What To Rotate With Potatoes (5 Good Options To Consider)


Crop rotation helps you to get higher yields from your garden – and that includes potatoes.  For crop rotation to work, it is important to make a plan and follow it.

So, what should you rotate with potatoes?  Any legume is a good crop to rotate with potatoes. Legumes include peas, beans, peanuts, clover, and alfalfa. Legumes will restore nitrogen to the soil when planted after potatoes. You can rotate crops in a 3, 4, or 5 year schedule to further reduce the risk of diseases or nutrient deficiencies.

Of course, legumes aren’t the only crop you can rotate with potatoes! There are lots of other options for your crop rotation plan.

In this article, we’ll look at some sample crop rotation schedules. We’ll also answer some common questions about crop rotation for potatoes.

Let’s get started.


The Complete Guide To Growing Potatoes Cover

The Complete Guide To Growing Potatoes


A complete reference and an ultimate guide that teaches you everything you need to know about potato selection, planting, care, harvest, and storage.


What To Rotate With Potatoes

If you want a crop to rotate with potatoes, legumes are a good choice.

alfalfa
Alfalfa (Lucerne) is one good choice for a legume to rotate with potatoes.

Legumes include plants such as:

  • Alfalfa – this is a legume that is also known as Lucerne. Its roots grow deep into the ground, which helps to resist drought.  Alfalfa’s roots also help it to draw nutrients up from way down in the soil. This allows alfalfa to use soil resources that shallow-rooted plants cannot.
  • Beans – this is a legume that grows in pods, just like peas. Green beans are just one example, and they come in both pole and bush varieties. Pole beans grow tall as they climb up a pole or trellis, and they produce beans for a longer period of time than bush beans. Bush beans grow along the ground, spread far out, and cover more ground than pole beans. Pole beans are the best option to save space, and they are also easier to harvest from.
  • Clover – this is a legume with distinctive 3-section leaves. It is also used as feed for livestock.
  • Peas – this is a legume that grows in edible pods (although some pods are tougher than others!) Pea pods grow on climbing vines that can grow quite tall. As a result, it is a good idea to use support (such as a trellis) when growing peas.
  • Peanuts – this is a type of legume whose leaves grow above ground and whose pods (containing the seeds, or peanuts we eat) grow underground.
peas
Peas are another good choice for a legume to rotate with potatoes.

According to Wikipedia, legumes have nitrogen-fixing bacteria in their root nodules. This means that legumes restore nitrogen to soil that has been depleted by other crops (like potatoes or broccoli)

Some legumes (like beans, peas, and peanuts) are grown for human consumption. Other legumes (such as alfalfa and clover) are usually grown for livestock consumption.

clover
Clover is a legume that is often used for livestock consumption.

You can also till legumes into the soil after they grow. This restores even more nutrients to garden soil.

Crops such as clover and alfalfa are sometimes called cover crops, or green manure. These cover crops restore nutrients to the soil (just as ordinary manure does).

You can learn more about green manure crops (and their benefits) here.

If you want to create a crop rotation schedule for potatoes over a four-year or five-year time horizon, you can plant in the following order:

  • Brassicas – this grouping includes crops such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts.
  • Cucurbits – this grouping includes crops such as cucumbers, melons, and squash.
  • Legumes – this grouping includes crops such as peas, beans, peanuts, clover, and alfalfa. Clover and alfalfa would be a good choice if you have livestock you need to feed.
  • Root Crops – this grouping includes crops that grow in the ground, such as carrots, turnips, radishes, and beets.
  • Solanaceous this grouping includes crops such as tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplants. These are also known as nightshades.
broccoli
Broccoli is a brassica that you can use as part of a longer crop rotation schedule for potatoes.

The Penn State University Extension has information on other plant groups for crop rotation, such as the mint family, or the lily family (which includes onions and garlic).

We’ll take a closer look at crop rotation schedules later.  For now, let’s discuss why you should rotate potato crops.

Why Do You Rotate Potatoes?

There are some good reasons to rotate potatoes with other plants in your garden on a regular basis. According to Wikipedia, growing the same plant in the same location over time depletes soil nutrients.

potato plants in container
Planting potatoes in the same place every year depletes nutrients and can lead to higher chance of diseases like late blight.

Crop rotation replaces spent nutrients to the soil, improving the yields of potatoes and other plants. For example, legumes restore nitrogen to the soil, due to the nitrogen-fixing bacteria in their root nodules.

According to the University of Maryland Extension, crop rotation also prevents diseases in your garden.  For example, some diseases that affect potatoes (such as early or late blight) will not affect legumes.

late blight potato plant leaf
Late blight affects potato and tomato crops, but it does not affect legumes (such as alfalfa).

So, crop rotation slows the spread of these diseases – or eliminates them entirely.

The University of Minnesota also suggests a good alternative: using containers (pots, grow bags, etc.) to “quarantine” disease-prone plants. For example, heirloom potatoes have not been bred to have the disease resistance that some hybrid varieties enjoy.

How Often To Rotate Potatoes

Potatoes should be rotated with another plant at least every other year (that is, every 2 years). This leaves a year for potato diseases (like late blight) in the soil to die off before you plant potatoes in the same spot again.

It is better still to rotate potatoes on a longer schedule (that is, if space allows). The Washington State University Extension suggests using a 3 or 4 year crop rotation schedule.

cucumber plant
Cucumbers are a cucurbit that you can use as part of a larger crop rotation schedule for potatoes.

When you leave more time between plantings of potato crops in the same place, it gives the soil more time to recover nutrients used up by plants. It also leaves more time for potato diseases to die out.

Let’s look at some crop rotation plans for 2, 3, 4, and 5 year schedules.

2 Year Crop Rotation Plan (For Potatoes)

A 2 year crop rotation plan for potatoes is useful when you have limited garden space. In a small area, it is often impractical to split the garden into 3 or more sections for crop rotation.

In that case, plant potatoes in the first year, and a legume in the second year. Rotate every other year.

The legumes will help to restore nitrogen to the soil in alternating years and give potato diseases a chance to die out. Here is what the 2 year crop rotation plan would look like:

Year 1
Potatoes
Legumes
Year 2
Legumes
Potatoes

3 Year Crop Rotation Plan (For Potatoes)

A 3 year crop rotation plan is similar to the 2 year plan above: it includes one potato section and one legume section, with the addition of a third unplanted (fallow) section.

Leaving a section of the garden unplanted allows the soil to “rest” for a year, since there are no crops taking up nutrients for growth. You can use compost or aged manure to restore nutrients and organic material to the soil in the unplanted section (or plant a cover crop/green manure instead).

It is a good idea to also mulch this unplanted section of the garden. Otherwise, you will have some unwanted guests (weeds!) taking up residence in the space.

Here is what the 3 year crop rotation plan would look like:

Year 1
Potatoes
Legumes
Unplanted
Year 2
Unplanted
Potatoes
Legumes
Year 3
Legumes
Unplanted
Potatoes

The Complete Guide To Growing Potatoes Cover

The Complete Guide To Growing Potatoes


A complete reference and an ultimate guide that teaches you everything you need to know about potato selection, planting, care, harvest, and storage.


4 Year Crop Rotation Plan (For Potatoes)

A 4 year crop rotation plan looks different than the previous ones.  In this plan, you switch between four different groups of plants in your garden:

  • In the first section, you grow potatoes.
  • In the second section, you grow legumes (like beans and peas).
  • In the third section, you grow brassicas (like broccoli and cauliflower).
  • In the fourth section, you grow root crops (like carrots and turnips).

This leaves even more time between plantings of potatoes. As a result, diseases that affect potatoes will have a lower chance of surviving in the soil until the next time potatoes are planted.

(You should also remove any volunteer potato plants, since late blight can survive the winter in the soil by living inside of infected potato tubers).

The variety of crops will balance out the nutrient demands from year to year.

Here is what the 4 year crop rotation plan would look like:

Year 1
Potatoes
Legumes
Brassicas
Root Crops
Year 2
Root Crops
Potatoes
Legumes
Brassicas
Year 3
Brassicas
Root Crops
Potatoes
Legumes
Year 4
Legumes
Brassicas
Root Crops
Potatoes

5 Year Crop Rotation Plan (For Potatoes)

A 5 year crop rotation plan looks just like the 4 year plan mentioned above, except that it adds a fifth unplanted section to your garden.

Leaving one part of the garden unplanted allows the soil to “rest” for an extra year, and gives potato diseases more time to die off.

Here is what the 5 year crop rotation plan would look like:

Year 1
Potatoes
Legumes
Brassicas
Root Crops
Unplanted
Year 2
Unplanted
Potatoes
Legumes
Brassicas
Root Crops
Year 3
Root Crops
Unplanted
Potatoes
Legumes
Brassicas
Year 4
Brassicas
Root Crops
Unplanted
Potatoes
Legumes
Year 5
Legumes
Brassicas
Root Crops
Unplanted
Potatoes

It helps to keep track of crop rotation with a journal. That way, you won’t forget what you planted in each of the previous years.

You will have an exact record that tells you what to plant in each area of the garden, along with when to plant it.

journal
Use a garden journal to help you keep track of crop rotation for your potato plants.

Remember that some cold-hardy plants that can survive the winter. You can plant these in the “off-season” (or for a fall “succession planting”) to get an extra harvest.

For example, garlic survives over the winter (and needs 9 months to grow!) Spinach is very cold hardy, to the point where it can survive frost and still produce for you in the following year.

What Not To Plant After Potatoes

You should not plant any crop in the nightshade family directly after (or before) potatoes.  There are several reasons for this (Note: nightshades include tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplants, tobacco, goji berries, and more).

ripe tomatoes on vine
Nightshade plants (such as tomatoes) are in the same family as potatoes, and they share some of the same nutrient requirements and diseases.

First, nightshade family plants all have similar nutrient requirements. Over time, they will deplete the same nutrients in the soil, unless you fertilize heavily.

Also, some of the plants in the nightshade family share the same diseases.  For example, early blight and late blight are two diseases that can both affect potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.

pepper plant
Peppers are also in the nightshade family, as are eggplants.

As a result, these plants can spread diseases between one another (via wind, water, and other methods).

You can learn more about other plant families from Cornell.

You can learn more about how tomato plants get blight (and how to prevent it) here.

Can I Plant Potatoes In The Same Place As Last Year?

It is possible to plant potatoes in the same spot every year – but it is not a good idea.

Diseases (such as early blight and late blight) are more likely to spread through your garden when you plant potatoes in the exact same place every year. The chance of disease rises in warm climates, which do not get cold enough to kill some of the diseases the live in the soil.

frost
Potato diseases are less likely to survive the winter in colder areas.

Pests (such as Colorado Potato Beetles) will also have an easier time finding plants to prey upon when they are planted in the same spot every year. Crops like alfalfa can help to control wireworms, which is another potato pest.

Use proper spacing for your potato plants (12 inches between plants and 3 feet between rows) will help to avoid the spread of disease between adjacent plants.

potato plants in straw
Leave enough space between potato plants (12 inches) to reduce the risk of disease spreading between plants.

Also, nutrient deficiencies are more likely when you plant the same crop in the same spot every year. Adding compost or fertilizer makes this less likely, but crop rotation helps to avoid the problem altogether.


The Complete Guide To Growing Potatoes Cover

The Complete Guide To Growing Potatoes


A complete reference and an ultimate guide that teaches you everything you need to know about potato selection, planting, care, harvest, and storage.


Conclusion

Now you have some ideas for what crops you can use to rotate with potatoes.  You also have the outline for crop rotation plans over 2, 3, 4, and 5 years.

I hope you found this article helpful – if so, please share it with someone who will find the information useful.  It’s time to get out your journal, map out your crop rotation, and prepare for a great potato harvest this year and in the future!

You can learn about which plants to rotate with tomatoes here.

You can find a guide for planting potatoes here.


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~Jonathon


Jon M

Hi, I'm Jon. Let's solve your gardening problems, spend more time growing, and get the best harvest every year!

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