How to Rotate Your Vegetable Crops

Rotate Crops by the Color of the Rainbow!

November 7, 2016

Rate this Video: 

Average: 4.1 (195 votes)

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

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

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

The Garden Planner is available here:

Rotating Crops by Colors of the Rainbow

A better 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

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

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

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

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

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.


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

The Almanac Webcam

Chosen for You from The Old Farmer's Store