If you plan your vegetable patch properly, that’s half the harvest. This is how you combine crop rotation and mixed culture – and the soil remains healthy despite intensive use.
The basic rule when planning a vegetable patch is: The more often the different types of vegetables change their place, the better the nutrients stored in the soil are used. In the case of small bed areas, it is sufficient to record in a notebook, calendar or garden diary which species you have sown or planted when and where. A simple sketch is also helpful. In large vegetable gardens, a true-to-scale drawing helps to keep an overview – especially when it comes to larger, coherent areas. The records of the past four years each serve as the basis for the current planning.
It is important to have a little basic knowledge of which vegetables belong to which plant family. This is especially true if you grow several closely related species. Kohlrabi, broccoli and cabbage are all cruciferous vegetables, but they also include radishes, radishes, may beets, arugula and the yellow mustard, which is popular as a green manure. In order to prevent infestation with root diseases such as the common cabbage hernia, you should sow or plant these crops in the same place every four years at the earliest. But there are exceptions: Cruciferous vegetables such as radishes, arugula and garden cress with an extremely short cultivation time are allowed to “violate” this basic rule. If you combine crop rotation and mixed culture, you can also take the strict rules a little more relaxed. The different bed neighbors promote growth and protect each other from diseases and frequently occurring pests through fragrances and root excretions.
Zucchini cover the bed from May to autumn. Potash-rich vegetable fertilizer (late June and early August) ensures that the plants continuously produce new flowers and fruits
Good and bad neighbors in the vegetable patch
You can quickly find the right partner for each crop in a mixed culture table – which is why it is very helpful when planning a vegetable patch. Real “hostilities” are rare, so it is usually enough to remember the few species that do not get along with each other at all. You can also generously manage the division of vegetables according to their nutritional hunger into so-called starters, middle-eaters and weak-eaters. In mixed beds, you should cover the increased nutritional requirements of broccoli, tomatoes or zucchini with targeted individual fertilizers. Conversely, more frugal species such as kohlrabi or bush beans also develop splendidly if, exceptionally, the nutrient supply turns out to be a little more generous.
Plan the crop rotation in the vegetable patch
To prevent the soil from leaching out, you should allow each bed a four-year break before growing the same vegetables there again. This is called crop rotation. It is best to divide the available space into four quarters and move one bed with the crops from year to year. Our sample beds are planted clockwise from top left as follows.
Beet 1: broccoli, beetroot, radishes, bush beans.
Bed 2: peas, lettuce, picking and cut salads.
Bed 3: tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, ice lettuce, basil.
Bed 4: carrots, onions, red-chard and Swiss beans
Rich harvest on three square meters of vegetable patch
In spring, the 1.50 x 2 meter bed shown below with short crops such as spinach and blue and white kohlrabi is ordered. Both are ready to harvest after seven to eight weeks. Sugar or peas sown at the beginning of April prepare the ground for broccoli. In combination, red and green picking salads and radishes protect themselves from attack by snails or fleas.
In summer, tagetes and marigolds add color to the bed and drive away pests. In addition to the Swiss chard, carrots and dill are sown – the latter promotes the germination of the carrot seeds. Broccoli follows the peas. Cut celery planted in between fends off cabbage pests. The yellow pods in the neighboring row are protected from lice by mountain savory. After cut lettuce, beetroot develop particularly tender tubers.
More tips for growing vegetables
Green manuring is like a break from rest for intensively used vegetable beds and ensures that the soil remains fertile for many years. Bee friend (Phacelia) rooted the earth down to deeper layers and attracted useful insects with nectar-rich flowers.
Raised beds warm up very quickly in spring and can be planted from mid-March. A lot of nutrients are released on newly created beds in the first year, which is why they are preferred for cabbage, celery or pumpkins. From the second year, the cultivation of less nutrient-hungry species such as lettuce or kohlrabi is also possible.