Saturday, December 29, 2012

Niki Jabbour: A Year of Nonstop Homegrown Veggies

Year-round vegetable gardeners aren't just people who extend their harvest into late autumn and winter but rather know how to push back the spring season so they enjoy a fresh crop of tender salad greens, baby turnips, and spring onions long before their neighbors have even broken ground on their own plots. Simple season extenders such as mini hoop tunnels and cold frames will help you shelter those cool- and cold-season edibles, but to ensure a nonstop supply of homegrown veggies and herbs, you'll need to learn how to succession plant.

In the Succession Planting excerpt [download PDF] from The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener, you'll find my simple techniques and top crops for succession planting, along with some tips on planning your successive crops.

Succession planting helps ensure a continuous supply of high-quality vegetables. 
Most salad crops can be sown every few weeks for a nonstop harvest.
Photograph © by Joseph De Sciose

Five Tips for Successful Succession Planting

Plan in advance. Although I can’t claim to be a superorganized gardener, I’m always sure to order enough seed with my annual orders for a full year of succession planting. A bonus is that, if stored properly, most seed will easily keep for several years, so even if you don’t use it all that first season, you can save the rest for the future.

Start more seedlings. By mid-May my warm-season veggie seedlings have been planted in the garden, and the space under my grow light is empty. But it’s not time to unplug for the season. Instead, I start planning for succession crops and fall/winter harvests. I start by planting more cucumber seeds, which are relatively quick growing and will supply a second crop of crisp cukes for a late-­summer harvest, just when the first crop starts to lose steam. Also, I’ll seed more celery for a second yield in late summer and fall. The first planting tends to get pithy and hollow if left to mature. Then in mid-June I’ll plant a new crop of broccoli and kale that will be transplanted to the garden in late July for a cool- and cold-season harvest. With a little protection the kale will keep producing throughout the winter.

Feed the soil. To keep production high I always add a 1-inch layer of compost to the garden between successive crops. If your soil isn’t overly fertile, add a granular organic fertilizer at this time; just be sure to follow the directions on the package.

Turn over plantings quickly. To get the most out of your space, remove any spent crops ­immediately after harvest or as soon as their production declines. Don’t wait for the last few peas to mature — just haul out the plants, toss them on the compost pile, and replant right away with another family favorite.

Don’t forget rotation. Although it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of succession planting, it’s important to keep in mind what's planted where. A notebook will come in handy! Try to group families (for example, legumes — beans, peas, soybeans). If certain diseases or insects are an annual issue, it is essential to keep rotating your crops. A three-year rotation is considered adequate for most problems, although the longer the rotation, the better.
Happy Gardening!
Niki Jabbour

Niki Jabbour, author of The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener, is a food gardener and garden writer who lives near Halifax, Nova Scotia. Her articles have appeared in Canadian Gardening, Garden Making, Gardens East, The Heirloom Gardener, and other publications. She is the host of The Weekend Gardener, a call-in radio show that airs throughout the Maritime provinces on News 95.7 FM and, and she blogs at Her garden boasts over 40 heirloom vegetables and herbs that keep her family eating fresh food year-round.

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