You may wonder whether vegetable crop rotation is even important in a normal backyard garden. However, long years of trial in organic gardens has shown vegetable rotation to have many benefits, many of which cannot be calculated. Probably the greatest benefit is how it balances the soil and reduces diseases in the soil, especially important in organic crops. Much of the material for this article comes from Eliot Colman’s masterful work, The New Organic Grower. However, that book was directed towards commercial growers who grow acres. This article adapts the principles of crop rotation an applies it to vegetables in the home garden.
Crop Rotation Chart
- Small or Densely Planted: Onion, Beat, Chard, Parsley, Celery, Parsnip, Rutabaga, Kale, Radish, Brussels sprouts, Cucumber
- Small Individual Plants: Lettuce, Pepper, Carrot, Summer sqash, Bean, Cabbage, Spanich
- Medium-Sized Plants: Tomato, Cauliflower, Broccoli
- Large Rows or Patches: Potato, Pea, Winter Squash
- Large Patch: Corn
- Sweet Corn. Sweet Corn is a heavy feeder. Two corn crops should not be grown side by side. Spread this crop as widely as possible in your rotation. Also, if you are using manure, the corn patch should be your primary location.
- Potatoes. Potatoes have been shown to get their best yield when they follow corn. Did you know that? So put your potatoes in next year where your sweet corn is this year.
- Peas. Peas are a legume and have the wonderful trait of pulling nitrogen from the air and depositing it in soil. For this reason it is the perfect crop to plant just in front of the corn. Peas are an excellent crop to rotate in front of any heavy feeder.
- Tomatoes and Peppers. Tomatoes and peppers should not be grown directly after potatoes. Tomatoes and Potatoes share the same diseases and pests, so if you can plant them in soil at least one year separated, you have a chance of allowing some of the deseases to be eliminated by some of the other natural chemicals of other plants. See my final note below about Tomatoes.
- Cabbage Family. The cabbage family are also heavy feeders. Planting a legume in front of the cabbage family works well. Beans would be a good choice.
- Onions are interesting plants. They tend to be beneficial as a preceding crop as well as a companion crop. Planting onions in front of cabbage is also a good choice.
- Squash is a good “cleaning” crop. Their vines can spread wide and thick to help control weeds. Also, tilling their large leaves into the ground provides excellent organic material.
- Carrots and beets are hard on soil. They are good candidates to follow Squash. The squash will help to control weeds for successive crops.