1) Permanent Crops

When you are planning the vegetable garden, and working out the rotational scheme, you must consider those crops, if any, which are going to be permanent features, and choose the most suitable sites for them. Rhubarb will be happy in semi-shade, and so it can be planted in a place where few other crops could hope to do well.

Mint also flourishes in cool conditions and moist soil, as do dandelions and horseradish. Think very carefully before planting these last three however; once they are established, you will find it almost impossible to eradicate them again.

healthy purple kale
Kale – a useful winter crop.

Herbs, with one or two exceptions (such as mint mentioned just above), will want a sunny, open site, and will do best as near as possible to the center of the garden. If you have enough space, why not try dividing the different plots in the vegetable garden with little hedges of lavender or sage or rosemary? These can also be used later for making potpourris.

Asparagus will need a permanent bed—you may like to make a traditional raised bed for it and should be allotted an open sunny site where it can remain undisturbed for many years. Globe artichokes are another permanent crop, and they need a warm sheltered position with well dug soil. They will also need protecting against frost in winter.

2) Seed Beds

If there is space, you will be grateful for the facility of a seed bed. If you raise your seedlings in a specially prepared bed, it will be easier to control diseases and pests, simpler to water the seedlings. They can easily be covered with cloches when bad weather threatens, or just to get them off to a good start.

The seed bed should be brought to a fine tilth, and used for sowing seeds of sprouts, lettuces, leeks, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli, until the young plants are large enough to be transplanted. If there are cold frames or a greenhouse, it will be a good idea to place the seed bed near to them, and as near as possible to the mains water supply.

3) Intensive Cropping

Climate plays an important part in determining the cropping program. If your garden is in the south west of England, you will be able to grow several more crops in one year than those who are gardening in the north of England or Scotland.

In the south west, where temperatures rarely cause damage to lettuce or broccoli, these can be grown for harvesting in the early spring. Then there will be time for a crop of French beans, to be followed by a quick growing variety of cabbage or cauliflower.

And then it will be time for the broccoli again. Four crops will be harvested in one season, while those in the north could well consider themselves lucky to bring two of these to maturity.

If you live in one of the less favored climatic areas, inter-cropping becomes more and more important. You can start your crops under glass, or make use of cloches to get them going if there are still likely to be frosts.

In this way you can gain a month’s start over the normal outdoor sowing date. If you live in the north, seek out the quick maturing varieties so that you can grow extra crops each season. You might for instance grow spring cabbage, follow this with carrots, and then grow some hardy winter broccoli.

harvesting my potatoes
You need quite a lot of space for potatoes, but they can be worth it.

Alternatively, how about early potatoes, followed by lettuce, and then cauliflowers or cabbage for the autumn. You do not have to let the ground remain idle after the earlier crops have been harvested. Well cultivated land can be kept continuously productive, although you should try to follow the broad outlines of rotational cropping as discussed above.

Remember that you can always grow quick maturing salad crops anywhere in the vegetable garden where there is space. Three year rotation will go the same way except that potatoes will not be included. As mentioned before, salads can be grown wherever they will fit in.

Check the length of time it will take them to grow so that you can be sure your lettuces will not be swamped by potato or sprout growth, if you decide to plant them between these rows other than very early in the growing season.

Runner beans can if necessary be planted in the same site every year. This is often a useful thing to know as it may well always be convenient to have them at one end or the back of the plot, so that they do not obscure the sunlight from the shorter crops growing around them.

Celery does not have a definite place in the rotation pattern. This is because the ground should be trenched for it each year, although it is a good idea to give it a fresh patch each season.