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Crop rotation, intercropping, small garden - im confused!?!

I have a small garden, a largish part of which I have given over to food production. I had 2 raised beds last year and lots of pots, which went well, so I have massively expanded this year and now have 7 raised beds across the back and front gardens. I have been reading Joy Larkham and permaculture stuff and am fully sold on mixing veg with each other and flowers to deter pests and look reasonably attractive. What I don’t understand is how that relates to crop rotation. 
For instance onions are supposed to be a good companion for lots of crops as the smell is supposed to confuse pests - but if they are in most/all the beds then I can’t rotate them (obviously). 
And ive Googled and read lots of articles about the benefits of intercropping and crop rotation, but as far as I can understand you can’t do both? Am I missing something? 
I have lots of seedlings coming along nicely, and things which need to start being directly sown (carrots etc) and I need to plan what to put where. Help!


  • purplerallimpurplerallim Posts: 4,691
    I have a similar problem.  I have three raised beds. One with manure in which the potatoes are in, one without which will have beetroot and carrots,  the third French beans and tomatoes.  Where do I put the spring onions? In a tub, as I have heard they don't plant well with things like beans. Confusing. 
  • Oh yes - I’d forgotten manure requirements. Argh 
  • NollieNollie Posts: 6,759
    It can be confusing, but basically,

    Grow things that like to grow together (some vegetables inhibit the growth of others so need to be kept apart) and that like the same growing conditions, together in a distinct area - either a whole bed, or half a bed, along with the appropriate companion plants (usually annuals). Then rotate that lot to the next area the following year in sequential order, so everything in area A this year, moves to area B next year then area C the following year and so on. A ‘companion’ plant could be an annual like nasturtium, or another vegetable that ‘helps’ another. So the companions rotate with their companionees.

    Companion plants that are shrubs or perennials, e.g. rosemary, can’t be in the rotation plan, just plant them in another area close to your beds but not in them.

    Does that help?
    Mountainous Northern Catalunya, Spain. Hot summers, cold winters.
  • Hampshire_HogHampshire_Hog Posts: 1,089
    If your growing small numbers between other plants then as long as you don't put them in exactly the same position each year that will be fine rotation really only needs to be observed when growing on mass in the same area (in a vegetable patch / allotment).

    We now have an allotment so have to rotate, but when we had our house and garden we use to grow the veg between the flowers and never worried about rotation and never had any problems.

    We now grow flowers on the allotment to encourage the insects in for pollination and natural defence.

    "You don't stop gardening because you get old, you get old because you stop gardening." - The Hampshire Hog
  • raisingirlraisingirl Posts: 6,440
    edited April 2019
    Hmm. I'm by no means an expert, having just realised my overwintering chard are in the way of my potatoes going in. But over the last 10 years I've been doing a lot of reading and experimentation and this is where I've got to:

    1. basic premise - permaculture is permanent so you don't rotate in any traditional sense. There is a structure of perennials around which you might rotate annuals, but the whole point is that growing annuals is energy and resource intensive, whereas permaculture is a stable, largely self supporting eco-system. It should not require the addition of manure and disease and pests should be naturally suppressed if you get it right (quite a large caveat in my case).

    2. the 4 crop rotation system inherently includes onions planted alongside roots in one bed (where they can be most helpful), followed by the addition of manure in order to plant potatoes the following season.
    2a - year one - add manure, plant spuds
    2b - year two - add lime if necessary or compost and plant legumes
    2c - year 3 brassicas to take advantage of the nitrogen fixing of the legumes the previous season
    2d - roots and onions - soil fertility is at it's lowest as it's 3 years since the manure was added and the brassicas will have used up most of the 'free' nutrition - perfect for carrots. You can grow spring onions in this bed and leeks and garlic, alongside carrots and parsnips.

    3. If you want to intercrop rotating annuals with pollinators, plant a permanent strip along the ends of your raised beds with them and basically have the same group of plants next to each bed. This can include a clump of chives or garlic chives, for example, for the oniony smell, as well as hyssop - a nice small bee plant.

    4. There are some traditional mixed crops - the famous one being sweetcorn with french beans and squash. I've never found these to be successful but that's mostly because I have a very large rodent population and they scupper a lot of good ideas.

    5. There are some edible annual intercroppers - nasturtiums, for example - that you can rotate with the crop. You can also plant a row of french marigolds as annuals - for example a row of them at the point where your first early spuds stop and your maincrops start, to both mark the rows and deter the pests.

    6. some crops don't need to rotate - beet family - so you can put them where you have a gap/failure. Just beware ending up with chard still growing strongly where you want to plant potatoes.
    “Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first” 
  • Busy-LizzieBusy-Lizzie Posts: 20,963
    I'm finding it confusing too. I've just changed to 4 raised beds to make gardening easier but I grow a lot of beans and peas so they don't fit into one bed. I don't grow potatoes, carrots or parsnips. I grow a lot of tomatoes (but some go in the GH), courgettes, cucumbers and squash. I've decided there is no room for squash. All the leafy things, spinach, lettuce, cabbage and rocket are in one bed. I was left with sweet red onions and nowhere to put them so they've gone next to the sugar snap peas. Now I've read that onions and peas don't like each other! They seem to be doing OK at the moment. All the beds have manure under the compost, lots, as I have horses.
    Dordogne and Norfolk. Clay in Dordogne, sandy in Norfolk.
  • purplerallimpurplerallim Posts: 4,691
    Now that makes alot more sense @raisingirl than anything I've yet seen! Thanks for taking the time to help us newbies to veg plot management. 😁
  • purplerallimpurplerallim Posts: 4,691
    I made the mistake of putting red onions in with black French beans and neither cropped well @Busy-Lizzie
  • Busy-LizzieBusy-Lizzie Posts: 20,963
    Oh bother! Well I've just have to see what happens.
    Dordogne and Norfolk. Clay in Dordogne, sandy in Norfolk.
  • NollieNollie Posts: 6,759
    I don’t do permaculture, as such, just 6-bed rotation with groups of compatible plants together with annual companion flowers wherever I can stuff them in. I follow heavy feeders with light feeders the next year. The beds that had the light feeders then get enriched with some composted manure or homemade compost at the end of the growing season, ready for the heavy feeders the following year.

    Its not perfect, nothing ever ‘complies’ completely, depending on what you like to grow to eat. In my case too many Solanaceae, because I grow potatoes, outdoor tomatoes, peppers and aubergines. This is my scheme:

    Bed 1: Beets and Brassicas (lightish feeders)
    Spicy greens salad leaves - mustard, mizuna etc.

    Bed 2: Curcurbits and Corn (heavy feeders)
    Early catch crop - Lettuce
    Sweetcorn in a block in front of the curcurbits to provide shade
    French beans

    Bed 3: Legumes (light feeders)
    Broad Beans
    Sugar snap peas
    Autumn catch crop - Spinach

    Bed 4: Solanaceae (heavy feeders)
    Salad Potatoes

    Bed 5: Alliums (light feeders)
    Garlic, once finished, leeks transplanted from the seed bed
    Lettuce leaves
    Spring Onions
    Baby carrots surrounded by the alliums

    Bed 6: Solanaceae (heavy feeders)
    Early catch crop - Spinach

    Main combinations I always avoid:
    Alliums and Legumes
    Brassicas (inc brassica leaves and radish) and Lettuce/Spinach
    Curcubits and Potatoes
    Potatoes and Tomatoes

    Mountainous Northern Catalunya, Spain. Hot summers, cold winters.
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