VEGETABLE CROP ROTATION IN A FOUR YEAR CYCLE

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GARDEN CROP ROTATION BY FAMILY

Using A Four-Year Cycle, By Plant Family

Written By James J. Sagmiller

This listing is based upon the Linnean botanical classification of plants into family, genus and species.  Each family of plants represents a genetically related group that usually prefers similar soil and growing conditions in the garden and is frequently subject to the same pests and diseases. 

Growing the same annual vegetable crop in the same place year after year depletes soil nutrients and renders plants more susceptible to pests and diseases.  By rotating which types of plants are planted in a particular spot, the garden soil will be improved and plants will be healthier.  Some vegetables, especially peas and beans, fix nitrogen in the soil.  They prepare the soil for the second year’s crop of nitrogen-hungry Brassica family members, such as spinach and kale.  These are followed in the third year by the Solanaceae family, including  tomatoes and potatoes, along with others that enjoy a soil rich in phosphorus.  The fourth year rotation is made up of vegetables that tend to be less heavy feeders, such as onions and carrots.  

A simple way to set up a garden plot for rotation is to make a garden plan with four sections of beds or simply four beds if the area is small.  Start the first year by planting vegetables from the list in its proper section (or quadrant).  In the second year shift the placement of everything from its previous location into the next section, and so on each year.  By the fifth year, the vegetables from the first season would be planted where they were the first year.  

This guide list is a practical way to build your soil and thereby grow the healthiest vegetables you can.  In rotation 3 the herb sweet basil is included because it enjoys similar garden conditions as members of the  Solanaceae family.  I have also listed some annual flowers that are grown in vegetable gardens and these benefit from rotation as well.  In rotation 4 are nasturtiums, marigolds and zinnias.  Nasturtiums and signet marigolds can be used as colorful, flavorful additions to salads.   Zinnias attract pollinating insects (especially the single or semi-double forms) and make delightful cut flowers, but are not edible.  

Garden Bed Section 1. 

Fabaceae, Polygonaceae, Tetragoniaceae, Portulacaceae

Fabaceae:

Peas

Beans

Polygonaceae:

Sorrel

Portulacaceae:

Purslane

Claytonia

Tetragoniaceae:

New Zealand Spinach

Green Manures (all Fabaceae):

Cowpeas

Crimson Clover

Rose Clover

Berseem Clover

Purple Vetch

Austrian Winter Peas

Garden Bed Section 2.

Brassicaceae and Chenopodiaceae

Brassicaceae:

Arugula

Broccoli

Brussels Sprouts

Cabbage

Cabbage, Chinese

Cress

Kale

Kohlrabi

Mizuna

Mustard

Radish

Rutabaga

Tatsoi

Watercress

Chenopodiaceae:

Beet

Orach

Spinach

Swiss Chard

Amaranthaceae:

Quinoa

Garden Bed Section 3.

Cucurbitaceae, Lamiaceae, Poaceae and Solanaceae

Cucurbitaceae:

Cucumber

Melon

Pumpkin

Squash, summer

Squash, winter

Lamiaceae:

Sweet Basil

Poaceae:

Corn (maize)

Solanaceae:

Eggplant

Pepper

Potato

Tomato

Garden Bed Section 4.

Apiaceae, Asteraceae, Liliaceae and Tropaeolaceae

Apiaceae:

Carrot

Celery

Celeriac

Parsley

Parsley Root

Parsnip

Asteraceae:

Artichoke

Dandelion

Chicory

Endive

Escarole

Lettuce

Marigold

Radicchio

Zinnia

Liliaceae:

Garlic

Leek

Onion

Shallots

Tropaeolaceae:

Nasturtiums

Garlic is planted in fall and carries over into summer for harvest, so it is in the same place for nearly a year.  If it is planted in fall in rotation 4, the space it takes will reduce the beans and peas planting space in rotation 1.  When it is harvested in late July or August, garlic can be followed by a green manure crop or by a late planting of peas.  

Bibliography:

Coleman, Eliot, 1992. Four Seasons Harvest.  Chelsea Green Publishing, Vermont.

Gettle, Jere and Emilee, 2015. The Heirloom Life Gardener.  Hachette Books, New York.

Jabbour, Niki, 2011. The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener.  Storey Publishing, Massachusetts.Poisson, Leandre and Gretchen, 1994. Solar Gardening.  Chelsea Green Publishing, Vermont.

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