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Polytunnel crop rotation

Rotating crops in the polytunnel

 

Crop rotation is very important in gardening… if you don’t know what crop rotation is, its where you move crops about from one season to the next. You may see a farmer’s field full of corn one year, then the next year it may be an entirely different crop. There is method in the madness… plants take certain nutrients from the soil, therefore keeping the same crop in the same place, year after year will drain the soil of necessary nutrient. Rotating the crops allows the soil to regenerate these nutrients. Not only this, it also helps deter pests… different pests feed from certain crops, moving them about will help reduce build-up of damaging populations of spores, eggs and pests. In order to know what crops to rotate where you need to know what nutrients each crop takes from the soil. For example… members of the cabbage family like a lot of nitrogen, tomatoes need plenty of calcium, beets and beans require lots manganese and so on. Many crops like salads are short rooted, unlike potatoes meaning they take nutrients from different layers of the soil. Crops like potatoes are good clearing crops, this is because their dense foliage helps to supress weed growth, plus once their dug-up birds will eat pests in the soil, such as slugs and wireworm.

Understanding annual crop rotation and putting it into practise will definitely improve the growth of vegetables. The hard part is remembering where each crop was planted last season, and also identifying which plant family they belong to. The best way to remember this is to either draw a sketch of your garden and write on which crop was planted where, or you can use a garden planning software on a computer. The clever thing about most garden planners is that it can remember where you planted crops from up to five seasons before and will pretty much tell you where is best to plant this season.

Here is a short list of crops to rotate after one another that should put you on your way:

  • Plant potatoes after sweetcorn
  • Plant peas after tomatoes
  • Plant tomatoes after beans
  • Plant sweetcorn after cabbages
  • Plant root crops after cucumbers or squash

I hope this article helped for next season in the polytunnel… Feel free to leave a comment on what plants you like to rotate for the best results.crop rotation diagram

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