By mid-July, some of your crops in the vegetable garden should have ripened and been harvested. This leaves a space that either can be taken over by weeds or reused for another successful planting.
This technique is known as succession planting, and there are several ways for the owner of a small vegetable garden to get the best use from every square foot of space.
Spring vegetables such as lettuce, radishes and peas will be finishing their season at this time and the space can be planted with a crop such as summer squash that will grow through the rest of the summer and into the fall. This is mixed crop succession, filling a harvest with another crop in the same space.
Other fall vegetables that can be planted now are broccoli, green onions, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, parsnips and turnips. The same lettuce that completed its life cycle by mid-summer can be planted again in the same space if necessary and will do well in cooler fall weather.
Things planted later in the year probably will mature at a slower rate than spring crops, not only because of cooler temperatures but also because of shortening days. For some varieties, this is an advantage. Spinach, kale and collard greens will develop better flavor with the slow growth of fall.
Another way to get double use from a plot of ground is to plant two compatible varieties at the same time; this is known as companion planting. Carrots are slow to appear after sowing the seed, and if (or rather, when) weeds pop up, it is difficult to be sure you are not ripping out your cherished carrot seedlings with those interlopers. If you plant radish seeds along with the carrots, the seedlings will be more visible, and the ferny leaves of the carrot are easy to distinguish from the coarser radish leaves.
Onion sets will do well and stay visible between peppers or eggplants and not take up any valuable space. Cabbage matures much slower than lettuce and will share a home happily.
Interval planting is another way to make the best use of your available space and provide a summer-long harvest. Instead of using the entire envelope of lettuce, beans, peas or radishes, plant enough for immediate use at the normal time, then put in another planting two or three weeks later.
Or, when you purchase seeds, read the small print that gives dates to maturity and select some with shorter and some with longer growth times for an extended harvest.
If you are going to expect your garden to produce more than usual, you need to give it the proper nutrients for accelerated growth. Add some additional compost or other organic matter when you plant.
Although vegetables come to mind with these tecnniques, flowers can be doubled up, too.
By this time, pansies have grown leggy with sparse flowers, as have primroses and the like. You can be ruthless and pull them out or simply cut them back and plant portulaca, zinnias or petunias between them. Some years, I leave the flowers for my window box in their pots, and bury the pots in the soil. That way, they are
easy to replace as the summer passes.
A small garden has its limits but, with some creativity, you can produce a bountiful harvest all through the growing season.
Janet Del Turco is a local gardener and a graduate of the Ohio State University Master Gardener program.
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