Crop Rotation

Crop rotation is a very useful and old method of growing vegetables to give the maximum use of nutrients in your soil and to prevent the build up of pests and diseases.

I use a three year scheme (pretty general) and this is how it works. First, all vegetables and divided into groups. The first group consists of Potatoes, carrots, beetroot, persnips, onions, leeks, garlic, tomatoes, courgettes, marrows, pumpkins, celery, Florence Fennel, aubergines, peppers, cucumbers, melons, celeriac, salsify and scorzonia. You can also include Hamberg parsley in this if you do not grow it among your herbs. With this bed you start by double digging incorporating manure in the upper and lower levels plus two handfuls of blood, fish and bonemeal. Then grow as many of this group in this patch  as you want.

Group two of vegetables are Peas, beans of all types, sweetcorn, spinach, swiss chard, lettuce, chicory, endive and globe articholes. I grow Runner beans on wigwams or in a double row in another part of the garden, leaving more room in this bed. To prepare this bed, single dig it and apply blood, fish and bonemeal three weeks before sowing the first crop of the season.

The third group of vegetables are brassicas – Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, calabrese, broccoli, kale, swedes, turnips, radishes and kohl-rabi. The bed is prepared with single digging but no extra nutrients. (This depends upon your soil – you may need to apply some lime to bring the PH level to 6.5 – 7.0. if your soil is acid)

At the beginning of the second year, you move all crops along one bed. So the Beetrot, parsnips etc get grown where the beans were and the beans are grown where the brassicas were, the brassicas being grown where the Beetroot etc were the previous year. The third year, move all crops along to the bed they have not yet been grown in and the fourth year you start again from the beginning.

There are some vegetables which are permanent crops and these require a bed of their own.  These are Globe Artichokes (Although these can equally be grown at the back of a flower bed), Jerusalem Artichokes (these could be grown as an annual hedge) seakale, asparagus (although most people grow this in its own bed) and herbs.

Even if you use a deep bed system, you should still try to use crop rotation. The digging will be much easier, in fact barely necessary in the third bed, but you will still need to add nutrients and move around to avoid pests and diseases in the soil.

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