Northdown Orchard

Crop Rotations

Crop rotations are are a fundamental, as well as legal requirement, of organic production. We operate a 5 year rotation based on 1 year fertility building (in reality 12-18 months) followed by potatoes then 3 years of vegetables before back into fertility building.

It is always evolving and offers refinements with short term fertility building crops squeezed in between and even alongside market crops. We have 5 virtual fields (no need for fences) that divide by crop types but these then break down further by time. For example: onions, garlic and leeks are all alliums. The garlic occupies the allium field November of the preceeding year till June, onions April -August, early leeks May-October and late leeks June or July to anywhere between November and the following April.

In its simplest form it can be expressed as:

1. clover ley

2. potatoes + sweetcorn

3. onions, garlic, leeks (alliums)

4. cabbage, broccoli, etc. (brassicas) + lettuce

5. other veg: courgette & pumpkin (cucurbits), beetroot & chard (chenopods), carrots & celeriac (umbillifers), beans (legumes)

We then add green manures to give:

1. clover ley

2a. potatoes followed by:

rye/tares (proportion not already planted to garlic)

2b. sweetcorn undersown with:

white clover/yellow trefoil

3. alliums followed by:

red/crimson clover (apart from leeks)

4. brassicas followed by

variously buckwheat, phacelia, rye/tares or undersown clover/trefoil

5. other veg

early crops cleared and sown to clover ley autumn

late crops sown to clover ley the next spring

In the tunnels its a different story, we grow a lot of cucumbers and winter salads, a lot of which are brassicas, cabbage family. We have 6 tunnels and for summer cropping grow 3 tunnels of cucumbers, 1 of tomatoes, 1 of peppers and aubergines and 1 of spring crops like climbing beans and early spinach and beetroot. each tunnel only has cucumbers alternate years. In the winter all 6 are planted to salads but we try to split the brassicas (rocket, mustards, pak choi) from the others (claytonia, spinach, chard) so we don't grow brassicas in the same tunnel every year.

In a previous career I was a weaver and it has been suggested that I'm just now weaving on a grand scale with crops as warps and wefts!


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