Posted by Sue
Should You Consider Crop Rotation For Your Vegetable Garden?

Vegetable Gardening Advice:
Five Top tips on Crop Rotation

You may have heard of food growers using crop rotation plans and wondered what they are. You may even have looked them up online, only to discover there are so many different types and schemes of crop rotation that you have been put off all together! Here I’m going to take a look at the basic principles of crop rotation so you can decide whether it’s relevant for your food growing space.

Here's my advice. Let's cover 5 of the most common questions from gardening beginners and experts on how to make best use of crop rotation for your own vegetable garden.

1. What are the benefits of crop rotation?

At its heart crop rotation has evolved through the centuries to reduce pests and diseases and promote the health of edible crops when we didn’t have artificial chemicals to use. Early growers and farmers noticed that pests and diseases could quickly spread through the same crops. Insects will repeatedly lay their eggs near tasty crops, so you will have generations of butterfly, fly and beetle larvae and eating your vegetables. Bacteria and fungi that live in the soil will multiple if you give them a steady supply of food, as will viruses.

I move my annually sown crops on a rotation system to reduce this build up of pests and diseases and you’ll notice that large-scale farmers do the same in their fields, year on year swapping cabbages for potatoes or barley etc.

Best advice on crop rotation for vegetables
What veg will crop rotation not work for

2. What veg or fruit do you not recommend crop rotation for?

The system is only intended for crops you grow from seed each year. Permanent crops such as herbs, fruit trees, strawberries, raspberries and currants etc. have to stay in the same soil so their roots can get established. If these plants get an infestation of diseases or pests, I use other methods to manage this.

3. Should do I group crops for rotation? What veg are best for crop rotation?

The system works on the basis that certain groups of vegetables may tend to attract similar pests and diseases. So before I do any rotating, I have to put my vegetables into these groups. Different rotation systems have different ways of grouping vegetables, but I stick to a simple three category system:


  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Parsnips
  • Beetroot


  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Swede
  • Turnip
  • Radish
  • Kale
  • Kohl rabi
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Pak choi


  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Onions, Leeks and Garlic
  • Cucumber, Courgette, Squash
  • Sweetcorn
  • Salad crops (lettuce, mizuna, rocket etc.)
  • Anything else that is not in Roots and Brassicas
Simple plan for vegetable crop rotation
Getting started with crop rotation for fruit and vegetables

4. How do I get started with crop rotation in my vegetable patch?

With a three-group system I decide on three separate growing areas and then using these slightly different soil preparation methods:

Roots area – I add a general-purpose fertilizer about two weeks before planting or seed sowing. My favourite is chicken manure pellets but if you want to avoid animal materials you could use a compost containing comfrey or nettle leaves for added nutrients.

Others area – If I’m planning ahead, I’ll give the area a mulch of manure or compost over the winter or at least a couple of months before seed sowing. Then I add fertiliser two weeks before seed sowing.

Brassica area – I treat this the same as the Others area, but if I’m working in heavy clay soil, I’ll also add a sprinkling of granular garden lime a couple of months before seed sowing to break up the soil particles and allow the roots to access more nutrients. Brassicas also like firm ground to root into, so I tread over the soil to get a level, consolidated surface. You will also need to cover your crops in this bed with a fine mesh to stop butterflies laying their eggs on the leaves and prevent pigeons from eating them.

Once my soil is prepared, I allocate one group of crops to each bed. The following years I change the crop group in each bed in this order.

5. When should I not consider crop rotation for my veg?

When I’m growing in pots or grow a diverse mix of crops in each bed, I find that rotating crops isn’t strictly necessary. In these circumstances I keep a close eye on my crops and if they have avoided infestations, I just aim to continue growing a broad range of crops in my space to avoid a build-up of particular pests. There are some exceptions to this -

  • If my vegetables develop a problematic disease, such as potato or tomato blight I will make sure I don’t plant the same crop in that area for at least a couple of years.
  • I often choose to grow my Brassica crops together, so they are easier to net against butterflies and pigeons.
How to begin crop rotation for my vegetable patch

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