Vegetable garden design techniques have changed throughout the years, and have become more efficient based on today’s more crowded environment. Despite the progressive lessening in the space available for vegetable gardens, changes in design have kept output stable.
When it comes to actually setting up the garden, you need to take in to account the need for crop rotation. This technique is necessary to keep the soil healthy and prevent it from being drained too quickly. Improper crop rotation will lower yields for subsequent years.
Crop rotation functions by segmenting your garden and then moving different types of plants around year after year. It is not necessary to rotate the crops more than once a year, as you can realize the full benefits with only an annual rotation.
Vegetables can be classified in to several different categories. First there are the heavy feeders, which utilize a lot of energy (mainly nitrogen) because of their high, leafy output. This category includes corn and lettuce.
Next comes the middle ground feeders, which use less energy than heavy feeders but still need a fair amount. Smaller vegetables like tomatoes are considered to be part of this category.
Light feeders use the least nitrogen out of all the categories. If you only used light feeders and did not use crop rotation, you would probably be fine for many years. In the light feeding category, the plants are very basic and are essentially only the food, like carrots.
Crop rotation would not work if not for the last category, which is the soil building group. These unique plants leave more nitrogen in the ground than they take out. The smallest of plants constitute this class, including beans and peas.
When you rotate crops, the heavy feeders follow the soil builders, medium follows heavy, light follows medium, and builders follow light. This ensures that the heavy feeders get the most nitrogen, and keeps the light and middle ground feeders from using more than they need.