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Crop Plan & Successive Planting


Planning goes beyond deciding what plants to put where. You also have to record data about your garden crops so you can measure your successes and failures. You need a crop rotation plan for optimal garden health. And you need to plan ahead for second-round planting where possible, to make the best use of your garden space throughout the long growing season.


Crop Plan.


It's a great idea to have a written crop plan in your garden notebook, so that you can try new things, remember what you did each planting season, and fine-tune your garden planning so that each year, you do a little better.


First, include a list with the garden layout sketch of the exact names of the plants you're planting, how many and where.


You might want notes on how you plan to use each crop: sell it? Cook it a certain way? Give it away? Save seeds? Let this be the "diary" for your garden so that you can meet your garden goals and be satisfied with how things worked out.


You might want to record the number of individual transplants you made, or how many square feet of garden space you sowed with seed for each variety. Then you can see how happy you are with the germination rates and eventual harvest.


Don't forget to write down the planting date and final harvest dates for each variety.


The Omaha Farmers Market has a good harvest schedule to help you plan:




Crop Rotation.


A key factor in a crop plan is to use good crop rotation techniques. It's like good preventive medicine. To plant something different in the same space next year is a good idea to foil insect pests and other problems that might become a real danger to your harvest unless you literally nip it in the bud. The same pests that literally bug tomatoes might not like corn at all, so they'll move out of the soil and you'll be home free.


It would be too chaotic to just plant different plants in the same spot willy-nilly, so one idea is to rotate tall plants with each other, and rotate short plants with each other. So if you plant tomatoes in one part of your space this year, plant corn, beans or trellised cucumbers there in the following years. And if you plant low-growing eggplant in a spot one year, next year put cauliflower, carrots or beets there the next.


Besides rotating crops to get rid of pests, you should rotate other factors about the plants to let your soil have some variety and some rest. For example, put carrots in a spot where you grew shallow-rooted plants last year. That way, the carrots will delve deeper into the soil and it won't get so compacted.


Keep in mind that different plants extract different kinds of nutrition, in different amounts, from the soil. So it's a good idea to mix up your planting plan for optimal soil all around.


Succession Planting.


One more important practice to keep in mind when you plan: succession planting. You want to maximize the use of your space.


Many cool-season plants that you can harvest early in the growing season can be planted again late in the growing season, for a second round of goodies. Examples: spinach, radicchio and Chinese cabbage. They would wilt in the hottest part of the summer, but wait just a while and try them again in July for a fall harvest.


If you time the maturity of neighboring plants, you can maximize your space. Plant lettuce and kale next to each other, for example, and by the time you've harvested all the lettuce, the kale is just getting ready to spread out and can use all the space.


Think about how you are going to use certain crops, too. If you have a root cellar or a way to store carrots and beets, you may not want to plant them until late summer, if there's time for harvest before frost.


For smart succession planting, you have to consult the back of your seed packets or your garden books to record the number of days between germination and harvest. That way, you can make your garden space as productive as possible without wasting time and effort.


By Susan Darst Williams • • Planning 17 © 2010




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