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How to rotate your vegetable crops to get the best out of your soil.

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onions turnips

Onions and Turnips

Did you know that the soil in your garden is just like your bank account?. Draw out all your money and your account is empty and you starve.

A gardener's asset is his soil and if he places undue demands on the soil it will reward him with bad crops.

So how do we get around the problem of bad soil and poor crops?

Firstly every year when the crop has been harvested add back manure and compost to the soil to replenish it. This is the only way you will restore your soil and get good crops.

The second step to being a successful vegetable gardener is to rotate the crops you are planting from one bed to another. Some vegetable families make larger demands on the soil than others and if you don't feed the soil and rotate the crops your soil will get more and more depleted of the nutrients it needs to feed your plants.

Vegetable Families

Vegetables can be divided into families or tribes, and each family makes a different demand on the soil. If you know what the particular family does to your soil you can avoid the depletion of the soil by rotating the crops.

So what does a gardener need to know about the various vegetable families.

Does the vegetable have shallow roots or deeper roots? A shallow rooted vegetable draws its nutrients from the top spit of the soil whereas a deeper rooted vegetable draws its nutrients from a deeper part of the soil. So the trick of rotation is not to plant deep rooted plants in the same patch year after year and shallow rooted plants in the same patch year after year.

By planting the same family of plant in the same bed you are going to deplete your soil. If you rotate the deeper and shallow rooted plants your shallow soil will recover while the deep rooted plants are growing and vice versa.

All crops take as well as give back to the soil so planting a plant that will give back to the soil what the previous year's crop took out is a good idea. If you continue to grow the same crop in the same soil you can end up with pest infestations which will spoil the crops.

The vegetable tribes.

Chenopodiaceae family

consists of Beetroot Mercury and Spinach.

Compositae family

consists of Artichoke globe, Artichoke Jerusalem, Chickory, Endive, Lettuce, salsify, scolymos, scorzonera.

Cruciferae family

consists of Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Cress,Kale, Kohlrabi, Mustard, Savoy, Swede, Turnip, Watercress

Cucurbitaceae family

consists of cucumbers and marrows.

Leguminosae family

consists of Broad bean, French Bean, Runner Bean and Peas

Liliaceae family

consists of Asparagus, Chives, Garlic. Leek, Onion and Shallot

Solanaceae family

 Seed Potato

consists of Aubergine, Capsicum, Potato and Tomato.

Umbelliferae family

consists of Carrots, Celery, Finocchio, Parsley and Pasnip.

The rule to rotating crops is not to plant the same family of vegetables in the same bed two years in a row.

As usual there are a number of exceptions to the rule

The following plants can be planted in the same bed for a number of years as long as the bed is manured after each season.

The plants are Asparagus, herbs, rhubarb, and seakhale. These plants will grow better if they are split at the end of each season.

Onions can also be grown in the same bed year after year.

Turnips and swedes can follow carrots as they are from different families.

There is a trick for people with small gardens and small beds who are unable to rotate their crops. Each type of vegetable to be planted in its own row and then the following year to be moved to a different row.

Below is a three year rotational plan for you garden.

Plot One - Year One

Plant early potatoes followed by spring cabbages leeks and turnips.When they have been harvested plant your main potato crop for the year.

Dig in animal manure or compost in autumn. DO NOT add lime.

Plot Three - Year 1

Plant Root vegetables, carrots, parsnips, beetroot and turnips.

After this crop no manure or compost is needed. Add wood ash prior to and during growth of the vegetables.

Plot Two - Year 1

Plant cabbages cauliflowers, brussel sprouts, savoy, kale and intercrop with saladings. As a second crop plant peas, beans, runner beans or French beans.

Dig in animal manure or compost in autumn. Add lime later in the season.

How to rotate your plots

Rotate the plots in the following rotation pattern in year 2

Plot one to plot three, Plot three to plot two and plot two to plot one.

Onions can stay in the same bed for years.

Plants that are beneficial to each other.

Plant potatoes followed by peas. Peas add nitrogen to the soils which benefits the potatoes.

Peas and carrots are good neighbours

Good plant partnerships

Celery and leeks
Kohlrabi and beetroot
Tomatoes and parsley
Tomatoes and sweetcorn
Potatoes and broadbeans
Onions and early lettuce

I trust this information will help you in your gardening efforts.

Happy Gardening!

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How to rotate your vegetable beds

Page Updated 14.3.2017