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A Quick Guide to Crop Rotation & Vegetable Families

By on September 07, 2012

Want to be an advanced vegetable gardener? You will be when you know which vegetables are in which families.

This is crucial info for healthy crop rotation in your garden (and you’ll be able to astonish your friends with new vocabulary like cucurbits).

You can memorize all the vegetable families—or just bookmark this article and check on it before you plant each season.

Crop rotation sounds like one of those headachey projects involving graph paper and Number 2 pencils.

It’s not so bad.

You don’t need graph paper, but you should make a map of your vegetable garden.

Create a map online with a program like SmartGardener.com (one of their plans is shown above).

Or pull out a piece of paper, sketch your plantings, and write the year on the map. Keep the maps where you can find them (inside your Sunset Western Garden Book?) because you’ll need 4 to 5 years of records.

The basic rule: Wait 3 years until you replant families in the same place.

Why? Soil borne diseases build up when similar plants grow in the same space for more than a year. You don’t want to deal with club root, fusarium wilt, or vertciliium wilt, do you? If you keep moving the plants you’ll help thwart the diseases.

Just like any family, not all members of plant families look alike. See which relatives surprise you the most!

NIGHTSHADES Solanaceous
Tomatoes
Tomatillos
Eggplants
Peppers
Okra (one of those shirt-tail cousins that gets argued about—some say it’s a Mallow)
Potatoes

MORNING GLORY
Sweet potato

MELONS & SQUASH Cucurbits
Cucumbers
Zucchini & Summer Squash
Watermelon
Musk Melon
Pumpkin
Gourd

GOOSEFOOT
Beet
Spinach
Chard
Quinoa
Orach


SUNFLOWER
Sunflower
Jerusalem artichoke
Lettuce (surprised?)
Endive
Artichoke


COLE Brassicas
Broccoli
Brussels sprouts
Cauliflower
Cabbage
Kale
Collards
Radishes
Kohlrabi
Rutabaga
Turnip
Mustard

ONIONS (this one’s easy)
Onion
Leeks
Chives
Garlic

 

PEAS Legumes
Peas
Runner beans
Bush beans
Fava beans
Garbanzo beans
Peanuts

GRASSES
Corn
Millet
Rice
Barley
Wheat
Rye

PARSLEY
Parsley
Carrots
Parsnips (another surprise?)
Celery
Fennel
Cilantro/Coriander

Tricia gives you the big picture on crop rotation and garden planning in our latest video.

Everyone likes a change of scene. Get to know the families of your favorite vegetables and make sure they move around the garden with crop rotation.

  Comments (10)

A

Poor ole’ brussel sprouts—as is it’s all too common fate, left out once again (and this time even beat out by such popular vegies as Quinoa, Barley & Gourds) :(

Posted by Aspen on Aug. 08, 2013 at 11:22:47 AM

Aspen, We were just talking about Brussels sprouts yesterday, in a discussion of our new Flower Sprouts® seeds (cross of them with kale). I’ll give those Belgians a boost and list them with their brassica family members wink

Posted by GrowOrganic.com on Aug. 08, 2013 at 12:30:25 PM

K

But it says brussel sprouts?

Posted by Kristen on Nov. 08, 2013 at 8:11:11 PM

Kristen, Yes, we added Brussels sprouts to the Brassica group here.

Posted by GrowOrganic.com on Dec. 14, 2013 at 3:59:01 AM

P

My garden consists of corn, tomatoes, peppers, pea’s, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplant, squash, dahlias, and sunflowers. I have eleven raised beds roughly 64 sf each.
How do I rotate the vegetable
when I only have two plant types?

Posted by Peter on Apr. 11, 2015 at 10:02:42 AM

Peter, with the plants you described you actually have more than two plant families. You have Nightshades, grasses, Melons & squashes, Sunflowers, and Peas. So if you follow the plan of not replanting the same family in the same place for 3 years you should be able to practice crop rotation.

Posted by Suzanne at Peaceful Valley on Apr. 13, 2015 at 11:25:56 AM

M

Where would strawberries fit?

Posted by Mavis on Apr. 14, 2015 at 12:03:43 PM

Do not plant strawberries in a bed where you recently grew solanaceous plants (tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, peppers). Here is the article on strawberries, http://www.groworganic.com/organic-gardening/articles/how-to-renovate-renew-maintain-a-strawberry-bed. You should also rotate every three years to a new area.

Posted by Suzanne at Peaceful Valley on Apr. 15, 2015 at 11:38:15 AM

C

I’m maybe making too much of crop rotation but my head is spinning! There’s knowing the veggie families & planting like with like; I’ve been doing that. I also have always interplanted veggie companions, but considering crop rotation based on heavy feeders to light feeders, to building crops confuses me; most plans I see are based on 4 equal family groups, rotated every 4 years. I have 6 beds, plus a large cornfield & large pumpkin field. I grow just about everything in 6 permanent raised beds 4’X27’ but not equally; my nightshades (tomatoes, peppers sweet & hot, & eggplant take up 2 entire beds (about 65 plants interplanted with onions. So I rotate the 2 beds as one, with a 3 year rotation for those. Potatoes grow in a plastic bin, sometimes in the corn patch or with the pole beans. In the other 4 beds I have crucifers (broccoli, cabbage, Brussels, & lots of kale). I stick the radishes in with squashes that are on a long fence, plus cukes & zucchini is in there.  Other Cucurbits like melons have to go as an overflow on a cattle panel fence with the corn. Pole beans are on 3 towers, with rows of bush wax & dried beans.  My smallest crops are carrots, celery, spinach & lettuces, which are light feeders from Goosefoot & Daisy family, they usually get 1/2 a bed, but I grow alot of beets & chard from that family. In the allium family I grow approx. 30 leeks, but onions are stuck in everywhere, somewhere around 200! I’ve been rotating (with records) for more than 15 years, but not with any kind of real plan with soil requirements; for example, hubby usually manures all the beds & tills in spring, but I know some crops don’t need a lot of nitrogen. I’d like to just have a consistent understanding of what goes where from year to year! As a side note, we have permanent beds for herbs, strawberries, a row of raspberries, blackberries, as well as grapes & blueberries, but this 6 bed garden is where I need a rotation plan. Can anyone help? Thanks!

Posted by cindy on Jun. 15, 2016 at 7:18:24 PM

Cindy, you need to be mindful of not planting the same family in the same bed each year. Keeping a garden plan, year to year, is a good way to keep track of your planting rotation.

Posted by Suzanne at GrowOrganic.com on Jun. 17, 2016 at 9:09:42 AM

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