Maybe your garden didn't turn out so well this year. Maybe your tomatoes may died out due to disease or other vegetables might not have produced as well as they have in the past. It happens. Sometimes it's the weather that causes it and sometimes insects bring in diseases, but those factors are hard to control. One factor you can control is the soil. Often after a season of growth the soil is depleted of the necessary nutrients to maintain a crop. Diseases can lurk behind for several years after a plant has been in the soil waiting for another opportunity. There is one way to combat this and help your soil: crop rotation.
Crop rotation is a method where crops from the same family of vegetables are planted in a different location from the previous growing cycle. Most diseases stick with a certain family of vegetables and won't harm a different family if planted in the same soil. Rotating your crop will also allow plants to use other available nutrients in the soil that were not depleted with the previous crop. Crop rotation makes a healthier and more efficient garden. The only drawback is that crop rotation needs a plan. As a gardener you need to keep track of what went where and when. Consider at a minimum a rotation plan with 4 groups based on the type of crop that is produced or harvested.
Fruit Producing Crops
onions, beets, carrots, radishes, garlic
tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, potatoes
lettuce, spinach, kale, cabbage
This is a very general guide for crop rotation and can be expanded into rotations based more on the families of the vegetables than on the produce created. I'll write more on the families of vegetables later but this gives you a general idea of what to follow after each bed. Legumes are a great source of nitrogen if allowed to decompose in the soil which greatly aids crops grown for their leaves and heavy nitrogen feeders like corn. I put potatoes in the fruit producers group because it is a nightshade family plant like the tomatoes and peppers. It's in the same vegetable family and can be damaged by the same diseases so you do not want to follow tomatoes with potatoes and vice versa. Chard is an interesting dilemma too. It is really a beet but it is primarily grown for its foliage, because of that I would group chard in with the greens for nutrient reasons but could also be placed in the root crop area.
As I stated before this is a very general guide for crop rotation in your home garden. Rotating your crops works great in raised bed situations where the garden beds are neatly organized. We'll look at some of the vegetable families later this week and how they work together!