For Starters, the most Voracious Plants

In the traditional practice, the proper crop rotation is usually arranged first and foremost for the nutritional needs of the plants. This ensures that the nutrients supplied in the form of fertilizers or already present in the soil are used properly and as evenly as possible. This approach also refers to the oldest tradition of crop rotation. It is characterized by great simplicity and has some ecological advantages, although it is much better and healthier for the soil and the plants to crop rotation to be significantly extended, even to 6-10 years and more. In the first field, fertilized well with compost or manure, preferably already slightly composted, the most demanding plants are planted in terms of the content and availability of nutrients in the soil, including usually moisture.

Then you plan to sow or plant plants that are less demanding in terms of nutrients, including those that should not be allowed to enter the freshly-fertilized field because then more pests develop on them, such as carrots. Finally, plants that do not require too much nutrient in the soil will end up in the field. In the following year this cycle is repeated.

Three-Year Traditional Crop Rotation

And here are some examples of such traditional crop rotation taken from old gardening guides, mainly from the inter-war period. First, we quote the reflections on this subject by Professor Edmund Jankowski, a well-known author of many gardening guides from the interwar period. The advice is very simple and up-to-date to this day, additionally it explains in a very simple way the advantages and necessity of crop rotation. In one of them he wrote about the owner of home gardens, especially in the countryside:

We cannot wait for the natural improvement of the soil after growing a single plant species because it takes a long time and the soil is completely fallow. Instead, there is a crop rotation in the garden, in which the same plants return to the same place only every 9 years or even less frequently. This is achieved by growing freshly fertilized plants: deciduous plants in the first year, second bulbs and third legumes. We also make a planting plan, measuring so that in 3 years’ time, i.e. after the next fertilization, there will be cauliflowers in the place where the cabbage was planted (here, note: nowadays, due to belonging to the same botanical family of cabbage and cauliflower, a plant from a different family should be used there), then the cucumbers, and so the cabbage will not return to its former place until after a whole 8 years.

crop-rotation

Here is a practical example of such crop rotation:

So in the first year we plant: cabbage plants, lettuces, tomatoes, beets, corn, spinach, radish, pumpkin.

In year two we plant: cucumbers, onions, leeks, carrots, parsley, parsnip, but beets, spinach, radish and radish can also be found.

In the third year we will finally give there legumes, and moreover, spices such as dill, cumin, nigger and others. Besides, we try to make sure that a certain plant returns to the same place only after a long time, so if there was cabbage on some plot (year one on the dung), then in year four, when we give the dung again, there will be cauliflowers. Although ecologically, it would be better and healthier to give a plant from a different family than cabbage (formerly cruciferous plants), in year seven beets or tomatoes, and only in year ten will cabbage return.

Although the crop rotation is referred to as a three-year period, the consequences of the plants after each other are basically planned over much longer periods of time, which is very beneficial for the ecology and soil health.

Important Root System

root-systems-traditional-crop-rotation

Well-known gardener from the interwar period, Edward Nehring, in his reflections on practical crop rotation, points out: the ability of individual vegetables to take food from the ground, which is primarily influenced by their root system. Some of them reach very deep, e.g. up to 3 m, as in the case of horseradish in long-term cultivation, and wide, e.g. 2.5 m, as in the case of a five-year-old rhubarb, while others are only about 20 cm deep and 30 cm wide, as in the case of radishes. Therefore, it follows that exhaustion of the soil on which vegetables are grown is determined mainly by the weight of the soil covered by the roots. The greater the weight of the soil, the poorer the soil in food becomes.

The table below shows the depth to which individual vegetables reach with their roots. This allows you to see how deep the soil is in the roots and to determine the crop rotation in such a way that every year a different part of the soil is more depleted by the plants grown.

Rooting depth of plants (cm)

horseradishUp to 300
rhubarb200
carrot150
asparagus100
beetroot90
onion and cabbage75
tomato60
peas60
lettuce60
cucumber30
cauliflower30
spinach30
kohlrabi20
radish20

Divide Vegetables into Groups

Nehring also uses very practical grouping of the most important vegetables. It still seems to be very useful in practice, even though today’s organic garden should already include the latest botanical divisions. This makes it easier, especially for beginners and those accustomed to the old, simpler name, to plan crop rotation. It is best to grow plants from different groups in succession. You should never plant from one group year after year. Also one-year-old vegetables should only return to the same place after a few years.

Former, practical grouping of vegetables by Nehring

  1. Onions: onions, garlic, leeks, chives.
  2. Cabbages: cabbages, cauliflower, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts and others from the family of crosses, such as: swede, turnip, radish, radish.
  3. Cucurbits: watermelon, pumpkin, cucumber, melon.
  4. Solanaceous: tomato, potato.
  5. Lettuces.
  6. Savage.
  7. Spinach.
  8. Root: Beet, carrot, parsley.
  9. Seed: beans, beans, peas, soya.

Other plants, such as herbs and flowers, can be adapted to these individual groups. Of course, we should also take into account contemporary botanical divisions. Separately, vegetables and perennial fruit plants such as horseradish rhubarb, asparagus and strawberries should be included in the crop rotation. According to Nehring, they constitute a group of their own; therefore each of these plants should not return to the same place earlier than after 4-5 years.

Four-Year Traditional Crop Rotation

It is rather suitable for larger horticultural farms, but can also be successfully used in small home gardens, plots, etc.

Year onecabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi, tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, leeks – on strong manure
Year twoonions, lettuces, beetroots
Year threecarrots, parsley, swedes, early potatoes
Year fourbeans, beans, peas, soybean

Note: Give the plantation another portion of manure before the second harvest in the autumn. It seems that green manure would also be good in this case.