A Simple 4 Year Crop Rotation Plan

This post is part 3 of my series on crop rotation.  Today we are going to talk about my 4 Year Crop Rotation Plan.

4 Year Crop Rotation Plan Cover

I hope you have caught the first two posts in this 3 part series on crop rotation. If not you can read them here:
1. Vegetable Crop Families
2. The Importance of Crop Rotation

For those of you that haven’t read the other posts a quick summary of those two posts would be:

All crops (both veggies and fruits) belong to a family of related plants, those related plants use the same nutrients and have the same disease and pest problems.  If you plant the same crops (or crop families) in the same place in your garden, year after year.  Then you will deplete the soil of some specific nutrients and you risk a big build up of soil borne diseases and pests.

Everything I’ve ever been taught tells me that you should give a garden bed at least 3 years off from each plant family.  So the perfect rotation system would have you planting the same crop in the same bed every 4 years (that would give each bed 3 years off). So this 4 year Crop Rotation Plan is perfect!

This simple 4 year Crop Rotation Plan divides your garden into quarters!!

In this post I just want to take a quick minute and explain my 4 year crop rotation plan.  I will use my garden as the example, but you can use this system in almost any garden by dividing that garden into 4 sections.

So here’s my simple 4 year Crop Rotation Plan
My garden has 6 beds all 4 x 25 feet. Two of these beds are taken up by my strawberry, raspberry and blackberry patches.

That leaves me with 4 beds to plant all of my other crops!!
So my simple 4 year crop rotation plan goes like this.

4 year Crop Rotation Plan 1

I group plants together by family and come up with a plan that allows me to get everything in my garden that I want.  The diagram above is a little simplified, I grow more than just these crops, but this is enough to give you the right idea.
Then every year I plant all the same plants together, just the same as last year, but in a different bed.  In my case I move bed #1 down to the furthest south bed and then move the other beds up one to the north.

Year 2

4 Year Crop Rotation Plan

Year 3

4 Year Crop Rotation Plan 3

Year 4

4 Year Crop Rotation Plan 4

This simple rotation system means that every bed only sees the same crop every 4 years.

 

Now, if you want to add an additional twist to it, try this.

After the first 4 years of rotation, flip all the crops left to right. That means that in some cases, a spot in any particular bed will only see the same crop every 8 years or even every 12 years!

4 year Crop Rotation Plan 5

This system doesn’t have to be used just on gardens that have long rectangular beds.

I met a guy that has a garden that is perfectly square, he divides his garden into 4 quarters and does the exact same thing, rotating groups and families of plants around this garden in a 4 year cycle.

4 Year Crop Rotation Plan 6

And you can do the same even if you only have a small garden. Divide it into 4 and rotate crops!

4 Year Crop Rotation Plan7

This is a simple program, it’s easy to keep track of and it also makes planning where I’m going to plant everything in my garden a breeze!! It’s not perfect, my garden is not big enough that I can keep every family, perfectly separated every year. (The squash family is my problem because they take so much room) But it does assure that every bed (except my potato, tomato, pepper bed) doesn’t see plants form the same family for up to 8 years!

This 4 Year Crop Rotation Plan isn’t rocket science, but it does require keeping some records.  That is why I am such an advocate of keeping a garden journal.  Having last years (or the last 4 years) maps to look at really helps with your planning.  A garden journal also helps you keep track of how each crop did in each bed.  This allows you to make changes to your plan when needed.  To learn more about garden journals you can read this post.

I hope you enjoyed this series of posts.  Crop rotation is often over looked by many gardeners, especially new gardeners.  So take these plans and ideas that I have given you and apply them to your own garden.  Everybody’s garden is a bit different but if you apply the 1/4 concept to your garden, each of your garden beds will get at least 4 years off from any particular crop.  This will promote a vigorous, strong garden full of healthy balanced soil!!

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