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Crop Rotation

Friday, September 11, 2009

Crop Rotation is the practice of changing or rotating growing areas in your garden. Plant groups are rotated for two reasons. Firstly, to avoid the build up of pathogens and pests which gravitate towards specific types of crops. This minimises the risk of disease and other problems and it works really well!  Secondly, different plants use slightly different concentrations of nutrients for healthy productive growth, and these become depleted if the same crop is produced year after year from the same patch of land. Also, some plants deplete nitrates is the soil whereas other return it to the soil. So it’s good to alternate these.


A Crop Rotation system works on a three to five year cycle, with different types of crop being sown/planted in the ground each year to avoid any build-up of disease. The most basic method is a three year cycle as follows:


  1. Root and bulbs e.g. carrots, parsnips, onions
  2. Fruits and seeds e.g. tomato, pumpkin, beans, peppers
  3. Leaf and stem e.g. broccoli, silverbeet, lettuce
  4. Return to first year

More complex crop rotation systems use the following cycle:


  1. Brassica’s e.g. broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale etc
  2. Roots e.g. beetroot, carrots, parsnips
  3. Legumes e.g. beans, peas etc
  4. Cucurbits e.g. courgettes, melon, pumpkin etc
  5. Other e.g. aubergine, celeriac, garlic, onions, tomatoes, swiss chard
  6. Return to first year

To ensure that your crop rotation system works, keep a record. Draw a diagram of your vegetable patch and divide into three or five areas, one for each vegetable group per year. Indicate what you have planted where and include arrows indicating the direction of your rotation so that you can keep track each year.

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