Planning allotment crop rotation

According to the RHS there are three reasons to rotate crops: soil fertility, pests and diseases and weeds. I have to say, that third point has never occurred to me, but actually it’s pretty logical – certain crops like squashes (and rhubarb, although it’s a perennial and isn’t rotated) have large lush leaves that tend to suppress the weed growth underneath them (even bindweed which will become pale and even more straggly, but is pretty well ineradicable) which means that if you plant something after them that is easily swamped by weeds, you’ve already reduced the chance of harm to that later crop.

The classic way of rotating crops is to divide your growing space into four, with a fifth space for perennials, and then rotate through the four vegetable families:

1. Brassicas – which like a firm, well-limed soil
2. Legumes – peas and broad beans in particular (other kinds of beans, like French, runner and bush beans don’t have the same soil-based requirements and problems and can be dotted around)
3. Onions – plus garlic, shallots and leeks
4. Potatoes – spuds and tomatoes, which suffer from the same devastating blight. Peppers and aubergines are in the same family but less prone to the blight and can be dotted around or (more likely in the UK) grown under glass.

I put beetroot, carrots and the celery family in with the onion family and always grow my parsnips in special raised beds. Swedes and turnips go in with the brassicas because they are the same family.

Then you simply move the plot around, clockwise or counter-clockwise, every year legumes follow brassicas and are followed by onions and then by potatoes and back to brassicas etc.

Of course we have a brassica cage too, for our purple-sprouting broccoli and calabrese and every year we have to relocate that. Most of the rest of our crop rotation is a bit more haphazard than the ideal plan, because we have a mad blend of classical four bed system, plus raised beds, plus edible landscaping but it seems to work out for us.

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Posted by The Allotment Blogger on Friday, October 28, 2011


Blogger Whole Lotta Lottie said...

Shouldn't brassicas follow legumes so that they benefit from the nitrogen left behind in the root nodules of the peas/beans - just cut the beans/peas off at ground level when you've finished harvesting, then plant your brassicas. That's what my grandad taught me anyway...

November 14, 2011 at 12:49 PM  
Blogger The Allotment Blogger said...

Lottie, we've found that on our soil our brassicas blow if they follow the legumes which is why we use the post-potato system. It's not classic I agree, but we usually manage a fallow year after the spuds for the soil to compact, then the brassica cage goes over the former spud bed.

November 17, 2011 at 9:41 AM  

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