Easy Peasy Crop Rotation

Today I’m  sharing a back to basics, solid beginning to your crop rotation journey. Use this rotation as your starting point to spring into your own style – there really is soooo much flexibility here. Learn other ways, experiment and try stuff out, and as you do, watch how your plants respond then heed what they tell you: “I love what you did there!” or “That’s a terrible idea!” Let them guide you and show you the way.

Crop rotation is falling out of fashion – and I’m glad for it, it used to be a stuffy complicated thing. However, don’t lets throw the baby out with the bathwater, there are big bonuses to mixing your crops up. Best of which is a reduction in fertility needs. Follow a heavy feeder with a light feeder and huzzah!, balanced soil without bags of fert or liquid brews or shopping, just a bit of brain power.

  • Rotating crops spreads the nutrient load because each crop draws on different minerals and some gather nutrient eg: buckwheat draws phosphorus and legumes bring nitrogen.
  • The final win with moving crops around is breaking cycles of soil borne disease.

The importance of a record

Get a notebook – how old fashioned am I? Or do your mobile phone thing. Whatever floats your boat. The thing is the record. Something you can flick back through and see what you grew + where you grew it, 3 years ago.

Do your best to mix things up – that’s as scientific as you need to be! Particularly with these 3 families – brassica (broccoli, cabbage, mustard, kohlrabi, cauliflower, brussels sprouts), allium (onion, garlic, leek) and solanaceae (tomato, pepper, chilli, eggplant). 

Follow this pattern

Kneeling on the path transplanting seedlings into the bed

I learnt this rotation, many years ago, from Kay Baxter and I’ve stuck with it. I love it for the balance it brings and it’s simplicity.

1. Start with a mixed greencrop

Sow a mix of seasonally appropriate greencrop seed. Include a nitrogen fixer in your mix.

2. Follow with a heavy feeder

We’ve primed the soil, so lets use it!

Either plant in composted pockets, amongst the standing greencrop. This works well for:

  • Brassicas: cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, brussell sprouts
  • Corn
  • Celery
  • Cucurbits: melons, cucumber, zuchinni, pumpkin
  • Leafy greens: silverbeet, chard, salads
  • Solonaceae: tomato, aubergine, pepper, potatoes,

Or, chop the greencrop at soil level and clear the bed before spreading a layer of compost and planting

  • Alliums: onions, leeks, garlic

3. Follow with a light feeder

No need to add anything here, unless your soil is in the early stages and still too sandy or heavy clay. If you feel it needs something more simply spread a fine layer of compost or vermicastings. Eventually, once its strong and well, you wont need to.

If you need to follow a heavy feeder with a heavy feeder, as often happens – compensate by adding more compost, or by sowing a nitrogen fixing greencrop alongside the crop.

4. Cycle back to the beginning, and sow a greencrop.

Plan one crop ahead

The garden fork stays by the leeks to make harvest easy

You don’t need to plan the whole year out – all you need do, is plan the next crop. Start thinking about what you’ll grow next as your current crop grows. That gives you time to grow/ buy seedlings + seed.

Aim to always have a mix of heavy, light and greencrops on the go – it’ll make things easier further down the track. You will eventually, evolve this way as you get your groove on.

And WRITE IT ALL IN YOUR NOTEBOOK. Sorry to shout, but its important. 😊 You learn heaps when you can reflect on planting patterns that worked well and the ones that didn’t.


You’ll have a tonne of questions as you go – yay!, how we love the learning that questions bring. At times you’ll probably feel confused – that’s cool, normal even, just don’t get stuck there! Take a breath and do the next thing – it’s only gardening. The sky’s not going to fall on your head if you grow a cabbage after a leek.

Comments

  1. Do you not grow any toms outside anymore?