Allotment Bed: Crop Rotation & Square-Foot Gardening

4 or 3 year crop rotation

When rain stops work outside, it’s best to stay in and make/draw up plans.

This is a plan of my new raised bed in the Community Garden.  It’s approximately 16 x 4 feet, so each square in the grid represents 1 square foot.

I haven’t bothered much about crop rotation at home, tending to plant things where I can a) reach or b) where there is  free space. I need to decide whether to go for a three- or four-year crop rotation. Or something else entirely.

Does crop rotation even work using the Square Foot planting method?

Now I have more space, I can either have four beds – which allows for the usual rotation of Legumes, Brassicas, Potatoes, and Onions/Roots (top image ), using 16 square-feet for each category.

plan 2019 -2020

Or I can go for three large beds (4 feet x 4 feet) with 4 smaller beds (4 feet x 1 foot) at either end and in the middle – to separate the main beds (bottom image), again 16 square feet for each category.

This would mean combining Legumes with Onions and Roots – though I’ll grow fewer legumes here as I will be using my home beds for runner beans, peas, salads, spinach, tomatoes etc, anything that requires daily picking, once it gets going.

I could then use the four smaller beds (4 square feet each) for planting lavender and lemon balm, and wildflowers (to attract bees), along with overwintering garlic.

Or perhaps I can combine crop rotation with succession sowing by dividing the bed into three main sections (for the three-year cycle).  This way I need only to plant one main bed at a time plus two permanent herb/lavender beds.

Plan 3

It looks pretty – on paper – but will it work in reality?  I don’t want to spend all my time at the Community Garden, no more than a few hours a week.

I’m also looking for ways to provide water – other than digging in organic matter and mulching.  I’ve thought of using buried plastic bottles.  Pierce a plastic bottle with tiny holes, fill with water and put the lid on. Bury it in the raised bed, leaving the screw top above the soil. The water should leak out slowly, then you just top it up next time you visit.  Because the bottles are buried, they’re not going to become brittle with sunlight and the water should remain cool and go where it’s needed – roots not shoots!

Decisions, decisions!