By Carey Restino
It is unquestionably a time of abundance for many in the Homer gardening world right now. A warm spring combined with our long days of sunlight have given even the most reluctant gardener a tinge of green on their thumb this year. Everywhere, there is talk of amazing salads, flowers and the impending stampede of zucchinis.
Ah, this is what we do this for. All that hard work, and now we can sit back and relax and eat the products of our labors, right?
Well, sure, you can do that, but in about three weeks, you are going to be lettuceless once again. Either you will eat it all, or the lettuce you have will bolt, mold or otherwise succumb to the passage of time. Therein lies the rub of gardening — fresh is fleeting. So now, while you feel like you have more than you could ever need, is when you actually need to pull out the seed packets and plant some more. No, I’m not kidding. Do this, and you will be eating fresh, home-picked greens well into the fall.
This year, I came up with a new way of doing this. There is a point when you know you need to plant some new greens, but you don’t have any space yet, because all your beautiful, healthy greens are taking up your garden beds. But if you wait until a chunk of space big enough to plant properly spaced green is open, it will be too late, right? So this year, when I harvested the first two heads of lettuce, I cleaned out the soil beneath them and seeded a whole lot of tightly planted lettuce starts. A couple weeks later, I now have about 40 little, healthy starts to transplant into the holes that are rapidly opening up throughout my garden.
In another area of the garden, I did the same sort of thing with broccoli and cauliflower seeds. Right now, I have more of those lovely plants than I know what to do with – there is one head of broccoli that is flowering voraciously, having long ago passed its prime while I tried to find homes for the abundance. Come a month from now, I’ll have not a broccoli in sight, though. Since there’s still plenty of time to get a second crop going (broccoli and cauliflower like cool weather) I tightly seeded another area, and will transplant the starts once the space opens up. In the meantime, starts seem to like company.
Radishes are perhaps the most gratifying thing to succession plant. You throw the seeds in the ground, and I swear they germinate in two days. Ta da, you are on your way to a colorful salad in August.
Kale, bok choi and chard are also prime candidates for a second planting in our climate, as long as you baby them as starts. You can even make some seed trays and start them inside since soil temperature is a huge factor in germination speed, and chances are your home is quite a bit warmer at night than the great outdoors. I’m even considering planting a second crop of beets, mostly because I love them so much. This year, I discovered that golden beets were ready a good week and a half earlier than the red varieties. Who knew? And they are so good and so beautiful.
A last word on reseeding — there are some wonderful seed mixes that grow in no time, are meant to be harvested young, and will keep your salad bowl full during those in-between times in your succession plantings, which are inevitable because of our fickle climate fluctuations. I love Johnny’s spicy micro mix. As a microgreen, it is harvestable in 10 to 15 days. But you can leave it grow longer, harvest by cutting it with scissors, and you’ve got a full salad in two and a half weeks.
But, you say, I don’t have any time for planting! I’m too busy harvesting. Here’s how long it takes to plant. Walk over to a 4-foot-by-2-foot section of ground. Dig around in it for a couple of seconds. Take your seed packet. Sprinkle seeds all over the place. Take some ground from under some other plants and sprinkle that over the top. Get your watering can and gently drench the whole thing. Voila. You are done. Water it a few more times until those little plants get going, and then you can let your regular watering system take over. This is not hard or time consuming. You can do this. You’ll thank yourself later. Trust me.
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