Crop rotation
by Frann Leach
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If you want to be a successful organic grower, you need to use rotation as one of your tools to keep the ground fertile and free of pests. Here are two suggested rotations, one based on a three-year rotation (really the absolute minimum), and the other on four years.

Site A: Alliums (Liliaceae - Group 6) and roots (except swede, turnips, radishes - Cruciferae/Group 2) including celery and celeriac (Umbelliferae - Group 3), plus lettuce (Compositae - Group 4), chard, spinach (Chenopodiaceae - Group 1), sorrel and purslane (Group 9). Compost feed for alliums in early spring, but no lime.

Site B: Brassicas (Cruciferae - Group 2) including spring greens, radishes, turnip, swede. Heavy compost in autumn or spring. Lime 2 weeks later, if necessary. Follow winter greens by green manure.

Site C: Peas, beans (Leguminosae - Group 7) and sweetcorn (Gramineae - Group 9). Light compost in autumn or spring. Follow with brassicas (Cruciferae - Group 2).

Site D: Gross feeders (Solanacae - Group 8 and Cucurbitaceae - Group 5). In heavy rainfall areas add rock phosphate and rock potash. In all areas add manure in autumn or spring, and seaweed solution in summer. Early potatoes are followed by leeks.

3 Year Rotation (no gross feeders)

Year 1 Year 2 Year 3
A C B
B A C
C B A

4 Year Rotation

Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4
A C D B
B A C D
C D B A
D B A C

A rotation for no-digging

  • On the first plot place potatoes on the ground, cover with 5cm (2") of well-rotted compost, and then a 30cm (1') layer of sodden straw. Any old straw will do for this, provided it has not been treated with weedkiller. At harvest, just push the straw on one side to lift the crop.
  • The following year move the straw over to the plot where the potatoes will be and sow root crops on plot one, in the compost that has been left behind, which is by now about 1½in deep. You do not have to put any new compost on to the root crop area.
  • The next crops to occupy plot one are the peas and beans. Scratch shallow seed drills so that the sowing may be done on the surface of the soil. Rake the compost over and sprinkle a little more over the drills to bring it to the normal seed depth.
  • After the peas and beans have been picked, cut them off at soil level and put them on to the compost heap. Rake the soil level, and sow brassicas through the thin layer of compost (Brussels sprouts, cauliflowers, cabbages, etc.).
  • Thus the four-course rotation consists of: (1) potatoes, (2) root crops, (3) peas and beans, and (4) brassicas. By this scheme, you need only the minimum amount of compost, and only about a quarter of the straw which goes onto plot one of the rotation needs to be replaced in any one year.
©2004 Frann Leach. All rights reserved.

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