Crop Families

Check in weekly, on Wednesdays, to read our new post on gardening, harvesting, and making use of that fine, extra-local produce! We’ll share tips and techniques, gleaned from our urban farms and gardens. Email info@growpittsburgh.org with any topics you’d like us to cover.

 

Vegetable crops can be divided into groups according to their crop “families.” Much like with human families, these groupings indicate connections between plants. Plants that flower and fruit in similar ways are considered to be part of the same family. Plants within a family also tend to use similar nutrients from the soil, contract the same diseases, and draw the same insect pests.

 

This produce from the Frick and Shiloh represents several crop families.

This produce from The Frick and Shiloh represents several crop families.

 

Because of their shared nutrient needs as well as pest and disease problems, it’s great to be aware of the plant families within your garden. On a large garden or farm scale, grouping crops in the same family and rotating them from year to year is a good strategy to slow nutrient depletion as well as decrease pests and disease.

In a small garden, a crop rotation may not make much sense, since plant roots may intersect even with the best laid rotation plans. In a small garden space, plant disease and pests may overwinter and return throughout the garden, rather than just isolated within a crop family. And a rotation may not take plants far enough from their previous year’s spot to keep them from picking up the same pests and disease.

 

These crops: broccoli, mustard greens, arugula, and mizuna, all fall within the brassica family.

These crops: broccoli, mustard greens, arugula, and mizuna, all fall within the brassica family.

 

For small gardens, the best plan is often to plant as much diversity as possible. Planting from lots of crop families spreads out the risk so that even when a disease or pest knocks back a particular crop family, others will thrive and produce a harvest. Additionally, moving crop types to new spots in the garden every year can help benefit soil health (for instance, don’t put a tomato plant in the exact same place every year). And companion planting, growing a variety of crops close to each other for various benefits, can also be a great way to grow a healthy small garden.

 

This garden is highly diverse, with herbs, vegetables, and flowers interspersed.

This vegetable garden at Chanticleer is highly diverse, with herbs, vegetables, and flowers from many crop families interspersed.

 

Here’s the crop family breakdown of some favorite vegetable garden plants:

Cole Crops (Brassicas)

Arugula

Asian greens

Broccoli

Brussels sprouts

Cabbage

Cauliflower

Chinese cabbage

Daikon radishes

Kale

Kohlrabi

Mustard Greens

Radishes

Turnips/Turnip greens

 

Goosefoot (Chenopodiaceae)

Beets

Spinach

Swiss chard

 

Grasses (Poaceae)

Corn (Sweet, field, pop-)

Grains

 

Legumes (Fabaceae)

Beans (all)

Peanuts

Peas (all)

 

Lettuce (Compositae)

Artichoke

Endive

Escarole

Lettuce

Sunflower

 

Melon/Squash (Cucurbitaceae)

Cantaloupes

Cucumbers

Gourds

Melons

Pumpkins

Summer squash

Watermelon

Winter squash

Zucchini

 

Morning Glory (Convolvulaceae)

Sweet potato

 

Nightshade (Solanaceae)

Eggplant

Peppers

Potatoes

Tomatillo

Tomatoes

 

Onion (Amaryllidaceae)

Chives

Garlic

Leeks

Onions

 

Parsley (Umbelliferae)

Carrot

Celery

Cilantro

Dill

Fennel

Parsley

Parsnip