Let's Live Life on the Veg!
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I’ve been asked on many occasions about the principle of crop rotation in the vegetable garden so I thought the easiest thing to do would be to compile a post about it – so here goes!
In a nutshell a rotational planting regime is where you don’t grow the same type of vegetable in the same place each year. The main reason for rotating crops is to prevent a build-up of diseases and pests which target particular types of plants. For example, cabbage can be affected by club root, onions by white rot, so if you don’t grow the same thing in the same place year on year then the disease has less chance to get a foothold.
Another reason is that some vegetables require more nutrients than others. For instance, the legume family (peas, beans and the like) ‘fix’ nitrogen in the soil, a nutrient for which the brassica family (cabbage etc) is hungry, so it makes sense to follow your peas or beans with cabbage or broccoli.
You need to divide your veg into at least three groups and your veg plot into three beds – more if you have the space. But before we look at that, just a thought to bear in mind: it may seem obvious, but only grow what you like! You’d be surprised the number of people who grow certain veg irrespective of whether anyone in the family will eat them, because that’s what the books say. Also, if you only have a limited space, think about whether it’s worth growing ‘bulky’ veg like potatoes or onions, that are readily available at the greengrocer or supermarket – why not grow things that aren’t often offered.
And so to the groups of plants. I mentioned that you should aim for at least three groups but I would strongly advise four. I have found that four works best for me – here they are:
Group 1: Legumes – Beans (Runner, French and Broad), Peas (including sugarsnap and mangetout)
Group 2: Brassicas – Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, Broccoli, Swede, Turnip, Kohl Rabi (although the last three are generally classified as roots, they have been included here because they are of the cabbage ‘family’ and are prone to the same diseases.)
Group 3: Onions and Others – Onions, Garlic, Leeks, Courgettes, Pumpkins
Group 4: Roots – Potatoes, Carrots, Parsnips, Celeriac, Outdoor Tomatoes (Tomatoes are included here because they are the same family as potatoes)
(If you do decide on just three Groups, simply incorporate Group 3 (onions etc) into Group 4 (roots).)
Having divided your veg plot into four beds, this is what Year 1 will look like:
Bed 1 - Group 1
Bed 2 - Group 2
Bed 3 - Group 3
Bed 4 - Group 4
Year 2 will be as follows:
Bed 1 - Group 2
Bed 2 - Group 3
Bed 3 - Group 4
Bed 4 - Group 1
and so on, simply shifting the Group up by one each year.
There are some vegetables that can be slotted in anywhere there is space because they hold no threat of disease to other vegetables. These include: leafy salad crops such as lettuce and rocket, also spinach, Florence fennel (this is the bulb variety as opposed to the herb grown for its leaves) and chard.
The rotation doesn’t include any perennial vegetables, such as asparagus or globe artichokes, because by their nature you can harvest from the same plants over a number of years.
You might also like to include some herbs – for example, you could easily fit a row of parsley in between your veggies. And some herbs make good companion plants, meaning that they provide some benefit to the plant they are growing alongside. For instance, it is said that planting some chives in between your carrots can help deter carrot fly; and summer savory has the same effect on blackfly if you grow some next to your broad beans.
And there we have it! Let’s get growing - and live life on the veg!
I shall leave this post with a reminder about the Free Draw.
To mark my golden blog anniversary (which was on 29th July), I thought I would give away a pair of Burgon and Ball Flower and Fruit Snips. (Ok, they’re not exactly golden, but they’re worth their weight in gold in the garden!) All you have to do is join my mailing list by the 31st August 2020 – just fill in the panel at the bottom of the page – and one name will be picked at random on 1st September. If you have already joined my mailing list, your name will be automatically entered into the draw – you do not need to sign up again.
Please note: this give-away is not sponsored.