Cycle one

I spent the weekend with a nagging feeling in the back of my mind…. ‘I need to sort out this crop rotation cover crop thing.  Once it is done, I’ll never have to think of it again.’  But there were other exciting things to occupy my time, so I pushed the reoccurring thought away.  But with the start of a new week and a decidedly autumnal feel to the air I was reluctant to go out into the garden until things warmed up.  It wasn’t cold on a normal cold scale, but when things plunge dramatically from the high 20Cs to the low 20Cs and late teens – you feel it.  This is temperatures I would delight in, in the spring, but in summer it is all a bit of a shock.

garden group one
The first row is the subject of the first crop rotation cycle.

So, I decided to sit down and figure all of this out in the ‘warmth’ of indoors until the sun warmed the garden.  But I never made it outside as a wrestled with who needs what.  But once it fell into place it all made sense and I wondered why it took so long and freaked me out so much.  But I had to go through the process to make sure I got it right.

As this is more for me than anything else, so I have resource to refer back to, I wrote out lengthy explanations as to why I made the decisions I made so I wouldn’t confuse my future self.   Which caused it to be quite long winded, so I have broken it up into 3 instalments for you, to make it light and interesting.   The half of the garden that was to be explored is actually nicely divided into 3 crop rotation cycles, so it was easy to split my explanations along those lines too.

garden plan
I have made plans for each area of the garden and think I may just laminate it to use as a reference from year to year. The crops listed are the ones it will be in the spring.

So today we are looking at what is going on in crop rotation cycle one and what will happen over the next couple of seasons.  There are 5 beds that rotate in this cycle and so the brassica won’t be in the same place for 5 years.  I’ve also avoided using mustard as a cover crop in this rotation to reduce the risk of club root disease and I only have one Solanaceae group here as well.  All in all, the needs of each bed are varied.  I hope it makes sense.


Bed 4:  was squash – will be brassicas

This bed is currently home to butternut and buttercup squash and a baby bear pumpkin that seems to be loving it and there is less baby about it and more oversized adolescent!  So much for the individual stuffed pumpkins I envisaged serving midwinter!  These have maybe 3 – 4 weeks left as the leaves are still green and vibrant.

  • Winter: So once harvested, I’ll re-enrich soil and sow lupin cover crop to revitalise the soil and prepare it for the brassicas in the spring.
  • Spring: About 5 – 6 weeks before I need the bed – around early Sept I’ll dig in the cover crop and sow new brassica seeds indoors so the bed will be ready when the seedlings are.
Baby Bear Pumpkin
My rather large Baby Bear Pumpkin isn’t too far off being ready.

Bed 5: was onions (and popcorn) – will be squash

At the moment this bed has some red strawberry popcorn in as a catch crop after the onion came out.  It is currently at the ‘tassels falling onto the silk’ stage and ideally, I’d like to let the popcorn dry on the plant, so this isn’t going anywhere for a long time.

  • Winter: As the popcorn is a gross feeder, I will pop in a lupin cover crop to replace what nutrients have been used. The squash won’t be planted out until late October so there is plenty of time.
  • Spring: I’ll dig in the cover crop with enough time for it to rot down and incorporate into the soil before the squash seedlings I will have grown from seed are ready to go in.
tassels on strawberry red popcorn
The tassels on strawberry popcorn have a lovely red shade to them.

Bed 6 was tomatoes – will be onions

The tomatoes were are complete disaster thanks to a late discovery of the Tomato Potato Psyllid.  I made some headway in controlling it, but it was too far gone to really save my plants.  There are a couple of plants still in the garden who seem to have them but seem to be coping well enough.  They are the Yellow Pear and the Big Beef.  I’ll be planting these resilient plants again.  But they do look a little sad in the bed by themselves with 18 siblings and their pests evicted weeks ago.

  • Winter: So, when the time comes and the burden is too much for these last plants I’ll pull them out and burn them and dig in some compost, some manure and some blood and bone and prepare the soil for the onions which will go in as seedlings in mid-winter.
  • Spring: All I need to do is weed, feed and water and wait for the harvest in early summer.
This is not my best season for tomatoes.

Bed 7:  Was peas – will be tomatoes

Right now, there is nothing in here, but the framework is still up.  I am hoping today or during the week to take advantage of the much-needed rain we had over the weekend to sow an autumn crop and fill the freezer with fresh peas for winter days.  I may even see how far I can take this crop into the winter if we don’t get frosts here.  It will be interesting to see.

  • Winter: once they finish I’ll re-enrich the soil with a nice layer of well-rotted manure and let the worms work it in and create a healthy soil micro community so the tomatoes have a good home to go to where they can grow strong and hopefully be more resilient to the pests that plague them.
  • Spring: I’ll sow tomatoes and hope for an abundant harvest.
Pea trellis
The pea bed and trellis are ready and waiting for the cool season crops.

Bed 8:  was brassicas – will be peas

This will continue to be brassicas for a second crop this season over the winter months – I’ll start them off in the nursery bed under a net, protected from the ravages of the cabbage white butterfly.  I will have to turf them out early though, if I haven’t eaten them to make way for the peas in the early spring.  I’ll re-enrich the bed before putting the new plants in.

  • Winter: Then we’ll eat brassicas all winter long until there is none left.
  • Spring: I’ll add compost and other goodies to re-enrich soil and sow the peas.  I may have to start them in the nursery bed if there are still stragglers – to buy a few more weeks of time.
flower sprouts
It is too warm here for proper Brussels sprouts but these flower sprouts are a good replacement but it won’t be until some time in the winter that they’ll be ready

Now that wasn’t so painful, and it feels so good to have it sorted out.

Come again soon – tomorrow I’ll have the next instalment of what is going where.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

13 thoughts on “Cycle one

  1. That is way more effort than I put into it. Not everything got rotated regularly. The tomatoes and beans needed it more than others. The tomatoes, for example, got grown in a different spot every year, until they exhausted their resources, and returned to original spots.
    However. lettuces and beets got planted in the same beds for several years consecutively.

    1. I think for somethings it is more important than others but if you’re moving stuff it makes sense to move everything and one spot to the left is the easiest way! : o)

      1. Yes. The next garden will be without the sort of fences that I want to obscure, so I can plant the pole beans in a row anywhere, and maybe on the deer fence every few years between other things. It will be more of a utilitarian vegetable garden that does not need to conform to the rest of the landscape, so rotation will be easier.

          1. Yes, but that garden was at an apartment building where I wanted it to look good for the neighbors. The other is out in the forest, where the forest provides the aesthetics.

      2. I agree Sarah I didnt rotate any of my crops this spring & had bad crops
        (this is only my 2nd time at it)
        Tomatoes had one thing or another wrong with them got about 4 of the vine & binned the rest some plants didn’t even survive the first crop
        Better luck next time
        Lyn 🙂

        1. Hi Lyn. There are a couple of cool things about gardening – one you are always learning and improving. And the other thing is there is always next season. My tomatoes were rubbish this year too because of a pest, but if the conditions are different next season then maybe I won’t see it again. I certainly hope this is the case as I will optimistically be looking forward to a tomato glut next year! Have a fabulous rest of the season. : o)

  2. My tomatoes (I’m in Paraparaumu, Kapiti) are refusing to turn red this year for some reason. Getting impatient! But I liked the way you had some of yours up against a frame and just tied string across them from one side to the other. Mine are in buckets against an old bean frame, so I did the same – a lot easier than tying up each individual one! Thank you for the idea.

    1. HI Jani. Sometimes if the weather is too hot it can slow the ripening process of the tomatoes, but as things cool down a little they’ll be back in business.
      I love my tomato frames as never manage to get those lovely single stem plants and end up with crazy medusa headed beasts so it is easier to tie them in espeliar style rather trying to wrangle them all on to a single bamboo pole. I hope you get a bumper harvest. Cheers Sarah : o)

  3. I’ve been struggling with the crop rotation thing also and been random making sure I don’t put tomatoes in same spot, so thanks for this. It will help me sort mine! I did some toms in large containers of living earth garden mix this year to fit more in. Can I just dump all that mix into the compost or onto beds I will be putting my winter brassicas in do you think?

    1. Hi Tricia. Once you have a plan you don’t need to try and wrap your head around crop rotation again! It should be fine to put the soil into the brassica bed, although just remember the tomatoes will have used up certain nutrients so you will need to top up with compost, well rotted manure or other goodies so the brassicas get off to a good start. Waste not want not and all that! Cheers Sarah : o)

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