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: https://gardenplanner.almanac.com
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.
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.