Knowing your vegetable crop families is the first step to property crop rotation in your garden.
Over the next week or so I will be posting 3 articles on the importance of crop rotation. In this first of the three, I want to talk about Vegetable Crop Families. Links to the other two articles can be found at the bottom of this page.
Vegetable Crop Families
Garden crops can be broken into Vegetable Crop Families. A “family” in this case refers to a group of plants that share common traits and botanical lineage. Basically, the plants are “related”. Plants in the same vegetable crop families have similar characteristics, use many of the same nutrients, and are susceptible to many of the same diseases and pests.
The purpose of this post is to give you a list of all the major important vegetable crop families and their members. I will also try to include a little about each of the vegetable crop families and some common problems, etc. associated with each family. You can use this post as a guide as you begin your crop rotation plan.
Family Name: Fabaceae (Also Leguminosae)
Common Name: Legumes
- Fava Beans
- Runner Beans
- Green Beans
- Lima Beans
The Fabaceae family are a pretty carefree lot. Given good soil and proper water they should be pretty easy for you to grow. There are a few soil borne viral or bacterial diseases that will affect this family and a few common pests. But unless you have really bad luck this family should be easy to grow. All of the members of the Fabaceae family have the added benefit of enriching your soil with added nitrogen. A bacteria that grows in the root system of these plants actually “fix” nitrogen from the air, supplying your peas or beans with all the nitrogen they need and adding nitrogen to your soil as well.
Family Name: Solanaceae
Common Name: Nightshade
The Solanaceae family is one of the most popular and important families in home gardening. Nearly all of the plants in this family originated in the tropical climates of central and South America. That means they like moist fertile soil. They also have many pests and diseases in common. This makes crop rotation extra important for this family. In fact, if for no other reason, the Solanaceae families need for rotation means you have to get a crop rotation system going in your garden!
Family Name: Brassicaceae
Common Name: Cole or Brassica
- Chinese Cabbages
- Brussels Sprouts
The Brassicaceae family is one of the families where the “family resemblance” is really apparent. Look closely at each member of this family and you will see what I mean. In fact, if you really want to see how similar they are, take a look at them as 10-day old seedlings. Before the true leave start to form these guys all look the same. This family has many diseases in common, but even more pests! Rotation of these crops around your garden is essential!
Family Name: Apiaceae (Also sometimes called Umbelliferae)
Common Name: None
- Also some herbs like parsley & caraway
The Apiaceae family for me at least is fairly easy to deal with in the rotation. I mostly only grow Carrots & Celery from this family and neither really takes up a ton of space. So it is fairly easy to bounce these around in different areas of the garden.
Family Name: Chenopodiaceae (Also Amaranthaceae)
Common Name: Amaranth
- Swiss Chard
- Spinach (Including New Zealand Spinach)
This family is not a really big group but is also one where you can really see the family resemblance. The leaves of this family, especially when the g look very much alike. These plants have some pests in common but are not heavily affected my and plant diseases. Rotation of this family should be very simple as they can all be grown close together in the same bed!
Family Name: Amaryllidaceae
Common Name: Allium
- Garlic (Technically garlic isn’t part of this family, but you treat is as if it is)
It’s funny to think that Onions and Asparagus are cousins. That’s a pairing that doesn’t match up in my mind. Although Garlic is technically an herb, I put it in this family as I treat it and rotate it around my garden with my onions.
Family Name: Asteraceae (Also Compositae)
Common Name: None
- Artichokes (Globe & Jerusalem)
- Mache (also known as corn salad or Lamb’s Lettuce)
There is some pretty big variation in this family. Hard to picture a lettuce plant and an Artichoke being related, but they are!! This family is fairly easy to work into any rotation and really don’t have a lot of problems growing in good fertile soil.
Family Name: Cucurbitaceae
Common Name: Gourd or Squash
- Squash (Winter)
- Squash (Summer)
One of my favorite families to grow! This family has a lot of common pests and diseases and rotation is a must!
Family Name: Miscellaneous others
- Sweet or Pop Corn – Poaceae
- Okra – Malvaceae
- Rhubarb –
These 3 garden goodies are all the only members of their respective families that we regularly cultivate in our gardens. That does not mean you don’t have to rotate. Rhubarb, being a perennial stays put for a lot of years, but the other two should be rotated around your garden as part of your normal rotation process.
Well, I hope this post helps! This should give you some ideas of what is related to what and help you to start building a crop rotation plan using Vegetable Crop Families.
For more info on crop rotation, you can check out the following posts: