I’ve mentioned before that I plant radishes (usually French Breakfast) with my slower-germinating seeds as a nurse crop, and because they germinate so quickly, they mark rows to speed mulching. Mixing radish seed into other small seeds like carrots helps prevent overcrowding, since the radishes come out early, leaving space for the other crop to mature. I’m not sure where I learned to do it, possibly from my mother, who is an avid vegetable gardener. I’ve done it for as long as I can remember planting. But this year, in thinking about doing a better job of succession planting to get maximum production from my beds, I also planted some seeds in 4 packs. I planted these beets (in the right triangle) in the ground with a radish nurse crop on March 15. On May 9th, most of the radishes had been harvested and the beets were starting to take off. This is what they looked like 55 days after planting. You can just see them among the few remaining radishes if you look closely. They are a brighter green and narrow-leaved.
Here’s another bed (bottom left) with beets, seeded originally in 4-packs on March 23 and transplanted into the bed to the right of the onion sets on April 15. This photo was taken on April 23, only 31 days after seeding, and you can easily see that the beets are MUCH bigger than the beets planted directly even though the direct seeded beets had an extra 24 days. The weather has been pretty consistent through this period. It will be interesting to see if the beets planted in ground catch up, or if there are other differences in time to harvest, size, etc. At the moment, I’m thinking planting in 4’s is a more productive option, and not that much harder or time-consuming than in ground. They only had greenhouse space until they got 2 “real” leaves, then they were outside on benches for a few days until they were planted in the bed. And, if I plant them too thickly (as I am prone to do) I can split the 4-pack cubes in half and spread them a bit. If I plant them too thickly in the ground, I must thin them, and pulling out baby plants breaks my heart.
As of today (May 20th) the direct-seeded beets are only about 4″ tall. The transplanted beets are 7″ tall and beginning to form beets! Now that I’ve noticed the difference with the beets, I’ll keep closer watch on other radish-nursed crops. You CAN teach this old dog new tricks!