GARDEN CROP ROTATION BY FAMILY
Using A Four-Year Cycle, By Plant Family
Written By James J. Sagmiller
This listing is based upon the Linnean botanical classification of plants into family, genus and species. Each family of plants represents a genetically related group that usually prefers similar soil and growing conditions in the garden and is frequently subject to the same pests and diseases.
Growing the same annual vegetable crop in the same place year after year depletes soil nutrients and renders plants more susceptible to pests and diseases. By rotating which types of plants are planted in a particular spot, the garden soil will be improved and plants will be healthier. Some vegetables, especially peas and beans, fix nitrogen in the soil. They prepare the soil for the second year’s crop of nitrogen-hungry Brassica family members, such as spinach and kale. These are followed in the third year by the Solanaceae family, including tomatoes and potatoes, along with others that enjoy a soil rich in phosphorus. The fourth year rotation is made up of vegetables that tend to be less heavy feeders, such as onions and carrots.
A simple way to set up a garden plot for rotation is to make a garden plan with four sections of beds or simply four beds if the area is small. Start the first year by planting vegetables from the list in its proper section (or quadrant). In the second year shift the placement of everything from its previous location into the next section, and so on each year. By the fifth year, the vegetables from the first season would be planted where they were the first year.
This guide list is a practical way to build your soil and thereby grow the healthiest vegetables you can. In rotation 3 the herb sweet basil is included because it enjoys similar garden conditions as members of the Solanaceae family. I have also listed some annual flowers that are grown in vegetable gardens and these benefit from rotation as well. In rotation 4 are nasturtiums, marigolds and zinnias. Nasturtiums and signet marigolds can be used as colorful, flavorful additions to salads. Zinnias attract pollinating insects (especially the single or semi-double forms) and make delightful cut flowers, but are not edible.
Garden Bed Section 1.
Fabaceae, Polygonaceae, Tetragoniaceae, Portulacaceae
New Zealand Spinach
Green Manures (all Fabaceae):
Austrian Winter Peas
Garden Bed Section 2.
Brassicaceae and Chenopodiaceae
Garden Bed Section 3.
Cucurbitaceae, Lamiaceae, Poaceae and Solanaceae
Garden Bed Section 4.
Apiaceae, Asteraceae, Liliaceae and Tropaeolaceae
Garlic is planted in fall and carries over into summer for harvest, so it is in the same place for nearly a year. If it is planted in fall in rotation 4, the space it takes will reduce the beans and peas planting space in rotation 1. When it is harvested in late July or August, garlic can be followed by a green manure crop or by a late planting of peas.
Coleman, Eliot, 1992. Four Seasons Harvest. Chelsea Green Publishing, Vermont.
Gettle, Jere and Emilee, 2015. The Heirloom Life Gardener. Hachette Books, New York.
Jabbour, Niki, 2011. The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener. Storey Publishing, Massachusetts.Poisson, Leandre and Gretchen, 1994. Solar Gardening. Chelsea Green Publishing, Vermont.