The idea of crop rotation for raised garden beds is a very important issue and is a task that needs to be adhered to as often as we possibly can. This situation would come into play if we have a few raised bed gardens and we plant a lot of vegetables. This method of alternate growing is a detailed and disciplined approach to growing our own veggies, it’s also a systematic way of managing and maintaining our raised beds. The rotation ensures that firstly the soil can be replenished after growing a certain crop and secondly, that we can attempt to eliminate certain viruses and garden pests that may attach themselves to certain root vegetables.
The rotation can last or go on for 3 years and may extend to 5 yrs or more in some cases, depending on how large a garden scale we are working with. If it’s a case that we have only one raised bed, we still need to carry out this practice as best we can. In this instance we change the planting and sowing arrangement that we had from the previous year. For example, say, we planted tomatoes in the right hand side of our raised bed, we have got to plant these toms. on the left hand side the following year. The year after that, we could plant them towards the centre and back to the RHS the year after that. etc etc.
How does crop rotation work:
Like we mentioned above, all crop rotation schemes seem to run for at least three to five years, because this is the number of years that it takes for most soil living pests and growing threats to decline to workable, harmless levels. If we have three or four raised beds this means that some varieties of each plant family won’t occupy the same spot more than once in a four-year rotation. However there are certain exceptions to this system and they could be rhubarb, artichoke, and some fruit bearing shrubs like gooseberries, blackberries and perhaps in some occasions, strawberries. These varieties are somewhat immune to these pests and diseases.
Organised crop rotation;
The well organised gardeners and those who have been gardening for some time will have their stall well set out over the years and will have this practice off to a tee. The longer we would be gardening, this practice of crop rotation would in most cases look after itself and would naturally become seamless after a while. The best system that pro. or seasoned gardeners use would be to divide the crops or vegetables into different groupings. This eleminates a lot of confusion and worry in the start of our gardening adventures and clearly defines what is required to manage this type of gardening.
We will have at least four main groups of vegetables that are very easy to remember and to easily distinguish from thr others. The first group would be the climbers like peas, broad beans, runner beans, so this is an easy way to recognise these. We may need a trellis to support some of these vegetables and earlier on we wrote a post on how to accquire or erect these frames, which can be read here. The next category would be the root vegetables like carrots, swedes, shallots, onions, parsnips and potatoes. As these are known as root vegetables, ie, they grow under the ground, so again they are fairly distinguishable.
Thirdly we have the fruit plants like tomatoes, squash, melons, courgettes, and again rather easy to identify these as their fruit are visibly overground. Finally we have the green leafy brassica types, such as cabbages, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kale, chard and so on. From the above description, we can see that it’s so easy to seperate each and if perhaps, we were growing this amount of vegetables, we would have a four year rotation for each group.
The advantages of crop rotation;
Lets begin with a few of the most important benefits of crop rotation in raised garden beds, which would be the elimination of soil contaminating pests or risks. As some of these pests take a few years to materialise and manifest themselves in the soil, by moving the vegetables around we can eleiminate this risk before it takes hold. The other important issue is that the soil can replenish itself, if given the chance. Some vegetables are vigorous growers like potatoes , tomatoes, some peas and beans, thus the demand on the soil is extremely high and in these cases, rotation is necessary. That way the soil will have a chance to re-generate and re-invigorate itself again for the next crop that we will sow here. Nutritional additives will be required to assist in this process in the form of organic fertiliser, farmyard manure and well composted material. Often the roots of some of our vegetables are left in the ground and after the winter months, they will have decayed into the soil and are thus a great benefit and help in re-enriching the soil of our raised beds;
The basic principal of crop rotation is not to have the same vegetable growing in the same area for two years running. If we can adhere to this simple principal, we will eliminate a lot of risks and difficulties that we may encounter whilst growing our own vegetables. If we do make the growing alterations, its important that we replenish the gardening space that we have used, in order to bring that area back to the original standard. Its the same principal that is used for open ground gardening or if we are using raised garden beds.
Crop rotation sounds complicated and difficult, but really if we stick to the basic principal of moving on our vegetables year after year, we will be fine. Some people who garden on a large scale will use charts, analytics and keep records, which is fine and is necessary to keep track of all the different metrics. The over-riding reason for this practise is to preserve and sustain the health and productivity of our gardens . I hope you have enjoyed this short overview on crop rotation and if you would like to comment or join in the conversation, feel free to contact us down below.
Happy gardening to all.
Cheers Phil Browne.
” But wildness is more
a quality than a place,
and though humans can’t manufacture it,
they can nourish and husband it…”
— Michael Pollan.