Crop Rotation and Vegetable Plant Families

by Seasonal Wisdom on March 15, 2010


For healthy vegetable gardens, it’s best to rotate your crops each year. By rotating your vegetable crops each year, you’ll reduce pests and pathogens and add nutrients to the soil. That’s why you should avoid growing vegetables from the same family in the same place more than once over a three-year period.

It’s not always easy to remember which vegetables belong in the same families, which can make crop rotation a bit challenging. To make it easier, I’ve listed vegetable plant families and the common names of popular vegetables in each family:

Alliaceae: Chives, garlic, leek, onion

Chenopodiaceae: Beet, chard, spinach

Brassicaceae: Broccoli, Brussels sprout, cabbage, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, radish, rutabaga, turnip

Asteraceae: Endive, globe artichoke, lettuce

Cucurbitaceae: Cantaloupe, cucumber, pumpkin, summer squash, winter squash, watermelon

Poaceae: Corn

Fabaceae: Green bean, fava bean, lima bean, pea, snap bean

Liliaceae: Asparagus

Polygonaceae: Rhubarb

Solanaceae: Eggplant, pepper, potato, tomato

Umbelliferae: Carrot, celery, Florence fennel, parsley, parsnip

Tips: Keep a notebook to remember what you planted each growing season. If you grew eggplant in a certain place in the garden over the last two years, don’t plant family members peppers, potatoes or tomatoes in the same spot this year. Instead, plant a vegetable from another family, such as carrots.

Perennials such as asparagus or rhubarb don’t need to be rotated annually. Crop rotation is used for annual vegetables planted each year.

Plant Information Source: “California Master Gardener Handbook,” published by the University of California’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Department and the University of California Cooperative Extension.

Photo Credit: Isabel Gomes


Annica Janes March 15, 2010 at 5:41 pm

Great reminder!
I'd be so lost without my garden notebook.

Seasonal Wisdom March 15, 2010 at 7:24 pm

You're so right, Annica. Just the other day, I went looking for my notes from last year… Thanks for stopping by. Teresa

Stevie March 16, 2010 at 1:12 am

I don't have a lot of room or a lot of sun so I'm pretty much an stuck planting things in the same spot of the garden each year. Do you think that transfering the soil between the different spots would do the trick?

Seasonal Wisdom March 16, 2010 at 3:00 am

Stevie: You might want to grow vegetables in containers. Look for smaller varieties that are well suited to containers. Earth Boxes, for example, don't need a lot of room in the garden. It's easier to change the dirt in these containers than to transfer dirt around your garden. Good luck! Teresa

Shelene September 27, 2012 at 3:18 pm

I’ve been planning my garden with crop rotation (already started combining rotation of families, as well as nitrogen consumption (ie: brassica, followed by solanaceae, then alliaceae, then fabaceae)). However, I have limited space, and would like to know how many families should be rotated in (and out) before it’s reasonable to replant the original family in the same area?
Thank you for your help and expertise.

Seasonal Wisdom September 27, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Hi Shelene: Many experts recommend you never plant the same family in the same spot for at least three years. But I know that isn’t always easy. I would recommend containers for some of your favorite plant families. And lots of organic matter (e.g., worm castings, aged manure and leaf mold) help keep the soil healthy too — so you might be able to cheat a little, if absolutely necessary. Good luck and thanks for stopping by.

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