KEEP ON TRUCKIN’! As a seed farmer, Hudson Valley Seed Library co-founder Ken Greene knows a thing or two about when to sow crops, and that’s his best advice right now: Keep on truckin’—er, sowing. Though spring is long gone, many vegetables and herbs are still being sown and transplanted, and will right into fall at the Library’s farm in Accord, New York—where I will be participating in events on July 20 and August 24 (details below). Tips, in print or my latest radio podcast, for extending the vegetable garden well into fall.
Even in the week of July 7, Ken says, he notes 15 or 16 options on his sowing calendar, and that’s in our shared USDA Zone 5B, where frost can arrive around the start of October. Gardeners in zones with longer frost-free seasons have even more time, and opportunities. Admittedly Ken starts fewer things each week now, but even through September, he’s starting multiple new plantings—and he makes November sowings of spinach and mache for extra-early spring harvest.
“Sow now what?” as Ken asks (tee hee). The list is long, including peas, carrots, lettuce, broccoli, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, mibuna and mizuna, tatsoi, kale, collards, cauliflower, kohlrabi, swiss chard, scallions and more. You can even sow more bush zucchini (especially if your early crop is looking tattered or mildewed from tough weather); ditto with cucumbers. Bush beans are high on Ken’s list. It’s a great moment for bush types for dry beans, he says, which benefit from generally drier fall weather at their harvest time, since they prefer to mature right on the plant (about six weeks after fresh-eating stage).
prefer the podcast?
KEN GREENE was the guest for the latest edition of my weekly public-radio program. Listen anywhere, anytime: Locally, in my Hudson Valley (NY)-Berkshires (MA)-Litchfield Hills (CT) region, “A Way to Garden” airs on Robin Hood Radio’s three stations on Monday at 8:30 AM Eastern, with a rerun at 8:30 Saturdays. It is available free on iTunes, the Stitcher app, or streaming from RobinHoodRadio.com or via its RSS feed. The July 8, 2013 show can be streamed here now. Robin Hood is the smallest NPR station in the nation; our garden show marked the start of its fourth year in March, and is syndicated via PRX.
think: 3 kinds of ‘succession sowing’
KEN GREENE says he thinks of “succession sowing” in three ways, appropriate for different moments in the season, and different varieties of vegetables.
- Crops that grow fast and come to harvest quickly, such as salad greens, arugula, or baby bok choy that take about three weeks, are sown over and again all season long. Each time you harvest a row, clean up the spot and sow again right there. (No wonder there are typically more seeds in a packet of one of these than in a packet of, say, tomatoes or peppers. Use them!)
- Another style of succession: staggered plantings of the same crop. Longer-maturing plants, such as a heading lettuce that takes six to eight weeks, or basil, are re-sown every two weeks for a continual harvest. But this must be done in different beds (because the previous crop isn’t ready to pull yet).
- Version 3 is seasonal succession, with things you might do only two sowings of a season—in spring (for summer harvest) and in summer (harvest in fall). This tactic suits even longer-to-harvest peas, or broccoli, for instance. A tip on peas, from Ken: If you’ve had limited results with fall sowings, try snow peas instead of shelling or edible pods; they’re a bit easier.
more continuing-harvest tips from ken
- Some things are easier to get going in flats than direct-sown, and sometimes you just don’t have space to sow in the garden—but will in a few weeks. Either way, plan to have transplants coming along. Ken is sowing brassicas (cauliflower, collards, broccoli–we both favor ‘Piracicaba’–kale, quicker varieties of cabbages) and basil, for instance, in flats now.
- Asian greens are a favorite at Seed Library—and also especially good for fall, since many are cold-tolerant. Try mizuna, mibuna, tatsoi and komatsuna, in particular (the Library’s whole assortment is here). Flavors range from horseradish-ey mustards such as the gorgeous ‘Red Giant,’ to extra-mild-tasting komatsuna.
- With row covers and hoops, you can add about 5 degrees of cold protection around a row of greens (or anything else), says Ken, and thereby extend your harvest by two or even up to four weeks, “depending on what the season gives us.”
- Switch varieties for switching weather—to faster-maturing ones, with things like squash or cucumbers, or to those that can take more cold (like an extra-tolerant spinach to overwinter). Also: Choose plants that can be enjoyed young, in case the weather turns on you and it gets cold an you have to harvest in a hurry.
- Get the Seed Library’s six key strategies for succession sowing.
- How Seed Library makes a garden plan with succession sowings in mind.
- Seed Library has a chart of their latest summer sowings of all–the August ones.
join me at the seed library july 20, august 24
I’M JOINING IN the how-to demos and general festivities with Hudson Valley Seed Library in Accord, New York, for two upcoming events: July 20, “Fall Seedling Sale and Extending the Harvest,” with demos and tastings from 11-1 and seedling sale from 11-3. Learn to use hoops and row covers (all gear will be available for sale, too); how to time late sowings; and get expert advice on vegetable growing in general—plus shop for seedlings of many good-to-grow-now open-pollinated varieties. On August 24, “Annual Day to Be Seedy Farm Tour” is a festive open house with lots going on. Information on the Seed Library events page.