December is a sleepy month in the garden, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing to be done.

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Crop Rotation

Crop rotation simply means that it is better not to grow the same thing in the same place year after year. Most vegetables are a member of a “family” and if the same family is grown in the same place continuously there can be a build-up of pests and diseases and a loss of nutrients specific to those plants.

For a 3 year rotation, divide your growing area into 3 and choose which plants you want to grow. Group them by plant family (see below) and then, for example a simple rotation might be:

  • Year 1 - Potato family
  • Year 2 - Other crops
  • Year 3 - Brassica family
  • Year 4 - Back to the Potato family
Plant Family Most common members
Potato Family (Solanaceae) Potato, tomato, pepper, tomato, aubergine.
Cabbage Family (Brassicaceae) Cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, radish, turnip, kohlrabi, swede.
Pea and Bean Family (Leguminosae) Pea, mange tout pea, French bean, runner bean, broad bean.
Onion Family (Alliaceae) Onion, garlic, shallot, leek.
Carrot Family (Umbelliferae) Carrot, celery, fennel, parsnip, celeriac.
Squash Family (Cucurbitaceae) Pumpkin, Cucumber, Courgette, melon.
Others (can fit into any rotation) Beetroot, lettuce, chard, spinach, sweetcorn.

Don’t get too hung up on crop rotation, but do keep a plan of what you have planted in which place every year so that you do not grow the exact same thing there again for a couple of years.

If you grow in large pots, grow bags or containers, do not worry about crop rotation as fresh compost will need to be used every year anyway.

To Do List

  • Decide what you want to grow next year and come up with a plan.
  • Make garden signs for the crops which you plan to grow next year.
  • If you haven’t already done so put out bird feeders, bird boxes and bug boxes.

Add fertility around the base of fruit bushes and fruit trees if you have them. This can be a layer of compost, well-rotted manure or a sprinkling of dried blood, fish and bone which you can get in the garden centre.