Tuesday, May 26, 2009

One More Time With Gusto

If you are an organized gardener you know about succession planting. It’s something I aspire too but somehow can’t seem to master. My gardening style is a bit free form and-what-am-I-in-the-mood-to-do-today. But this weekend I actually managed to plant another couple batches of lettuce in some old flower boxes that have taken the dive from our deck one too many times. I’m not sure if a careless cat or a careless Frisbee sent them sailing, but at any rate they are cracked and missing their edges enough so as to not be presentable. But they’re just fine for extra garden space and make an excellent lettuce box. I’m loving my current crop of lettuce – prizehead especially – tastes like a butter lettuce. Fresh salads for lunch and dinner from here until the first frost if I’m successful with succession planting.

Succession planting simply means planting another crop of something you’ve already planted. Ideally (and here’s where the organized gardener has the advantage) you space out your planting so that you have a constant ripe crop of said vegetable. This doesn’t work with everything, especially vegetables that have a short growing period. And some successions have to be spaced out to avoid the worst heat of the summer. You can plant a second crop of peas again in late July/early August to get a fall crop. There is some faith and chance involved in second crops. There are years the early frosts kill your efforts. There are many summers when I put in my second crop of peas as soon as my first start climbing the trellis. I love sugar snap peas enough to chance a few seeds for a July crop of peas. And it has worked out some years, but most years the heat kills my peas before I get a true crop. Still, to me it’s worth a try – it’s only seeds.

Beans are a natural successionist (new word – I just coined it). You can plant a new crop as soon as your first looks like it will make it. Depending on how much you like to eat/freeze beans there is no end to your summer bean crop since they can tolerate the heat and they grow quick.

My advice when it comes to vegetable gardens is grow what you like and grow LOTS of what you love. Just because beans are easy to grow doesn’t mean you have to plant them. I only like one type – an heirloom seed called Montpelier French filet bean. Yum. So that’s all I grow. The rest of the family isn’t big in to green beans either, so there are no complaints. Tomatoes, peppers, asparagus, strawberries, and lettuce are my first loves so they take up the largest patch of real estate. Anyone can figure out your tastes by a quick glance at your garden.

Weather, varmints, and seeds can all surprise you, so it’s not too late to plant something. There’s always something to do besides weed. Experiment and see what you can grow. It’ll just cost you a few seeds. Besides putting in that next crop of lettuce or beans, here’s a few other things that need to be done this week:

1. Prune the lilacs. If you have lilacs don’t forget that they need to be pruned after they bloom (not in the winter like so many trees and shrubs).

2. Plant more lettuce. You can never have enough. Plant them in boxes or find a shaded spot in your garden (under the peppers or broccoli?).

3. If you’re planting corn, nows the time. Watermelon too. I’d hold off another week or two on pumpkins and guords if you want them timed out to be ready for Halloween.

4. Watch your farmer’s market – it’s just about time for strawberries! I’ve already spotted a couple red ones in our patch! And find somewhere you can “pick your own” with the kids.

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