All plants belong to the Plante Kingdom. They are further classified by division, class, order, family, genus and species. Scientists use formal names to identify plant families. Most gardeners call plant families by their common names.
Vegetable plants in the same family have similar characteristics, including growth habits and nutrient requirements. Familiarity with plant families gives gardeners keen insight to plants’ unique needs and problems. Gardeners can use their knowledge of plant classification to make informed decisions about crop rotations and how to best manage soil fertility. An example is rotating heavy-feeding members of the Brassicaceae family with nitrogen-fixing Fabaceaes to replenish spent soil.
Diseases and pests often infect an entire family of plants. Planting members of the same family side-by-side encourages the spread of bacteria and pests. Keep plants healthy and aphids and nematodes at bay by planting members of the same family as far apart as possible, or utilizing the companion technique of planting herbs and flowers like chives and marigolds between rows.
Understanding plant classification is particularly beneficial for gardeners who save seeds and breed plants. Unwanted cross-pollination within a family produces interesting looking and bad tasting cucumber/melon and gourd/zucchini combos. Plant members of the same family a safe isolation distance from one another or use hand-pollination techniques to prevent unwanted cross-pollination.
- Scientific name: Amaryllidaceae
- Scientific name: Apiaceae
- Scientific name: Asteraceae
- Scientific name: Brassicaceae
- Scientific name: Chenopodiaceae
- Scientific name: Cucurbitaceae
- Scientific name: Fabaceae
- Scientific name: Pocaceae
- Scientific name: Polygonaceae
- Scientific name: Solanaceae
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- Planning Your Garden Crop Rotation Schedules
- Crop Rotations and Soil Erosion
- Crop Rotation by Vegetable Families
- Year 1 – Solanaceae
- Year 2 – Root Crops / Onion
- Year 3 – Cole Crops / Brassicas
- Year 4 -Legumes / Leafy Greens
- Vegetable Families & Crop Rotation
Scientific name: Amaryllidaceae
Common name: Aamaryllis family
Onions, leeks, chives, garlic, shallots
Scientific name: Apiaceae
Common name: Carrot family
Carrot, parsnip, celery, fennel, parsley, celeriac
Scientific name: Asteraceae
Common name: Sunflower family
Endive, artichoke, lettuce, celtuce, sunflower, salsify, dandelion, chicory, radicchio
Scientific name: Brassicaceae
Common name: Mustard family
Scientific name: Chenopodiaceae
Common name: Goosefoot family
Beet, chard, spinach, amaranth, quinoa
Scientific name: Cucurbitaceae
Common name: Gourd family
Cucumber, melon, pumpkin, squash, watermelon, summer squash, zucchini, gourd
Scientific name: Fabaceae
Common name: Pea family
Bean, Peanut, Pea, lentil, soybean, alfalfa, cowpea
Scientific name: Pocaceae
Common name: Grass family
Corn, millet, rice, barley, wheat, rye, oats, sorghum
Scientific name: Polygonaceae
Common name: Knotweed family
Scientific name: Solanaceae
Common name: Nightshade family
Eggplant, pepper, potato, tomato, tomatillo, tobacco
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Planning Your Garden Crop Rotation Schedules
One of the easiest ways to prevent disease in the garden is to practice crop rotation. Basically, it means that you should not grow the same kind of crops in the same place every year. Best practices call for rotating related crops through your garden beds on a 3 or 4-year cycle.
I rotate my garden by the vegetable families on a four-year rotation schedule. For example, tomatoes are highly susceptible to wilt diseases and the next year’s crop will grow best when it is planted in a different place each year. The key is, that area should not be replaced with another family member, such as peppers since the Solanaceae group can be infected by the same fungus. That’s why I practice crop rotation by vegetable families.
The vegetable families I use in crop rotation are:
- Solanaceae (the tomato group)
- Cucurbits (the cucumber group)
- Root Crops (like carrots and beets)
- Brassicas (broccoli and cabbage)
- Legumes (beans and peas)
- Leafy Greens (spinach, lettuce, kale)
Crop Rotations and Soil Erosion
The practice of crop rotation has been around on large farms for many years and is a major contributor to your soil health.
Farmers who practice long-term crop rotation can reduce soil erosion on their land. A study conducted in 1988 found 6 inches more topsoil on an organic farm than on an adjacent conventional farm in the Palouse region of Washington state.
The 7,700-acre organic farm had been managed without the use of commercial fertilizers and with limited use of approved pesticides since its soil was first plowed in 1909. Researchers compared the organic farm’s topsoil to that of a nearby conventional farm. The 1,400-acre conventional farm, first cultivated in 1908, began receiving recommended rates of commercial fertilizers in 1948 and pesticides in the early 1950s.
The difference in topsoil depth between the two farms was attributed to significantly greater erosion on the conventional farm between 1948 and 1985. Researchers attributed the difference in erosion rates to crop rotation because the organic farmer included green manure crops within the rotation plan while the conventional farmer did not. Source: Reganold et al, 1988
We often think that crop rotation is only for big plots of land, but it works just as well in your home garden. Erosion will be lessened and you will be able to limit the amount of pesticides used on your food.
Related: Gardening for Food Production
Crop Rotation by Vegetable Families
Many gardeners rotate their crops by memory, making decisions about where to plant on the day they break ground. To make the most of crop rotation you need detailed records of where crops were grown in the past, as well as a written plan for how crops will be arranged in the future.
The simplest way do do this is to make a map of your garden plots. Label them with names or numbers, and make copies of the layout for future years. After planting day take detailed notes and at the end of each season fill one in and date it, noting any serious pest or soil problems in a field.
Before the next year’s growing season, pull out your old map and use it to plan where you will plant the current year crops. You should aim for a rotation schedule that has the most years possible between planting similar crops in a given location. Some people choose a three year plan and others go for four year crop rotations.
Some crops are heavy feeders that deplete garden soils while other crops are light feeders and others even help to build soil health.
- Soil Depleting Crops — corn, soybeans, tomato, potatoes, most vegetables
- Soil Neutral or Soil Conserving Crops – the cereal crops; wheat, barley, oats
- Soil Building Crops – Legumes; pea, bean, alfalfa, clover
A typical rotation in my yard would look like this:
Year 1 – Solanaceae
- summer squash
- winter squash
Year 2 – Root Crops / Onion
Year 3 – Cole Crops / Brassicas
- Brussels sprouts
Year 4 -Legumes / Leafy Greens
For further reading: Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education’s Crop Rotation on Organic Farms planning manual. WollyGreen Vegetable Garden Crop Rotation , or How to practice crop rotation From A Worcester Allotment.
Adding a simple crop rotation schedule to your garden plan can make a huge difference in crop yields and keep your soil healthy year after year. Give it a try.
Vegetable Families & Crop Rotation
Posted at h in Passionate Gardener by Primex
Crop rotation means a regular scheme of planting whereby different demands are made on your soil each year. Vegetables vary in their nutritional needs and therefore, deplete the soil in different ways. Growing the same crop in the same place each year creates a deficiency in certain elements due to the plant’s needs. Rotating crops is good for your soil as there is less of a requirement for fertilizer.
In a small garden, I am recommending a four year rotation program. Each year you can have the same crops if you prefer but they will always be in a different location. In the fifth year, you plant whatever you did the first year in the same location and the next four year cycle begins again. Obviously, the larger the garden area, the easier it is to rotate crops. To me, a small space could be created with four raised beds. The sizes can vary but four, 4’X4′ beds would be ideal for this program.
Crop rotation is essential for a good growing program. Many pests and diseases are plant host-specific in that they are attracted to the same plants or plant families. By itself, crop rotation will never guarantee the prevention of disease or pests but it does go a long way in helping create a healthier and better yield. In order to rotate your crops in the proper manner, understanding the various plant families is the first step.
- Amaranthaceae (amaranth family) includes beets, spinach and Swiss chard.
- Amaryllidaceae (onion family) includes garlic, leeks and onions.
- Apiaceae (carrot family) includes carrots, celery, parsley and parsnips.
- Brassicaceae (cole family) includes broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collard, kale, mustard, radish and turnips.
- Compositae (sunflower family) includes endive and lettuces.
- Cucurbitaceae (gourd family) includes cucumber, melons, pumpkins, and squash.
- Leguminosae (legume family) includes beans, peas and soybeans.
- Poaceae (grass family) includes corn (and also popcorn).
- Solanaceae (nightshade family) includes eggplant, peppers, potatoes, tomatillo, and of course, tomatoes.
Most of the plants within a plant family have similar needs, have similar problems and are generally grown in the same manner. Working in a small garden space means that you will probably practice succession planting during the season, planting different things as the season progresses. After the first crop harvest, remove any plant residues, especially diseased material. Bush bean remains can actually be chopped up and left to decompose where they were grown to return nitrogen to the soil.
My example here includes four raised beds but you could use any combination you have to your benefit. Try and keep a record of what you planted where. A simple box diagram in a notebook is all you need and label each box #1, #2, #3 and #4. Also, title the diagram “Year 1” and you have a simple, effective journal.
So for your first year, here is a recommended planting program for each bed. Of course, vary it as you choose with other vegetables that you may want to grow.
- Box #1 Plant Compositae & Solanaceae together. Early lettuce followed by tomatoes.
- Box #2 Plant Brassicaceae & Cucurbitaceae together. Early mustard greens and radishes followed by summer squash.
- Box #3 Apiaceae & Lamiaceae together. Carrots, parsley and early cilantro. Add basil later in the season when the weather warms up.
- Box #4 Amaranthaceae & Leguminosae together. Spinach planted early, followed by bush beans.
If your raised beds are larger than 4X4 as in this example, simply partition them off with dividers so that the soil is separated. In a larger garden area just divide your space into four equal quadrants and use the same principles.
Each year, rotate the crops in a clockwise fashion. Also, try to use a vertical trellis whenever possible to save space. This situation works great for cucumbers, melons and summer squash. Also, be on the lookout for varieties that are space efficient. They work extremely well when your space is limited.
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One of the most important components of an Integrated Pest Management program for the backyard grower, community gardener or urban farmer is the use of crop rotation. This was the topic of the second round of educational training to support the Buckeye ISA program. Crop rotation means not growing a plant from the same family in the same spot year after year with a targeted goal of at least three years between planting the same family in the same spot. Since families of vegetables share similar pests and diseases as well as can be affected by weeds in similar ways, rotating different plant families every three years can assist in breaking the life cycle of many of the pests and diseases shared.
Here is a list of vegetable families and some common varieties of vegetables in those families:
- This is the Nightshade family, some members are poisonous.
- Vegetables – Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant, Potatoes
- These are the alliums, it is a large family with long roots in agriculture.
- Vegetables – Onions, Leeks, Chives, Garlic
- This is a very large family – also called the cruciferous vegetables.
- Vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, turnips, rutabaga, mustards, collards, kale, radish, asian greens
- Lettuce, artichokes
- This also contains flowering plants such as coneflower, sunflower and dandylion.
- Swiss Chard
- This is another very old family with many members.
- Vegetables – winter squash, summer squash, zucchini, cucumber, watermelons and other melon fruit, pumpkins, mouse melon, gourds
- These are the nitrogen fixing legumes. The plant does not actually fix nitrogen, it is accomplished via a symbiotic relationship with rhizobia bacteria.
- Vegetables – Peas, beans, soybeans, fava beans
- This family is vast. It has many vegetables as well as herbs. Many members of this family are poisonous.
- Vegetables – carrot, celery, parsnip, fennel
- Herbs – parsley, dill, cilantro, chervil
- This family contains the cereal grains. This is important if cover crops from this family are used, they need to be factored in for crop rotation as a vegetable family
- Corn, winter rye, oats
A good way to track your garden year after year is by taking a picture with your phone. Most smart phones will take high quality pictures that are date and sometimes even location stamped. Having an accurate record of plantings during the year will assist in future garden planning for crop rotations.
Integrated Pest Management Fact Sheet
Crop Rotation in the Vegetable Garden Fact Sheet