Vegetable Family Crop Rotation Guide: Understanding Different Vegetable Families

Image by Mark Rowland

By Kristi Waterworth

Crop rotation is a common practice in the home garden, giving vegetable family-specific diseases time to die out before reintroducing families back into the same area of the garden years later. Gardeners with limited space may simply divide up their garden plot into three or four sections and rotate plant families around the garden, while others have separate plots they use for vegetable family crop rotation.

It can be hard to know which vegetables belong to the different vegetable families just from looking at them, but understanding the major vegetable plant families will make the task a little less daunting. Most home vegetable gardeners grow several plant families in any given year – using a handy vegetable families list will help keep rotations straight.

Family Names of Vegetables

The following vegetable families list will help get you started with appropriate vegetable family crop rotation:

Solanaceae – The nightshade family is perhaps the most commonly represented group in most home gardens. Members of this family include tomatoes, peppers (sweet and hot), eggplants, tomatillos and potatoes (but not sweet potatoes). Verticillium and fusarium wilt are common fungi that build in the soil when nightshades are planted in the same spot year after year.

Cucurbitaceae – The vining plants of the gourd family, or cucurbits, may not seem similar enough to be so closely related at first glance, but each and every member produces their fruits on a long vine with seeds running through the center and most are protected by a hard rind. Cucumbers, zucchini, summer and winter squash, pumpkins, melons and gourds are members of this very large family.

Fabaceae – The legumes are a large family, important to many gardeners as nitrogen fixers. Peas, beans, peanuts and cowpeas are common vegetables in the legume family. Gardeners who use clover or alfalfa as cover crops in winter will need to rotate them along with other members of this family, since they are also legumes and susceptible to the same diseases.

Brassicacae – Also known as the cole crops, members of the mustard family tend to be cool season plants and are used by many gardeners to extend their growing season. Some gardeners say that the flavor of thick-leafed members of this family are improved by a little frost. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, radishes, turnips and collard greens are mustards grown in many medium-sized gardens.

Liliaceae – Not every gardener has space for onions, garlic, chives, shallots or asparagus, but if you do, these members of the onion family require rotation just like other families. Although asparagus must be left in place for several years, when selecting a new site for asparagus beds, make sure that no other family members have been grown nearby for several years.

Lamiaceae – Not technically vegetables, many gardens may contain members of the mint family, which benefit from crop rotation due to several persistent and aggressive soil-borne fungal pathogens. Members such as mints, basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage and lavender are sometimes inter-planted with vegetables to deter pests.

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