One of the best reasons for growing a wide variety of vegetables is to allow for optimal crop rotation. 

What Is Crop Rotation And Why Is It Important?

Crop rotation is the practice of changing the crop each year on the same piece of land.

Ideally, these different crops are not related botanically and do not make the same demand on the soil for nutrients, nor do they share diseases or insect pests. 

For example, legumes will be alternated with non-legumes.

A longer rotation before the same crop is grown again is better than a shorter rotation.

Crop rotation is important by allowing the soil to keep producing without being drained of its nutrients, while at the same time eliminating a number of diseases and harmful insects that often occur when one species is continuously cropped (monocrop).

What Are The Benefits Of Crop Rotation

According to J.M. Fortier of the market gardener, crop rotation improves the cropping system in a number of ways, including:

  • It disrupts the life cycle of many organisms (insects, disease, and weeds) which otherwise would be able to take up residence more easily.
  • Allowing plants with different root systems to penetrate the soil to different depths, thereby improving its structure.
  • Reducing depletion of nutrient reserves in the soil by alternating crops with different requirements.
  • Helping reduce the weed pressure in the garden by alternating ‘cleaning crops’ with those that have the opposite effect of that require the most advanced weeding techniques (mulching, hoeing, etc.)
  • Allowing for the alternation of heavy feeding crops with light feeding ones. Compost can then be applied one year out of two for easier management.

What Are The Advantages Of Crop Rotation?

Eliot Coleman of The New Organic Grower explains why crop rotation is so important on the market farm:

Why bother with crop rotation? Because there are so many benefits to the grower from setting up a rotational sequence that exploits every possible advantage.

Corn, beans, squash, and all other crops all take different nutrients out of the soil. They all respond to diverse fertilization patterns. All are amenable to specific cultivation practices. Every veggie crop may affect or be affected by the preceding or succession crop.

The determined grower will take the time to think things through to optimize every aspect of his production.

-Eliot Coleman

Insect, Disease, and Weed Control

Crop rotation improves insect and disease control by managing the system to benefit the crop.

Monoculture encourages many pest problems because the pest organism-specific to a crop can multiply out of all proportion when that crop is grown in the same place year after year. 

Pests are easily kept in balance when the soil grows different crops over a number of years. A good rotation spaces susceptible crops at intervals sufficient to hinder the buildup of the specific pest organisms.

Similarly, rotations affect weed control in the same way. 

Plant Nutrition

Rotations can make nutrients more available in a biological farming system. Some plants are more effective than others in using the less soluble forms of plant nutrients.

The residues of these nutrient extracting plants will make the minerals more variable to later, less effective plants in the next sequence of the rotation.


Crop rotations encourage the best use of organic soil amendments. Some crops (squash, corn, peas, and beans) grow best when manure or compost is applied every year.

Others ( cabbages, tomatoes, root crops, and potatoes) grow better on the ground that was manured the previous year. 

Soil Structure

Rotations preserve and improve the soil. Different crops send roots to various depths, are cultivated with different techniques, and respond to either make use of the full depth of the soil and slowly deepen the topsoil in the process. 

Deep rooting plants extract nutrients from layers of the soil not used by the shallow rooters. In doing so they open up the soil depths, leaving paths for the roots of other, less vigorous crops.

beet crop rotation

Bottom Line

While crop rotation is an important part of market farming, it can be overwhelming trying to plan out your gardens for years at a time. 

If it’s your first few years as a market farmer, don’t worry too much about crop rotation. It can become such a source of worry that it may even prevent you from working efficiently.

As well, chances are that even despite all your best planning, the rotation sequence will not be followed as you decide to add or drop certain crops. You will probably reassess quantities and give preference to certain crops, etc. 

Carefully planning crop rotations when they are most likely not going to be followed in the first few years is not a good use of your time.

You can get away with planting anything anywhere in your first couple of seasons. 

When you’ve got a good handle on growing crops, and you’re ready to start your crop planning, do a ton of research first.

Read books like the ones here, and talk to market gardeners that you know to find out the logic behind their crop rotation. 

Understanding the underlying principles of why rotations are done is the first stage of being able to develop your own plan.

As a brand new farm in 2021, we are not planning crop rotations. We are figuring out what veg to grow and how to succession plan. Crop rotations are taking a back seat for at least the first year just to ease the stress level slightly!

Do you think crop rotations are important? Let us know in the comments below.

Stay Local,

Kathy & Jon

your friendly neighbourhood growers 




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