Planning for Crop Rotation in the Organic Garden

Today I am spending a rainy day planning next years kitchen garden. An important thing to remember when planning your vegetable garden is to ensure you practice good crop rotation. Why is that? If you rotate your crops you will help to prevent the spread of diseases and insect problems.

Planning for Crop Rotation in the Organic Garden

If you have ever grown potatoes in a new garden that used to be in sod the previous year, you may have had an issue with wireworms.  I did when I planted the first community garden bed with potatoes. I harvested the first potatoes with no issues and thought I would leave the potatoes in the soil to harvest in late July.

Planning for Crop Rotation in the Organic Garden

Wasn’t I surprised to see this on my freshly harvested potatoes that summer. Ugh, I didn’t want to look at a potato after that. I had to toss all the damaged potatoes away.  The next year I grew the potatoes in a different raised bed following a crop of pumpkins from the previous year. I made sure to harvest the potatoes promptly to avoid any wireworm problems. Wireworms are the larva of the click beetle. This time I beat the wireworm problem.

Planning for Crop Rotation in the Organic Garden

So what is crop rotation? It’s a method of moving your crops from year to year. You do not grow the same crop in the same location each year. That’s a good way to exhaust the soil of nutrients. You need to think about planting to add to the soil as well. Above I have drawn out the plan I used in 2015 for my six raised beds. I want to do this now before I forget. The bottom half of the paper is a tentative plan for 2016.

It’s also best to plant your vegetables according to their plant family.  Not everyone has six raised beds to grow in. If you have one raised bed it means moving your crops around within the same bed. So for example, if you planted peas or beans at one end, try moving them to the other end. If you plant garlic in one bed and you have rust problems and nowhere else to plant it, you may want to skip a year planting it.

Planning for Crop Rotation in the Organic Garden

It wasn’t until I sat down to figure out the plan for 2016 that I realized I had the same plant family in three beds. I planted two beds of tomatoes and one bed of peppers in 2015. They all belong to the family Solanaceae. That only left me one choice for rotation as I have a permanent crop of raspberries in one bed and garlic in the other.  I have cut back the tomato bed to just one this year. I will either surround the plants with a border of basil or peppers, maybe a mix of both. I certainly don’t need 72 basil plants like last year. I have a freezer full of pesto. Since the garlic will be harvested in late June  I can add some late crops to that bed.

Planning for Crop Rotation in the Organic Garden

I have forgotten to add a bed of Brassica family vegetables such as kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips and kohlrabi to the plan so I may have them share a bed with the carrots and beets. Carrots can have problems with carrot rust fly and the Brassica are a favourite host plant for the cabbage moth. If I plant them all together in one bed I can use a floating row cover for pest control. Above is a row cover I used at the Ladner Community Garden. It kept the cabbage moth at bay until the plants were large enough to fend for themselves.

Planning for Crop Rotation in the Organic Garden

The best idea is to draw a plan similar to this one. Rotate bed four to bed three and three to two  and so on so you have a four-year rotation.  Think about dividing your in-ground vegetable garden into four quadrants and rotate that way.

Here is a list of the most common plant families to help you plan:

Brassica-Cauliflower, Brussel Sprouts, Broccoli, Kale, Turnip, Kohlrabi, Radishes, Collard Greens, Bok Choi, Pac Choi, Mustard, Rutabaga, Watercress

Allium-Garlic, Onions, Chives, Shallots

Fabaceae or Legumes-Peas, Beans, Peanuts, Lentils, Soya Beans, Edamame

Cucurbits-Cucumbers, Pumpkin, Squash, Melon, Zucchini, Gourds

Solanaceae-Tomatoes, Potatoes, Peppers, Eggplant, Tomatillos





5 thoughts on “Planning for Crop Rotation in the Organic Garden

  1. I’ve been working on my various ‘plans’ for years now – Have you experienced any benefits from planting a variety of ‘companion plants’ in the same spot? I was hoping that by rotating spot in bed, but also interplanting companion plants each season, the strict ‘don’t plant in same area 2 years in a row” might be lessened in consequences – 🙂 Thanks!

    1. I think I would continue to rotate plants that tend to get diseases like late blight on tomatoes and potatoes. As far as fooling insects by using companion plants, I am not so sure it really works. I think the important part to remember is each plant uses different nutrients from the soil. Corn is a heavy nitrogen feeder so you need to follow it with a legume to add back nitrogen to the soil. You couldn’t continue to grow corn in the same area. It wouldn’t thrive.

      1. Yes! 🙂 i companion plant veggies herbs and flowers to utilize taking/giving to soil, root depth, various harvesting cycles to control weed growth and microclimate etc. But just dont have enough years of data to know if in season planting/rotation is sufficient so have been rotating beds and doing soil samples till I know for sure. Was just hoping maybe u had more years of data than I because some items really mess with my neat little bed plans (corn, beans sqash plantings need larger sized area and have to keep the different varities as far apart as possible. Lol

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