Rotating Your Vegetable Crops

Whether you just plant a few tomatoes, herbs and some lettuce or an elaborate garden complete with exotic selections of lesser known veggies, you’ll want to rotate your crops each year. All types of vegetable crops – brassicas, onions, legumes and root crops – require a slightly different blend of nutrients and trace elements, even if their light and water requirements are similar. If you always grow your tomatoes in the same place, eventually the soil will become exhausted of the nutrients that tomatoes require the most, and the crop will become weaker and less productive. Meanwhile, another vegetable could easily thrive in that location and its growth would help replenish the nutrients that tomatoes may need in future years. If you rotate crops in and out, you’ll enrich the soil and enjoy larger, more productive, more flavorful harvests.

The easiest way to rotate your vegetables is to use a 3-year plan. First, you’ll need to decide which vegetables you plan to grow, then divide them into these three main groups:

Group 1:
Peas
Beans
Celery
Onions
Lettuce
Spinach
Sweet Corn
Tomatoes
Zucchini

Group 2:
Cabbage
Cauliflower
Broccoli
Kohlrabi
Rutabaga
Turnip
Radishes

Group 3:
Beets
Carrots
Parsnips
Potatoes

It’s all right if you don’t plant to grow vegetables from each group. Simply adjust your rotation plan to compensate, or even consider trying out a new vegetable to complete the rotation and expand the variety of your garden.

Next, draw a plan of your garden and mark where each group of plants will go, keeping in mind the light and watering requirements of different varieties. It may help to sketch out the boundaries of each group, noting which plants are part of which rows, boxes, containers or beds. Keep those notes and sketches in your garden journal, and also take notes throughout the growing season about which plants perform best and which may be struggling. Next year, move the plants accordingly to shift where different crops are located. If you choose to add new vegetables to your garden, start them in the location with their appropriate group and bring them right into the rotation scheme.

As you rotate crops each year, you will notice consistently lush, healthy plants, bountiful harvests and delicious produce. After a few growing seasons, rotating your vegetable crops will be second nature and will be an important part of your gardening plan to ensure only the best comes from your garden.

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