Passionate vegetable gardeners and those looking for a holistic approach will want a way of rotating their crops for maximum benefit, health and harvest.
We use the 4 bed year rotation because we have 4 beds and its easy to remember what goes into what.
Heavy feeders such as leaf crops, corn and cabbage, deplete the soil and should be followed by a legume that improves it. And crop rotation does reduce the build up of pathogens caused by planting the same crop in the same soil.
Oh to have the space for such a intensive patch! Photo - Linda Ross
What is it?
Crop rotation is all about planting groups of similar vegetables together in a different part of the garden each year. By following a crop rotation system these pests and diseases can't build up in the soil. The whole process benefits all vegetable types and your soil.
Why do it?
It breaks the cycle of disease and pests organically in your vegetable garden and gives different crops the soil conditions they like. Crop rotation moves vegetable groups from one bed to another each year, so start by dividing your vegetables up into four groups!
Bed 1: LEGUMES peas, beans and broad beans
Bed 2: LEAVES such as lettuce, spinach and chard can be grown anytime
Bed 3: FRUITING Sweet corn and curcurbits (pumpkins, squash, cucumber, zucchini and even watermelons/melons. By autumn the crops in this bed have usually been harvested so you can grow a quick green manure like clover before the next warm weather growing season. Summer - FRUITS or the acid lovers such as tomatoes, capsicums (bell peppers), chillies and eggplants.
Bed 4: ROOTS - carrots, parsnips and beetroot and those that belong to the allium family (onions, garlic and leeks)
Picking purple heads of sprouting broccoli. Photo - johnbraid/Shutterstock.com
When to rotate?
The timing for when you rotate each bed varies depending on when you planted the vegetables out and your local conditions. In cool and temperate climates such as Sydney tomatoes/cucumbers etc are killed off by frosts.
Over time the soil in your beds will gradually become more acidic which suits the way each vegetable group is rotated. By the time you rotate the tomatoes, eggplants and capsicums into the bed in their fifth year the soil will ideally suit their acidic nature. That doesn't mean you will have to wait 5 years to get your crops. It just means the soil will suit them even better as the years go by. A few weeks before you get to the end of the season in autumn sprinkle a good handful or two of lime or dolomite into each square metre of your tomato bed. This will sweeten the soil preparing the bed for the lime loving onions, garlic and leeks. The other vegetable families are then rotated behind the onions.
Leafy greens. Photo - Shebeko/Shutterstock.com