Crop Rotation: How to Rotate Your Vegetable Crops

Practice Crop Rotation to Grow a Better Vegetable Garden!

October 16, 2020

Crop rotation is key to a successful vegetable garden after the first year. It’s important to grow vegetables in different areas of your garden each year to keep them healthy and combat pests! Learn about crop rotation in the video above.

However, it can be difficult to plan the order of crop rotation and organize it well, particularly if you are growing different amounts of a variety of crops.

The video above explains a simple color-coded method of crop rotation that makes the whole process much simpler and shows how the Garden Planner software can help.

►Try the Garden Planner for free here:

What Is Crop Rotation?

Crop rotation is the practice of growing different types of plants in the same garden bed over multiple seasons. For example, if you grew tomatoes and peppers in a raised bed this year, rather than grow these same crops here next year, you would grow a different sort of crop—such as carrots, broccoli, or chard—in that same bed. The purpose of crop rotation is to reduce the spread of garden pests and diseases, as well as to ensure that your plants are getting all the nutrients they need from the soil.

Raised beds. Photo by John Braid/Shutterstock.
Photo by John Braid/Shutterstock

If you were to plant tomatoes in the same bed each year without making changes to the soil, the tomatoes you plant this year would be more likely to be affected by any pests or diseases that affected your tomato crop last year. Additionally, over time, the plants would deplete the soil of any necessary nutrients that tomatoes specifically require to grow. By practicing crop rotation, you intentionally plant crops that aren’t as susceptible to the same pests and diseases and do not require the same amounts or types of nutrients. 

Rotating Crops by Colors of the Rainbow

The best way to rotate annual vegetables is to group them by their plant family. This means you can group plants with similar maintenance requirements together. For instance, all plants in the cabbage family are best grown together to make it easier to net them against cabbage white butterfly and birds—and there’s no risk of accidentally passing on crop-specific soil-dwelling pests and diseases to the next crop.

A handy way to set crop order is to give each plant family a shade relating to the colors of the rainbow, as shown below.

Crop Rotation Chart by Planting Year, Color, and Plant Family


Working from the inside of the rainbow out, you can see which plants belong together and which should come next in each bed. The rotation starts with lilacs and blues—onion family plants and peas/beans—which are commonly grown together as they both like soil enriched with compost and take up little space. Once you’ve harvested your onions and leeks from your first bed, the next crop in that spot would be cabbages, cauliflower and broccoli and so on, for the first seven categories.

Using this order of rotation is optional, but it helps to make sure that the soil is in the correct condition for the following crop.

Plants in the Miscellaneous (grey) category are useful for plugging gaps in your beds as they don’t tend to suffer badly from particular soil-borne pests and diseases, and can be fitted in anywhere you have room, although it’s still a good idea to move them around from year to year as much as possible, particularly sweet corn which can suffer from rootworm.

Our Garden Planner makes things even easier, as each plant icon is color-coded so you can quickly see at a glance which family it belongs to.

If you need help designing your vegetable garden, try our easy (and rather fun!) Vegetable Garden Planner (for PC & Mac) for a free 7-day trial.


Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

I think it's a great video

For someone who is a newbie and didn't know a dang thing about crop families, or rotation this video worked for me. I don't know why there are some negative comment below, assuming what a newbie knows or doesn't know.
What I did was watch the video, listen to what was said, wrote down all the crop families he listed (which you don't even have to do because there is a chart above! print it out!)
Then I drew out my plan, placed veggies where I wanted, watched a bunch of videos on OFA and Growveg because I love Benedict Vanheems.
And BAM I have a garden plan for the next few years. Not to mention I grew an awesome garden this year! I'm just back for a refresher. How did this video get bad reviews?! If you don't want to use the software, then don't use it. It's free to use for 7 days to try it out. The video does have great information though.

Seasonal considerations

Here in North Central Florida, we have the blessing of two growing seasons. How might this rotation plan be adapted to meet the various temperature needs of different crops? For example, we have to put tomatoes in fairly early, as they will not ripen in hotter temperatures. But the cabbage and broccoli may not be done in time to put the tomatoes there. How flexible is this rotation plan?

Separate Spring and Fall Garden Plans

Jeremy Dore's picture

In areas with long growing seasons, crop rotation can be handled in a couple of ways.

1. You can use the principles of Succession Planting to fill gaps when they appear (see this video for details:  Generally you want to plant crops from a different crop family as follow-on crops.  For crops that finish in the ground early in the season, you’ll want to plant things that can withstand hot summers (think fruiting crops rather than cool-season leafy crops).  For crops that finish in the ground in late summer, you can follow them with typical fall crops such as leafy greens, beets, kale, leafy herbs etc.

2. Alternatively, many people like to create two garden plans: one for Spring (which extends into summer) and one for Fall (which extends into overwintering crops).  If you use our Garden Planner you can do this by first creating your Spring plan and saving it, then creating a Follow-on plan from that spring plan.  The Follow-on plan will default to being for the next year but you can simply change that to the same year as the Spring plan. That then sets up all the crop-rotation guidance that the Garden Planner gives, making it easy to work out where to place plants to avoid crop rotation mistakes.

In the end, crop rotation in a restricted area or with overlapping growing seasons can be more of an art rather than a strict science which is why many people take their time choosing and rearranging crops to get the layout that they’re happy with and that fits what they want to have available from their garden at different times of the year.  So you can be flexible and you don’t have to stick to the strict order presented in the video - just changing the crop family is often adequate.  Try to put crops from the Miscellaneous family (grey backgrounds in the Garden Planner) into gaps and you shouldn’t have any problems.

Crop Rotation Video

Information provided is a mix of rudimentary to medium level of experience and knowledge. Solutions presented are thoughtful and, in my experience, time tested. For the person who grows a garden year after year it may be a bit simplistic, but I think it will undoubtedly encourage "newbies" to step outside and experiment. I've convinced my wife to use the program to add some rigor to her gardening practises and to encourage her to expand her gardening interests. Overall, I say, "Well done!"

crop rotation

where does okra fit in this rotation?


The Editors's picture

Okra is listed under the Miscellaneous (grey) category.

Limited space for rotation

What do you do when you only have four 4x8 raised beds? Are there groups of 2 families you can grow together?This year I did one whole bed of sweet corn, one of tomatoes, and the other 2 are eggplant, peppers, cukes, squash in one, and beans and carrots in the other. I followed up the corn with cauliflower and broccoli and the beans with cabbage and the tomatoes with garlic.
How do I fit all that in different places next year?

Rotation plans

The Editors's picture

Sue, over the long term, you will have better results from your gardens if you become familiar with the plant families (above; e.g., eggplant and tomato are both nightshades) and group them accordingly. The Garden Planner, even if you sign up for the 7-day free trial, will help you to better understand the process and pattern (you can probably plan next season’s beds within the 7-day trial and get the answer to your question!). You can also learn more about crop rotation in the 2018 Almanac, on page 249. It explains, in part: “Crop rotation is the practice of planting annual vegetables with their botanical families…” We hope this helps!

Where do Sweet Potatoes & Yams fall in.

I heard sweet potatoes and yams were in a different family than potatoes

Sweet potatoes and yams

The Editors's picture

Sweet potatoes and yams are not closely related to potatoes or any other common crops (or, to each other!). Yams can be included anywhere in your crop rotation, but in the Garden Planner we recommend grouping sweet potatoes with potato family crops because they often suffer from the same soil-borne pests and diseases, and so should not follow one another in crop rotations.

Looks great, but..

This is a great ad for an expensive app. It's the same app sold by Mother Earth News and Garden Plan Pro. All with the same terrible reviews. Either get the product working or lower the price.

Is the app not working for

The Editors's picture

Is the app not working for you? We’ve had very high customer satisfaction so we’re confused by this, and we would encourage you to contact our personal customer service if you have any difficulties. Many years ago, we had a few startup kinks so perhaps you’re seeing dated questions? Today, it’s the best garden planning tool available (which is why we bought into it) and we have thousands of customers finding that it’s incredibly useful, saving both time and money.

Also, we try to keep the cost as low as possible and the subscription cost is used to further develop the tool (e.g. adding 70 new plants and the new Companion Planting feature this spring) and that we have a lot of great things coming like the Garden Journal.

We rarely see any disgruntled comments like this from our Almanac users. As you know if you use this tool, we always work to help anyone who might have difficulties using the apps for whatever reason so please contact us.

Not as useful as you would think

This video doesn't give out specific information on which crops are in which families and why the different crops do better in soil planted with a different plant family the previous year. It's basically an ad for the garden planning software.

Hi Grace. I'm sorry you didn

Hi Grace. I'm sorry you didn't find the video useful. We used the Garden Planner in this video as one of its main strengths is that it takes the headache out of figuring out which crop belongs to which family, and makes crop rotation simpler. Thanks for your comment - I will discuss this with our video production team as an idea for future videos on this subject.

garden planner

The Editors's picture

We’re not really sure how to respond to this. The video does show the Garden Planner a lot but that’s because if we made a video about every possible crop family combination it would be rather long and boring and it’s much easier to show it visually in the Garden Planner, as it’s one of the core features.  The article itself does list all the most common crop types in the table and which family they belong to, so hopefully that will help you as I think the color coding developed and explained on this page is the easiest way to understand it.

Haven't gardened for many

Haven't gardened for many years, need help.... I now live in town, much different . I live in western Nebraska

Beginner gardening

The Editors's picture

Judy, To help get you started, check out our article on Vegetable Garden Planning for Beginners. We hope this helps!

This looks very helpful even

This looks very helpful even though I have been gardening for years.

Very practical visual on crop

Very practical visual on crop rotation. I will recommend to my friends.


Sign up for our email newsletter by entering your email address.

BONUS: You’ll also receive our Almanac Companion newsletter!

The Almanac Webcam

Chosen for You from The Old Farmer's Store