Crop rotation is really essential for distributing the nutrients in your patch. All plants require different ratios of nutrients. The main players in the nutrient game are NPK, which is nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Most farming relies on fertilisers which are expensive, and can lead to eutrophication which isn’t very nice! Eutrophication is when too many nutrients go into rivers and streams; increasing the amount of algae and thus reducing the light levels in the river or stream, killing everything that needs light and oxygen to live. So based on the expense and potential environmental damage our garden is going to distribute the nutrients using crop rotation.
Different plants don’t just use different nutrients they also exude different nutrients. For example by putting the brassicas (cabbages etc) where the beans were the year before they will absorb the nutrients left behind by the beans. There are also different rules associated with different types of veggies living in harmony near each other. For example you should put carrots and onions in the same bed but keep the potatoes away from the beans. I spent a long time reading possibly the best book on self sufficiency the “Self Sufficient-ish Bible – Andy & Dave Hamliton” and made this little diagram to sort my crop rotation out.
The age old topic of crop rotation has been a big subject this year, having never actually done the rotation plan myself I’m feeling very nervous about where to place my veggies! We planted in June, which meant we were pretty limited to what we could plant. I planted the beans first and this led to putting the veg in the order Legumes, Potato family, Carrots and Onions, and Brassicas. Which thus far has served us well. I’m hoping that after 4 rotations (4 years!) the ground will be full of all the right nutrients.
The Self Sufficient-ish Bible has a brilliant section on how best to rotate your crop over 4 years. As long as you start out in an order which matches the diagram I drew you’ll always be putting things in the right place if you cycle through that rotation.
For example my 4 year rotation plan looks like this:
Year 1: Legumes, Potato Family, Carrots and Onions and Brassicas.
Year 2: Potato Family, Carrots and Onions, Brassicas and Legumes.
Year 3: Carrots and Onions, Brassicas, Legumes and Potato Family.
Year 4: Brassicas, Legumes, Potato Family and Carrots and Onions.
You can kind of see how you rotate from that. You never end up with enemy veg next to each other e.g. onions and legumes.
I’m no expert, but the book “Self Sufficient-ish Bible” is great and can be found in all good book shops. Also check out http://www.selfsufficientish.com where all manner of things can be found. It’s run by Andy+Dave Hamilton the authors of the Self Sufficient-ish Bible, so you know it’s good!