As our winter planning is becoming our spring planting, I find myself continually thinking about the scale we are planting on now, compared to our home mandala garden. There are actually quite a few similarities to the planning involved in a home garden which has a continual food supply and the CSA which also has a continual food supply. One of the big Ah-Ha moments in our home garden was that of successive planting.
In the CSA planning, there are two sorts of plantings. Things like pumpkins, tomatoes, capsicum, eggplant, broad beans, leeks, onions, climbing beans, over wintered cauliflower are planted once. But there are many more vegetables, that with a few to many successive plantings, can continue to be harvested throughout the year.
Let's look at an Autumn planted bed of broad beans. They make some growth and then go dormant through winter. Then before we even think winter is over, they start growing again. That is three months when other vegetables which require less time in the ground, can be sharing the space.
Here is where successive planting slots into the home garden offering a bounty of meals while the longer maturing vegetables are still growing. In a bed of broad beans we can have beet root, lettuces, spinach, rocket and broccoli all planted around the broad beans. The spinach, rocket and lettuce were harvested all winter. The broccoli began to grow and produce in August. By now, when the broad beans are thigh high, the lettuce, spinach and beet root are done. The broccoli is sending out side shoots and soon will be thrown to the chickens, and the broad beans are flowering and beginning to grow pods. The bed has been under cultivation for six months and produced a range of seasonal vegetables. And the broad beans are just coming on for their big "Hoorah!"
In the bed next to it, there are green and purple cauliflower, broccoli, beet root, silver beet, lettuce, rocket and spinach. The slow growing cauliflowers were next to fast growing pak choy. The fast growing lettuce was next to a slower growing beet root. Rocket was grown and cut ruthlessly when it was young and then another few plants were tucked into the already growing bed. The spinach produced all winter and only in September began to send up its seed head, just as the cauliflower was growing bigger and smothering it.
This may sound too demanding for the home vegetable plot. But really it is as simple as seeding a few different things each month or going to a local monthly market to buy a few select seedlings to tuck into already growing beds. In spring, for a continuous harvest each month replant beet root, coriander, lettuce, pak choy, radishes, rocket, and spinach. Choose sprouting broccoli varieties so that you can continue to eat the side shoots long after the main head has been eaten.
When you are planning your summer beds, think about incorporating quicker to grow vegetables with the slower growing ones. Scheduling Vegetable Plantings for Continuous Harvest has a great chart to help with your planting planning. Johnny Seed, a Maine, USA based company has an endless supply of information for growers too. Check through their Growers Library for Vegetables. Although the varieties available here in Australia differ, the information is still very comparable. A little planning now can ensure a continuous harvest of a variety of crops throughout the summer and autumn!
We are going to host a workshop in mid-summer all about planning, seeding and transplanting the home garden for continuous, four season, food production. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in receiving more information.