subscribe
YouTube
Twitter
Facebook
Search

Spring to Fall Vegetable Rotation Planting for Non-stop Garden Produce

Row cropping or blocked beds make it easy to rotate crops from one year to the next.

Vegetable gardening is a dynamic process. Gardeners have to shift from cool-season spring vegetables to warm-season summer vegetables back to cool-weather crops. In between, savvy gardeners rotate their crops to maximize their output and health. Here are some seasonal planting and rotation tips that will help vegetables transition effortlessly and produce well from one season to the next.

Planning for Rotation

Raised beds allow for easy yearly rotation and soil and weed maintenance.

Vegetable gardens are not like perennial beds, you cannot establish a set planting design and stick with it from year to year. Instead, vegetable gardens must be divided into planting areas for easy rotation. Raised beds make it easy, but if you are working with standard in-ground rows or blocked beds, plan beds to accommodate a variety of crops of different sizes to anticipate yearly shifts.

A four-square design is a good option because it allows gardeners rotate crops on a four-year basis. Root crops, cole crops, and greens can be planted in one plot, Solanaceous crops (tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and eggplant) can be planted in another plot, the third plot can be planted with squash, melons, and/or cucumbers, and the fourth plot can be planted with corn, beans, okra and/or sweet potatoes. Each year, the planting combo can be switched for a full rotation.

Rotation for Temperature Needs

Keep seasonal vegetables in their place. Classic cool-season crops for spring include peas, cabbage, and lettuce. (Image by Jessie Keith)

Longtime vegetable gardeners know that there are vegetables suited for cool months, warm months, and those that will thrive despite temperature fluctuations. Some of the basic crops that fit these temperature requirements include the following:

Cool-Season Vegetables: Cole crops (cabbage, cauliflower, collards, broccoli, broccoli rabe, kohlrabi, and kale), greens (arugula, endive, lettuce, mustard greens, radicchio, and spinach), spring root crops (radishes, potatoes, scallions, spring carrots, and turnips), fall root crops (leeks, parsnips, and rutabagas), and peas.

Warm-Season Vegetables: Artichokes, beans, corn, eggplant, melons, okra, peppers, summer squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and winter squash.

Temperature-Neutral Vegetables: Beets, summer carrots, Swiss chard, cucumbers, and onions.

Rotation for Pest and Disease Prevention

Rotation and maintaining weed-free beds reduces many crop pests and diseases.

When some vegetables get diseases, the disease-causing pathogens remain in the soil for several years where the infected plants were planted. These include many fungal diseases, bacterial diseases, viral diseases, and crop-specific nematodes. Rotating crops in new planting areas in the garden on a two- to three-year basis will help protect future vegetables from getting these diseases.

The most susceptible crops for soil-borne pests and diseases are carrots, cole crops, cucumbers, lettuce, melons, potatoes, squash, and tomatoes. Cucumbers, melons, and squash get many of the same diseases, so consider this when devising your rotation plan.

Many weeds also harbor diseases that can damage crops, so keeping gardens weed free does more than reduce competition for nutrients and light. Maintaining clean beds benefits crop health.

Rotation for Nutritional Needs

Beans fortify the soil and are a good follow-up for heavy feeders like tomatoes and squash.

Some vegetables are heavy feeders that deplete the soil of nutrients and water, while others take less from the soil or even added essential nitrogen. The most heavy feeders are tomatoes, squash and melons.

It is also essential to feed your soil yearly with rich organic matter and fertilizers formulated for vegetables. Two recommended Fafard products for added fertility are Fafard Garden Manure Blend, which provides natural nutrition and essential soil microbes, and Fafard Premium Natural & Organic Compost.

Cover Crops

Alfalfa is a top winter cover crop to aid the rotation process.

Winter cover crops are a great help to vegetable gardens. Some, like alfalfa, add nitrogen to the soil and set deep roots to break up difficult, clay-rich soils down below. Others, like winter wheat or rye, add needed cover to protect your beds from heavy infestations of winter weeds. They can also be tilled into the soil in spring for added organic matter.

Spring-Summer-to-Fall Rotation Ideas

If you do not have the space, yearly crop output, or inclination to follow a set yearly rotation schedule, consider planting complementary spring-summer-fall crops in these five sequence options.e

Peas are fast and help fortify the soil for summer tomatoes, and cool-season turnips are fast and not heavy feeders.
Carrots set deep roots and grow quickly, beans fortify the soil and finish by early fall, and kale is fast and withstands frost.
Spinach is fast and finished by late spring, heat-loving peppers take time but produce well into early fall, and broccoli rabe is very fast and takes frost.
Peas produce quickly and help fortify the soil for summer or winter squash. Cole crops can be planted among dying winter squash vines and withstand frost.
Lettuce thrives in cool weather for spring harvest, corn can be planted among lettuce for summer, and cabbage is ready to plant once corn has declined.

Good rotation will improve your vegetable gardens for the long term. Formulate a smart rotation plan and maintain a journal to keep the process in memory.

About Jessie Keith


Plants are the lens Jessie views the world through because they’re all-sustaining. (“They feed, clothe, house and heal us. They produce the air we breathe and even make us smell pretty.”) She’s a garden writer and photographer with degrees in both horticulture and plant biology from Purdue and Michigan State Universities. Her degrees were bolstered by internships at Longwood Gardens and the American Horticultural Society. She has since worked for many horticultural institutions and companies and now manages communications for Sun Gro Horticulture, the parent company of Black Gold. Her joy is sharing all things green and lovely with her two daughters.

Content Disclaimer:

This site may contain content (including images and articles) as well as advice, opinions and statements presented by third parties. Sun Gro does not review these materials for accuracy or reliability and does not endorse the advice, opinions, or statements that may be contained in them. Sun Gro also does not review the materials to determine if they infringe the copyright or other rights of others. These materials are available only for informational purposes and are presented “as is” without warranty of any kind, express or implied, including without limitation warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, and non-infringement. Reliance upon any such opinion, advice, statement or other information is at your own risk. In no event shall Sun Gro Horticulture Distribution, Inc. or any of its affiliates be liable to you for any inaccuracy, error, omission, fact, infringement and the like, resulting from your use of these materials, regardless of cause, or for any damages resulting there from.

While we have made every effort to ensure the information on this website is reliable, Sun Gro Horticulture is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. All information in this site is provided “as is”, with no guarantee of completeness, accuracy, timeliness or of the results obtained from the use of this information.

Use of this site is subject to express terms of use. By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use

View Our Privacy Policy