Gardening 101 – Crop Rotation

I’m sure most of us gardeners have heard someone say, “make sure you rotate your crops.”  What?  Why is crop rotation such a big deal, and does it really matter?  Yes, I think it does matter.  Plants in the same family are genetically similar and share many of the same characteristics.  Because of this, they lend themselves to being susceptible to similar pests, diseases and deplete the soil of many of the same nutrients.

In order to better understand how to rotate crops it’s important to know the different plant families.

Below are the most important families for us gardeners.

Amaryllicaceae (allium/onion family) -onions, garlic, chives, leeks, scallion

Chenapodiaceae  (beetroot/goosefoot family) – beets, spinach, swiss chard

Apiaceae or Umbelliferae (carrot/parsley family) – carrots, parsnip, dill, parsley, cilantro

Brassicaceae (cabbage/mustard family) – horseradish, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kohlrabi, kale, brussels sprouts, turnips, chinese cabbage, radish, mustard, collards, watercress, bok choi, rutabaga

Curcurbitaceae (cucurbit family)- cucumber, zucchini, summer squash, winter squash, pumpkins, melons, gourds

Fabaceae or Leguminosae (pea/bean family)  – beans, peas, soybean, peanuts, cow peas, lentils, fava bean

Asteraceae or Compositae (daisy/lettuce family) – lettuce, endive, sunflower, artichoke

Solanaceae (potato/nightshade family) –  tomato. potato, pepper (chile and bell) , eggplant, tomatillo


Equally important to remember is, each vegetable comes with different nutrient requirements.  They vary from heavy feeders, light feeders, and soil builders.

Heavy feeders are: corn, tomatoes, beets, cabbage family crops (broccoli, Brussels sprout, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, radish), celery, cucumber, endive, lettuce, parsley, pumpkin, cucumber, squashes, rhubarb, spinach

Light feeders are: root crops (carrot, garlic, leeks, onion, parsnip, potato, rutabaga, shallot, turnip), bulbs, herbs, mustard, pepper, chard

Soil builders are: alfalfa, beans, clover, peas

Don’t let all this information intimidate you.  Let’s just keep it simple.  Divide your garden into four sections.  If your garden is small don’t worry, just divide what you have.  To accomodate for the four rotations we will group  families. You will want to rotate a heavy feeding family, followed by a light feeding family, followed by heavy feeding family, followed by a soil builder.   An example of this would be the potato/nightshade family, followed by an onion family or a beetroot family or a carrot family, followed by lettuce family or a cabbage family or cucurbit family, followed by the pea/bean family.   This is just one suggestion, do what works best for you.  Nowhere is it written that if you do not practice crop rotation your garden will fail.  That being said, when gardening organically, doing all we can to prevent pests, disease, and soil depletion is always in our best interest.



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5 Responses to Gardening 101 – Crop Rotation

  1. Kimberly says:

    Great post! Love the information!

  2. Hanna says:

    Very useful to know! Thanks!

  3. Well, I liked the idea! This is just one suggestion, do what works best for you. Nowhere is it written that if you do not practice crop rotation your garden will fail.

    • Charlotte says:

      I agree with this suggestion whole heartedly. Everyone and every garden is different, so most times it’s a matter of trail and error to find out what works best for each person and garden. If space permits crop rotation is something that would be worth trying.

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