Monday, 27 February 2017



As daylight begins to lengthen and the sun’s warmth begins to get noticed we look for some excuse to make a start to our gardening year. We have had plenty time to look at catalogues and visit garden centres and choose which crops to grow for 2017, so with seeds in hand and potatoes getting chitted we can relax on an evening and plan where everything is going. We have heard of crop rotation, but for some it is still a bit of a mystery.
Anna picks runner bean Enorma
We do it to grow crops on fresh soil away from last year’s crops that may have been infected by disease so hopefully we might just avoid reinfection. The main fungal diseases to avoid include clubroot on brassicas, white rot on onions and blackleg on potatoes. However other factors crop up as some crops such as pumpkins, are gross feeders so need to go on land that was heavily manured during the winter digging. Other crops such as parsnips, carrots and turnips prefer fertile soil that got no compost in winter otherwise you end up with forked roots. Salads like fertile soil so they can grow fast as they are often used as a catch crop or an intercrop, (more later). Then of course, different crops like varying degrees of acidity or alkalinity. Potatoes prefer an acidic soil otherwise scab could be a problem. All the brassicas prefer an alkaline soil with a high pH as this reflects their natural
Pumpkin just planted
environment as many grew wild on chalk soils. This also discourages clubroot disease which can be a real problem. It may all sound complicated, but it is really good garden practice.
It is a good idea to draw up a plan of your garden to scale and include paths, sheds and compost heap. You can then work out where crops are to go well in advance of sowing.
My rotation plans show where last years potatoes were grown, and this is where I start, as this area gets limed for the next crop of cabbages, sprouts, Swedes, kale and cauliflower. The land that grew these brassicas last year will now get the gross feeders such as peas, beans, pumpkins, courgettes and sweet corn. Last years land that grew the gross feeders will now become the root crop area plus salads. On a four year
Turnip Purple Top Milan
rotation the potatoes can follow the salads and roots, but they need a good feed. To get maximum yield the potato patch gets composted during the winter digging, then at planting time I like to take out a furrow and line the bottom with more compost into which I plant my chatted seed potatoes.
If you grow strawberries on the same site and replace these every three years bring this area into the rotation and replant fresh strawberries as part of the rotation. They won’t be affected by clubroot or white rot.
Salads are short term fast growing crops so are very adaptable to use as an intercrop between other slower growing crops with wide spaced rows such as Brussels sprouts or sweet corn, or even on the sides of your celery trench before they need earthing up. Lettuce as pick and come again, rocket, radish and baby beet can all be used as an intercrop to get the maximum value off the land.
Salad catch crop
Catch Crops
The same salads can also be used as catch crops where less hardy vegetables such as courgettes, pumpkins and sweet corn don’t get planted till early summer leaving the land free for a quick maturing catch crop from an early sowing. Similarly catch crops can be used after an early harvested crop such as early potatoes, onions or first early peas. There is usually time to get in another crop before winter, and if you grow winter hardy lettuce, spring onion and rocket they can continue to crop well into winter especially while winters continue to be mild.
If you have enough salads any spare land can be sown with a green manure crop in early spring and autumn to help improve the soil fertility.

Wee jobs to do this week
Tying in shoots of climbing Rose Gertrude Jekyll

Tie in climbing roses after pruning or any affected by recent gales, otherwise wind rock can damage next year’s flowering stems.


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