Rotation Families

Knowing the botanical family of your vegetables will help greatly with crop rotation.  Remember that rotation plans can be very simple, or as complicated as you wish.  Each vegetable has a different harvesting window, so planning for the next crop needs to have a little flexibility.  You might have planned to follow one crop with a specific variety, only to find that it had a shorter or longer harvest window than you expected, and you are forced to choose another variety in that family.  The more you know those families, the better you can plan and make adjustments.  Most of the vegetables you will plant will fall into one of these (12) botanical groups:

Group 1 – Pea Family (Fabaceae) The legumes – garden peas, snap beans, lima beans, soybeans, field peas, & peanuts

Group 2 – Goosefoot Family (Chenopodiaceae) Beets, Swiss chard, and spinach

Group 3 – Mustard Family (Brassicaceae) Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, turnip, radish, Chinese cabbage, kale, collards, rutabaga

Group 4 – Carrot Family (Apiaceae) Carrot, parsnip, parsley, celery, fennel, cilantro, lovage

Group 5 – Grass Family (Poaceae) Sweet corn, popcorn, ornamental corn

Group 6 – Sunflower Family (Asteraceae) Lettuce, endive, salsify, Jerusalem artichoke, globe artichoke

Group 7 – The Mint Family (Lamiaceae) – Basil (most are perennial herbs such as lavender, rosemary, thyme, and oregano and are not used in rotations)

Group 8 – Mallow Family (Malvaceae) Okra

Group 9 – Onion Family (Alliaceae) The alliums – onion, garlic, leek, shallot, chive

Group 10 – Gourd Family (Cucurbitaceae) Cucumber, muskmelon, watermelon, squash, pumpkin, gourd

Group 11 – Bindweed (Morning Glory) Family (Convolvulaceae) Sweet potato

Group 12 – Nightshade Family (Solanaceae) Tomato, pepper, eggplant, potato, husk tomato (tomatillo)

Even though there are twelve basic groups it does not follow that there need to be 12 successions.  Remember that all of the Gulf Coast, including the upper Gulf, has a twelve month growing season.  When you look at the list of groups, you can quickly determine that some of these families have a seasonal preference dictated by whether they are a cool season or a warm season crop.

Group 1 Beans & Peas Warm/Cool (Peas)
Group 2 Beet-Spinach-Chard Cool
Group 3 Cabbage-Mustard-Radish Cool
Group 4 Carrot-Dill-Parsley Cool
Group 5 Corn Warm
Group 6 Lettuce Cool
Group 7 Basil Warm
Group 8 Okra Warm
Group 9 Onion Cool
Group 10 Squash-Melon-Cucumber Warm
Group 11 Sweet Potato Warm
Group 12 Tomato-Pepper-Irish Potato Warm/Cool (Potatoes)

There are basically 7 groups per season because the legume family (beans & peas) and the nightshade family (tomatoes & potatoes) include both warm and cool season members. This makes it fairly easy to follow a crop rotation plan year round, no matter how simple or complicated you would like it to be.

It is important that a garden record of some kind be kept and used for reference from season to season, year to year.  It does not have to be elegant.  It can be as simple as a quick sketch, or just a list on a legal pad.  It is a good idea to keep track of planting and replanting dates as this will help with future crop rotation plans.