Mixed Cropping Reduces The Need For Crop Rotation?

Mixed Cropping Reduces The Need For Crop Rotation?

One of the most important prerequisites in horticulture for maintaining the fertility of the soil is the so-called crop rotation. This is based on the realization that plants grown in monoculture (successive cultivation of the same plant species) unilaterally deprive the soil of important nutrients.

This results in soil fatigue, which is the cause of poorer harvest results and garden crops that are susceptible to disease. In addition, the roots of the plants also each release specific metabolic excretions into the soil, which further promotes soil fatigue. Although these root excretions can be broken down by soil organisms. However, if the above metabolic wastes are accumulated due to monoculture, then these substances can not only make the soil infertile but also damage the natural soil life.

In the wild, such root excretions are neutralized by soil microorganisms, firstly because natural soils are rich in specific soil organisms (The soil is not constantly dug up and turned over) and secondly because there is usually a mixed vegetation at a site.


We must avoid monocultures and prefer mixed plantings because this prevents one-sided excessive root exudates from attacking soil life and fertility.
We must promote a diverse soil life.
Grow mixed crops in continuous rows!

Now, in principle, mixed cropping and crop rotation is not an invention of modern times. But if one wants to deal with it intensively, one often finds only rather complicated instructions in the gardening books. In addition, they are then limited only to vegetable cultivation and leave out strawberry and early potato cultivation. If one now wants to create a manageable cultivation and crop rotation plan for all these crops, it is simply hardly feasible.

The solution to the problem is to move away from the classic garden bed, which is usually 1.20 m wide and 3 m long. Newly you cultivate your garden only in single, long, continuous rows, in which on each single row a different garden crop is grown. So: instead of four rows of salsify on a normal bed, you will have only one long row of the root vegetable on the usable area. Every 2-3 rows is followed by a narrow trail.

In practice, these “rows” are usually double rows of two crops (plant siblings) that promote each other’s growth and health when they are close to each other. This is the case, for example, with:

  • Onions + carrots
  • Lettuce + cabbage
  • Tomato + parsley
  • Kohlrabi + chard
  • Celeriac + Leek
  • Celeriac + Cucumber
  • Dill + cucumber
  • Dill + carrots
  • Strawberries + garlic
  • Strawberries + spinach
  • bush beans + beet

These examples are far from being a complete list.

You’ll develop your own cropping pattern over time that’s easy to remember, preferably with the vegetables your family likes best. The rows are then in turn alternated with single or multiple rows of early potatoes, and then from year to year this fixed cropping pattern simply moves forward two rows. This, in addition to multiple cropping (pre-, main- and post-crop), keeps the garden soil or soil life healthy. And you can do without complicated crop rotation plans with this method.

Exception to tomato cultivation

One exception is worth mentioning: tomatoes can be cultivated for at least 6 to 8 years in the same garden spot. It is advisable to plant tomato beds in the north-western corner of the plot, where they are mixed with runner beans in different ways from year to year, thus protecting the rest of the garden crops from the wind.

Exception for corn cultivation

The other exception is when corn is grown in the garden. Corn should never be planted in rows, but in squares because of better fertilization. Otherwise, the plants will form cobs that are sparsely covered with corn kernels.

In addition to mixed cropping, you now only need to make sure that you fertilize regularly with compost soil, applying it only superficially. Buried deep, rotting can form pollutants that harm soil organisms. The compost application is utilized differently by the soil organisms in the upper layers. This results from the realization that different soil organisms with different functions are located in the different soil layers. For this reason, when “digging around” the garden soil with a spade (digging fork) should also only be loosened deeply but not turned over.

The last recommendation from the old, biological gardening is mulching, i.e. covering the soil with lawn cuttings, chopped plant waste or even half-rotted compost. Mulch also promotes rich soil life and keeps the beds from drying out. In addition, mulch suppresses unkaut growth.

Actually, all you need to do is watch this video. Here is the best explanation of mixed culture in the vegetable garden. There is no better way to do it! Source: Youtube – “Tips for organic gardeners with Ing. Helga Wagner and Reinhart Ziller.”

Once again to the original question

To finally answer the question posed in the title, does mixed cropping save on crop rotation? Answer: No, but it makes it much easier and it does no harm if sometimes the conventional crop rotation is overlooked.