Some vegetables are too eager. They race for maturity, but deteriorate if not picked, leaving you to eat a season’s quota of your favourite crop in one go.
Just too many radish.
The trick is staggering harvest times by sowing seeds little and often in ‘succession’.
You can keep your plate evenly full by growing young plants to replace those that have just vanished into the kitchen.
Crops suited to succession sowing:
Impatient crops that have an ideal maturity and don’t store well. These chaps will sulk if not harvested, usually producing seeds or losing tenderness, so are best sown regularly.
For example (links open Garden Organic PDFs): Annual Spinach, Broad Bean, Leaf Beet, Calabrese, Carrot, Cabbage, Kohl Rabi, Lettuce, Pea, Radish, Rocket, Salad Onion, Turnip, Swede, Summer Salads, and Seed Sprouts.
Crops less is need of succession sowing:
Generous crops that can’t resist yielding for long periods, such as tomatoes and runner beans. These crops are best sown once. Likewise crops that like to culminate their season at about the same time every year, such as pumpkins and squashes.
Weather can ruin the best laid horticultural plans
A hot or cold spell can excite or depress crops sown at different times, letting them catch up with one another. So, a couple of useful tips to help buffer the effects of surprise weather:
- Rather than follow a rigid sowing schedule – with new carrots every third Sunday, wait for the earlier sowing to grow merrily before sowing again.
- Pick crops early, munching young plants as ‘thinnings’, leaving alternate plants to grow larger.
- Speed up slower specimens by covering with a cloche or horticultural fleece for a couple of weeks. This will get them growing!
Succession sowing can continue for several months depending on the crop and, more and more, clever new varieties. Have a look at the Organic Gardening Catalogue.
Don’t feel obliged to grow young plants next to old so they compete in rows, or entertain large bare spaces with the promise of late season sowings… So long as there are crops of different age around your growing space, then local tableware will be pleased.
Just after the thrill of eating own-grown produce, is experimenting with different veg at different harvest times. I find succession sowing, with the many caveats, one of most exciting of all horticultural delights.
Click here to discover unusual crops (opens ‘Sowing New Seed’ project website)
Article by Philip Turvil