Wednesday, January 8, 2014

5 Tips For Successful Succession Planting To Keep You Well-Fed Throughout The Year

Today's beetroot and carrot harvest
Vegetables and herbs from the garden have slowly become a regular part of our meal, to the extent that we have now started to take for granted that "of course, some things we just pick!"

It's so nice to just walk outside to pick fresh parsley, basil, thyme, chilli, chives and mint when I cook.

It's almost like going into the pantry or opening the fridge to take out some ingredient, not a big deal at all.

Yet it IS a big deal, because I used to spend a lot of money on these herbs every month.

This week I also picked a lot of cucumber, spinach (sold most of it), carrots and beetroots (preserving most of it for future use).

We're also planting more carrots, spring onions, beetroot, spinach and turnips. This is part of our monthly succeession planting, so we always have food growing and ready to harvest at any given time.

Here are some the things I keep in mind when I do succession planting:

1. Develop a regular planting guide

I usually consult a planting guide which tells me what vegetables can be planted in my region (climate) at that particular period.  My current planting guide was developed by Organic Seed and the guide, which is suitable for summer rainfall regions, is available for free from their web site. The document provides planting guidance from January through December.

2. Make sure you always have space to plant new seeds and to transplant seedlings

I'm fortunate that I have a big garden, so space is not necessarily an issue for me. Still, even I have to make sure that the beds are prepared and ready for seedlings at the right times, and ensure that I do not grow the same crop in the same space in succession.

People who are gardening in smaller space face an even bigger challenge, as they have to make sure that they have the space to continuously plant new seedlings  without compromising on the volume of the harvest output.

3. Read the seed packets

Most seed companies label their seed packets to communicate suitable planting times, sometimes even by region. Read them. You may find that your seeds have a longer planting life than you expected.

4. Shorten the periods between planting sessions if possible

You could schedule your planting sessions to take place every quarter, monthly, fortnightly or weekly, depending on your climate, space, your availability. even the amount of time you can spend in the garden.

Back when I lived in Joburg, I preferred planting on a weekly basis. This made planting less of a chore.  I didn't have to have huge planting sessions, and could easily take an hour a week to prepare some spaces and pots and plant seeds.

This meant that I had smaller harvests on a regular basis, and didn't have to worry about getting too much food in one go and having to find interesting ways to eat it all and space to preserve/store some of it.

Here in Phokeng, I plant every two weeks/every month depending,   and while I have occassional big crops, it's all manageable and I have the capacity to preserve/store some of it.

Shortening the planting period also means that I always have fresh vegetables straight from the garden, depnding on what's in season.

5. Manage the quality of your soil

Succession planting means that your soil is rarely idle. So you need to make sure that you're constantly feeding it.

Mine is clay that can get very clumpy and hard to work with, if left idle too long, so succession planting also ensures that my soil doesn't have the opportunity to grow unmanageable.

Please note that this article is based on my experience. So the climate in my region plays a huge role on what I can and cannot do in my garden.

Find out how your region is classified and what will grow in your region at any particular time before you engage in succession planting.

If you live in an area that has heavy snow, or very strong heat in the middle of summer, those issues need to be taken into consideration when you plant up your garden.

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