Of cabbages and kings!

A wannabe king?

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.

The stick (easier to look for its shadow!) marks the location of newly planted squash seeds amid the onions.

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!


About carolee

A former professional herb and lavender grower, now just growing for joy in my new potager. When I'm not in the garden, I'm in the kitchen, writing, or traveling to great gardens.
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24 Responses to Of cabbages and kings!

  1. stcoemgen says:

    All brilliant ideas. I think the more people post on their ideas of succession planting, and how it works for them, the better. We can all learn to maximize space from each other. Last year I planted multi sown onions amongst my lettuce and in between my tomatoes. Space between tomatoes always “bothered” me as wasted space. But last year I made use of that space. Also onions acted as companion plants for the tomatoes.


    • carolee says:

      I think most plants are happy to be surrounded by good neighbors, and it is so much more productive. Plus keeps weeds down. Anytime we can share what we’ve learned, it’s a helpful thing. Thanks for reading and commenting.


      • Didn’t the onions get too shaded by the tomatoes and have a lower yield? I only ask because when I planted shallots among other tall plants they didn’t do as well as those that were unshaded. But it might also depend on local climate…


  2. margieclyde says:

    What a great idea! I am saving this one in my ‘gardening’ file!


  3. Neat discovery! Great post. Love the “cabbages and kings…”. haha

    Liked by 1 person

  4. woollee1 says:

    It is a whole new world NOW!

    Lee Towle


    Liked by 2 people

  5. Very interested in this, being a bit pushed for space myself! I was going to dedicate a small bed just for salads/lettuce but maybe I will pop some broccoli in too after reading this. I look forward to hearing more succession planting tips. 🙂


    • carolee says:

      Yes, even 5 years ago I had a salad bed, but I think that was about the last. Those crops are so easy to tuck here and there, and for the most part are only in ground for a short time, although cut-again mescluns and lettuces can take space longer.


  6. Going Batty in Wales says:

    A really useful idea Carolee!


  7. Love this – a great idea that I will be using this year. TY 🙂


  8. J.Q. Rose says:

    I learned a new name–succession planting. Gardener Ted does it, but did not know there was a name for it!! Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pádraig says:

    Eureka! You’re outstanding in your own field! Great post we can all learn from.


  10. Vicki L says:

    I will have to borrow your succession planning tips with the onions and squash! I’ve never thought of that before.


  11. Wonderful ideas! I am a chaotic gardener – So chaotic! I must have flowers in amongst the veggies and I frequently over plant, in 2019, I had kale that was trying to take over the world until the runner beans started making a bid for world domination. I just got my Territorial Seed catalog – I used their seed exclusively when I lived in Seattle, because they specialize in seeds that do well in the maritime NW climate. I still buy some seed from them, because although I get more heat in Wisconsin, we also have a short growing season. My snow peas are descended from Oregon Sugar Pod II purchased and planted first in Seattle.


    • carolee says:

      It’s so wise to use a seed company that really knows what works best in your region, like Johnny’s knows the Northeast and Territorial knows the PNW, especially for an inexperienced gardener. After so many years I more or less pick and choose and have time to experiment to find what works here, but I also always like to push the boundaries and try something new…like ranunculus this year. I know it will be iffy, but I’m excited to give it a try. It keeps me a “young gardener!” Thanks for reading and responding.


      • I also like to experiment, and am always happy to find what will reseed in a convenient way. Last year, I let a few radishes flower for the insects, and when they were heavy with seed, I pulled them up and pretty much left them where they were – I had a nice fall crop of radishes that I was not expecting! I also love saving seed when I can. In Seattle, where I first began to garden, I never had to plant kale, because my community garden plot was silly with it. Each spring, I would just pull up the ones I didn’t want and eat them as baby kale in my salad. You can’t grow a decent slicing tomato in Seattle though, unless you have a good microclimate. I do love the heat we get in Wisconsin, but the tradeoff is that in Seattle there were many things I could grow year round in the open garden. Not so here!


      • carolee says:

        Yes, there are advantages to each area. I’ve gardened in Texas, Rockford IL (almost on the IL/WI line) southern Indiana, and now north central Indiana. All have merits, but also disadvantages. I grew gorgeous lupines in Rockford, struggle to grow them here. Had a month longer growing season in southern Indiana, but more bugs and more flooding….I let a lot of lettuce and flowers self-seed, and the purple mustard and several herbs pop up here and there, and are welcome. I’m learning to stretch my season with coverings. Even though it was 17 degrees yesterday morning, I harvested spinach, kale, lettuce and parsley. Still have carrots and leeks to dig, and can pick some of that volunteer purple mustard. Right now, it’s snowing horizontally!


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