because you squeeze crops that fall between the groups into gaps. This includes sweetcorn and all cucurbits (squashes, courgettes and cucumbers). A vegetable garden is always a juggling act.

If nothing else, make sure that you move potatoes every year. They suffer from blight, eelworm and scab. Root crops are prone to root fly and canker and they should be strictly rotated too.

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