Crop Rotation

Need to know the best time to plant?

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Stephen
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Crop Rotation

Postby Stephen » Wed Aug 24, 2011 4:40 pm

We all do it. It's perfectly simple in theory and the books offer about a page on it (maybe two if they are well illustrated).
However, I find the books are limited in their approach. It is usually very simple stuff like this Image which helps very little really.

Firstly, they take no account of the fact that the area required for different "groups" are different.
Secondly, they focus on summer crops, almost to exclusion and don't explain how to use the ground best over the whole year. (For example, I lifted my onions in July but my beans are still cropping well and the main crop spuds are still in the ground so the winter brasicas have gone into the space which had the onions).

I know that quite a lot of ground will lie unused over the winter just soaking in the manure but if there is any helpful guidance on how to use the ground well (for example, as the broad beans are gone, what should go there - I'd need more space than the broad beans occupied for the brassicas just mentioned)

Thanks
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Re: Crop Rotation

Postby Parsons Jack » Wed Aug 24, 2011 8:00 pm

Hi Stephen,

My winter brassicas have gone in where the broad beans and peas were. When I plant more brassicas in the spring, they will follow on from the rest of this years peas and beans.
Meanwhile the peas and beans are moving along to where the potatoes were this year. As the year progresses, brassicas will follow as the peas and beans finish.
After that it will get a little confusing for me, as this is the first full year of having two plots to spread over.
I also use a four crop plan instead of three. Potatoes, Peas and Beans, Brassicas, Roots :)
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Re: Crop Rotation

Postby solway cropper » Thu Aug 25, 2011 10:46 pm

A lot of people seem to get hung-up about crop rotation. It really is far more relevant to the monoculture production of commercial agriculture than the home grower and if you use block planting or square foot gardening it becomes a bit pointless. All I would say is don't put exactly the same crop in the same piece of land year after year. Having said that, a commercial grower down the road from here had potatoes in the same field four years running with no obvious ill effects. The field is now fallow and home to some sheep but it illustrates the point.

Practice it if you like but don't worry if you get it wrong. The world won't end just because your peas followed your cabbages.
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Re: Crop Rotation

Postby Geoff » Fri Aug 26, 2011 1:07 pm

I have a plan of my beds on the computer (I use Publisher but anything would do) and each year I print a blank and plan what I intend to do, later in the year (this year beginning of August) I type in what I have actually done and save it. I know what I grew where back to 1996.
I don't run a strict regime of what follows what, I don't think it is possible as the areas required for the different groups never balance, but I do make sure like doesn't follow like. I often get Club Root so I ensure the maximum possible gap before Brassicas go back to the same place. Because of this I heavily lime their area so I have to make sure it is going to be empty in the Winter, I keep an extra sheet of the plan called Lime History. I also like to keep the Potatoes away from a quick repeat in the same ground so I have a Potato History sheet as a reminder. I wouldn't get too hung up about keeping the plot full through the Winter. I have lightish soil and heavy rainfall so I don't prepare most of the ground until Spring. I find it a waste of time in my climate trying to gain a bit by over wintering Peas or Broad Beans - easier to module raise them in the Spring.
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Re: Crop Rotation

Postby Johnboy » Fri Aug 26, 2011 1:19 pm

Hi Solway,
With the Commercial Grower you refer to were the potatoes grown in the same soil each year or were they grow in different strips within the same field?
JB.
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Re: Crop Rotation

Postby Nature's Babe » Fri Aug 26, 2011 2:49 pm

Most farms in our area rotate, in the field behind us the last three crops were were sheep /pasture, field beans, and wheat, interestingly not ploughed between the beans and wheat which looked like a fine crop, he just managed to harvest before the recent rains Another more distant farmer planted sprouting broccoli in the same field for the last three
years, his crop struggled more with the drought this year. We are on clay so if the land is not tended well it cracks in drought
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Re: Crop Rotation

Postby Monika » Fri Aug 26, 2011 6:41 pm

I use a very similar system to Geoff though I do it by hand on a plan which I drew up when we first got the allotment many years ago. Every year the blank is photocopied twice: once to draw up the draft of sowing/planting and one to record the actual sowing/planting, together with the relevant dates. I simply put them in chronological order into a file and can therefore immediately refer back to previous years.

Apropos being strict with rotation: I certainly practise a strict 3-year-rotation for potatoes, brassicas and the onion family. Others, e.g. all legumes, salad crops, beetroot, florence fennel and, if necessary, carrots and parsnips, are sometimes sown more closely together, that is every two years. For the runner beans, climbing French beans and tall peas we have a permanent strong frame (has to be because the allotment is very exposed) and these three vegetables are always grown along this frame, but we do dig out a deep trench there in winter and fill it with manure and compost, so the soil does change slightly every year.
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Re: Crop Rotation

Postby Geoff » Fri Aug 26, 2011 7:06 pm

PS : I only produce them on the computer, I print them and keep them in a ring file!
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Re: Crop Rotation

Postby Stephen » Sat Aug 27, 2011 6:10 pm

Lots of helpful comments, I shall re-read them carefully.

Like Geoff and Monika I print off plans, which get filled in, in pencil up on the plot. It's in two parts (parftly because we started on one half, then extended, partly because half is in beds and the other is open field and because we need it large enough to write on - and be able to read it)
I use PowerPoint (and a version in Word as well) and it has the permanant crops printed in (the soft fruit and the asparagus). We produce an Spring/Summer version, then an Autumn/Winter.
We plan the spring planting but have yet to plan the succesion. After that everything gets slotted in. We keep like with like, that year's salad bed gets planted and replanted.
We probably need to review more often what has conveniently followed an early crop.
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Re: Crop Rotation

Postby solway cropper » Tue Aug 30, 2011 10:53 pm

Hi Solway,
With the Commercial Grower you refer to were the potatoes grown in the same soil each year or were they grow in different strips within the same field?
JB.


sorry for the late reply....been busy.

the potatoes were all in the same small field. As soon as he lifted them he ploughed the land then sowed a fodder crop which helped the sheep through the winter and it's now fallow. I'm curious to see what he'll do with it next year.
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Re: Crop Rotation

Postby Urban Fox » Wed Aug 31, 2011 12:59 pm

If you need some graph paper to do some rough drafts of you plot layout - the very best place to go is...

http://incompetech.com/graphpaper/

there is every conceivable type of graph paper from dots to squares, hexagons to circles. all in a range of different scales.

you'll definitely find something to use for the plot and can save as a pdf to print out whenever you need to update something.

Christina
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Re: Crop Rotation

Postby Mike Vogel » Sat Sep 10, 2011 6:04 pm

Stephen, I would recommend sowing unused ground with a green manure, such as winter tares [especially where you intend to plant brassicas next spring] or Phacelia tanacetifolia, which grows luxuriently and will provide quire a lot of bulk. These will also help the soil "digest" the manure without affecting its nutritional value. Dig in the GM in the spring.

The problem with a simple 3-stroke rotation is that it doesn't allow for veg of te same family needing different types of nourisshment. E.g. celeriac needs a lot of manure the previous autumn, but carrots don't [they do well with leaf-mould]. But they are both roots. So I actually use a 7-year rotation on my allotment, but as I use raised beds it doesn't really matter [2 of the 4 beds in the row I leafmould and one I manure]. However, in the end the potatoes [which need 7 or 8 beds] always catch up with the tomatoes [which need 2], and blight becomes a danger. I am getting to the point where I am thinking of using fewer beds and planting stuff much closer together.
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Re: Crop Rotation

Postby Stephen » Thu Sep 15, 2011 12:08 pm

Mike
I have planted green manure for winter in the past; can you tell me when I should dig it over and in for the best results? I suspect that I may have left it to grow too long on previous occasions.
Also, do I sow then spread the muck straight away? (no shortage of manure)

My rotation varies depending upon which bit of the plot is under discussion. I am lucky in having a full size plot and have half as beds (with the asparagus, most of the soft fruit and some flexible beds which I use for salad stuff and some of the smaller crops) and half as open field (which has the raspberries and is used for the spuds, was used for the onions (see white onion rot) and had the beans and now the winter/spring brassicas).
The most fixed element of the rotation in the open field is the spuds moving one-third of the area each year. I won't be growing onions for a few years, so a square will be used for sweetcorn next year (didn't grow it this year but have done so in the past).
Next year I really hope to get some success with the brassicas, which have had very mixed (generally poor) in the past.
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Re: Crop Rotation

Postby Nature's Babe » Thu Sep 15, 2011 1:45 pm

Stephen, I used to struggle with brassicas, but now they are doing really well in my no dig beds. :)
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Re: Crop Rotation

Postby oldherbaceous » Thu Sep 15, 2011 7:22 pm

Evening Stephen, have you limed your soil lately where your Brassicas are?

This can make a huge difference to the plants if the P.H is to low.
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