Brr… where is that 70 F weather we had for a few days? Old Man Winter is claiming his territory back with howling winds, rain, snow, and freezing temperatures. The garden is just a dream for now so I’ve started a list of all I grow and intend on growing and what families they are in. Why? Because of what I’ve learned. The garden plants, trees, and bushes were mostly relatives within a few families. The Rosaceae family is a BIG one of which we have sour cherries, apples, strawberries, raspberries, sarviceberries, and hopefully soon Dog Wood rose bushes and hawthorn bushes. That’s seven.
My gooseberries, black currants, and red currant bush are in the Grossulariacea family so why is it that those in the same family do so well? The reason why this works is they all have similar needs. Needs my yard naturally has. For instance yarrow which grows in abundance is related to the echinacea I found in the field and they are both from the Daisy family. Hence, I should be able to grow the traditional daisy which I love. I also want to put in marigolds, calundula, black eyed susans, and chamomile which are in the Sunflower family and I know that sunflowers do well and hence I’m expecting them to do well also.
- Plant families have similar needs
But what else can we learn from families of plants? You can identify new plants because they will look like others in the family. For instance an apple tree has a similar five pedaled blossom as a wild rose bush, a sarviceberry flower, and strawberry blossoms. Most in the rose family do look alike except domestic varieties plant breeders have transfigured to look like something else. Anything in the Asteraceae Family will look like a Daisy. Most members of the Campanulaceae Family have blue flowers in a bell or star shape. The flowers are now one of the things I look at.
- Knowing characteristics of a plant family helps in identification of new plants.
There are two major types of seed plants, the gymnosperms (seeds in cones) and angiosperms (seeds in ovaries of flowers). I know that with all my seed cone plants to give them sulfur because our soil is too alkaline for them. I know how to feed members of the Rocacea family to produce a larger crop of strawberries, or apples because they have similar relationships with soil microbes.
- I know what they need in terms of fertilizers or soil amendments.
- I know if they are a heavy feeder or a nitrogen fixer like all members of the Fabaceae family.
It might be tempting to only grow one family in your yard because it does so well but agrobiodivesity helps ensure that the bugs or diseases that likes one of your crops won’t like too many of your crops. Knowing plant families in the garden allows you to rotate crops so you don’t deplete the soil or spread disease to another members of the family but planting the same vegetables families in the same spot year after year.
- Helps you with crop rotation and lower disease.
If you know which Plant Family a plant belongs to, it might help you find the seeds. Members of the cabbage family (Brassicaceae) have a seedpod that is a thin papery membrane between the two halves. Leguminosae Family have their seeds in legumes pods like pea or bean pods.
- Helps you find the seeds.
- Helps you to know how the plants spread its seeds.
It can often tell you whether the seeds are large or small or whether there are a lot of them or only one and what they will look like. Carrots are in the Apiaceae family and are easy to recognize with their distinctive umbel like flower stalk. It’s how I identify Queen Anne’s Lace growing wild in a field and know their seeds are small.
- Helps tell you what the seeds will look like or how many.
Knowing the Plant Family gives you clues as to how to germinate any new seeds from other members of the family. Whether they need to be started indoors in your region or must be sown outdoors. By what method and what time of the year to do so.
- Seed families give you clues how to germinate the new seeds.
After learning all this, I can see the wisdom in developing a chart of all the garden plants, flowers, trees, and bushes in my yard in to families. It will help me in my observations as to what bugs are attracted to them. I just learned that ants eat fruit fly larvae. I’ve decided to move my ill placed peonies, (the previous owner put them right up against the house) to the orchard. Ants are attracted to peonies and they are needed to eat the sweet sticky nectar to open the flowers. Maybe this attraction will aid the apple trees besides beautify the area. I’m going to find out. With this knowledge I can figure out how to best amend the soil and fertilize certain plants, bushes, and trees because what I did to other members of the family was successful or not. I have done quite a few experiments with tomatoes growing them from seed and cuttings and since peppers are also in the nightshade family, I plan to experiment with peppers using what I have learned with tomatoes.
Knowledge opens up greater possibilities of success.