Dig­gin'In: Keep plant­ing that pro­duce

The Progress-Index - At Home - - Front Page - BY KATHY VAN MULLEKOM

By now, you’ve planted your warm-sea­son veg­etable gar­den, and are just wait­ing for the har­vests that give you fresh good­ies for sum­mer sal­ads and sand­wiches.

Don’t stop with just those first crops. With some care­ful plan­ning and a lit­tle more plant­ing, you can have fresh pro­duce al­most year-round, ac­cord­ing to John Fend­ley of Sus­tain­able Seed Co., a sup­plier of or­ganic heir­loom seeds, and other ed­i­ble gar­den­ing ex­perts.

A tried-and-true tech­nique called “suc­ces­sion plant­ing” al­lows you to make the most of a small gar­den plot. It’s sim­i­lar to an­other small-space gar­den­ing con­cept called “square-foot gar­den­ing” be­cause you con­tin­u­ally re­place old crops with new crops, har­vest­ing a lot from a lit­tle.

Be­fore you plant, plan what you like to eat and buy seeds and trans­plants based on that list — let­tuces and onions for sal­ads, squash and zuc­chini for grilling and can­taloupes and water­mel­ons for snacks.

Next, fig­ure out how many days each veg- etable needs be­fore it ma­tures and is ready for har­vest, rec­om­mends Fend­ley.

Then, cut the days in half or a third — and you’ll know when to re­plant so you have two or three har­vests in­stead of one bumper crop that over­whelms you. Cre­ate a chart or put the plant­ing dates on a cal­en­dar in your gar­den­ing shed or garage, Fend­ley ad­vises. The key is re­plant­ing. “It’s so sim­ple but many gar­den­ers don’t do it,” Fend­ley says.

“For ex­am­ple, ev­ery 10 to 14 days you can seed radishes, plant a few seeds at a time, not the whole packet, and you’ll have crisp radishes con­tin­u­ally from spring to late fall in­stead of leav­ing them in the ground to get tough and woody.

“In­stead of plant­ing one long row or bed of let­tuce, con­sider in­ter­plant­ing let­tuces with longer grow­ers like onions or car­rots. Two weeks later, sow more let­tuces be­tween the longer grow­ers, and so on un­til the weather gets too warm for let­tuce. Since the plants ma­ture in one to two months you’ll get a con­tin­u­ous har­vest of let­tuce.”

Good can­di­dates for suc­ces­sion plant­ing, ac­cord­ing to Fend­ley, in­clude:

— Greens such as let­tuce, spinach and kale in spring and again in fall. Plant Swiss chard af­ter let­tuces are done.

— Once sum­mer’s sweet corn is done, plant broc­coli trans­plants for a fall har­vest.

— Plant vine-type cu­cum­bers early, fol­lowed by bush cu­cum­bers a month later.

— Di­rectly sow seeds of car­rots, radishes, beets, bush beans and snap peas into the gar­den ev­ery few weeks in June and July.

When you shop for seeds and trans­plants, look closely at the ma­tur­ing dates, choos­ing a va­ri­ety of short, mid and long-ma­tur­ing types. Crops also con­tinue longer on a nat­u­ral ba­sis if you har­vest reg­u­larly.

You can learn more about in­ten­sive gar­den­ing meth­ods – in­clud­ing suc­ces­sion plant­ing, in­ter­plant­ing, raised beds and ver­ti­cal gar­den­ing — through Vir­ginia Co­op­er­a­tive Ex­ten­sion at http://pubs.ext. vt.edu/426/426335/426-335.html.

The Sus­tain­able Seed Com­pany’s web­site — sus­tain­able­seedco.com — also fea­tures help­ful in­for­ma­tion.

COURTESY SUS­TAIN­ABLE SEED CO./MCT

Car­rot tops on Lit­tle Fin­gers are 8-10 inches long; they can be planted into sum­mer in heavy soil for con­tin­ued har­vest.

COURTESY SUS­TAIN­ABLE SEED CO./MCT

Early Won­der Beets give you two crops - 33 days for fla­vor­ful greens and 60 days for bright red beets.

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