With the inauguration nearly upon us, my mind has been thinking a lot about succession, of kings and queens, and presidents….and vegetables. “Cabbages and kings.”
Last year, I found a little trick for creating a bit more space for succession crops. Normally, I dedicate a large space for growing winter squash and pumpkins. Usually they can go in after the shallots which come out in late June/early July, but last year there weren’t many shallots in the potager, due to the wet season the year before leading to a shortage of bulbs to plant. So, as I was wandering around the potager looking for empty space for sprawling, vigorous plants, thinking “I wish there’d been more shallot space” I glanced at the thriving rows of “Candy” and “Patterson” onions. “Too bad they aren’t ready to come out,” thought I, knowing they’d be there until mid-September.
And then the light bulb moment clicked. Not all of them needed to come out! Only one or two right now, to make room for a 4″ potted pumpkin, and as it grew more could be harvested. As it turned out, the vines began creeping down the rows, and a little adjusting them between onion plants only took moments. The onions didn’t seem to mind at all, their tall leaves punctuating between the pumpkin leaves, easily finding the sun. By the time the pumpkin was really taking most of the space, nearly all the onions had fallen over and were ready to be pulled. Brilliant! That was repeated in all the other onion beds, sometimes with a potted intruder like “Butterscotch” squash and sometimes with seeds for two or three bush “Delicata” or a late summer squash. It worked like a charm, and I think being surrounded by all those onions actually helped deter some insect pests. Needless to say, this idea is now a big part of my succession planning.
And, now all those areas formerly designated as “cucurbits” (although admittedly they usually held some very early lettuces, pak choy, etc.) can now host some “real” crops for the bulk of the season. That was a good, useful lesson and I’ll be looking for even more ways to create space for succession crops this year. Areas certainly don’t have to be totally empty before new crops go in. I tuck lettuces around cabbages and broccoli in early spring, knowing that by the time the cabbages grow wide, the lettuces will be gone, so I rarely plant an entire row or patch of lettuces in the potager anymore. They just get tucked in here and there, and are harvested as other things need more space. Same with pak choy, mustard and mache. Maybe this year, I’ll try inserting a pepper plant into a carrot row every couple of feet. Carrots grow so slowly, so very slowly. I could harvest a couple baby carrots to make room initially, and then gradually harvest those closest to the pepper plants as the carrots get shaded. Same with beets, or kholrabi rather than waiting until the whole row has been harvested to replant. Oh! This is going to be fun!