One of the best rewards when you grow your own garden is being able to harvest and enjoy all the delicious produce you grow.

I find it so rewarding to head out to the garden with my basket or bowl and harvest some fresh food for dinner. Sometimes I’ll be really organised and I’ll harvest any produce I need during the daytime, but usually pick veggies and herbs fresh just before our meals.

Actually, sometimes I run to the garden with my apron on, wielding my kitchen scissors in a mad dash to pick something while dinner’s cooking !! This is a bit hard during winter when it’s dark, as I can’t see in the garden, so I’ve learned to hold the torch between my knees while picking whatever it is that I’d forgotten…not a good look !!!

When planning the food that I’d like to grow for the season I have a list of all the things that we eat the most of.

Some crops grow through the season like eggplant, tomato, capsicum and beans, and other crops of lettuce, carrots and bok choy only have one growth cycle and then they’re finished. These short-lived crops are inter-planted throughout the garden beds amongst herbs and perennial plants. Inter-planting  crops are many types of plants growing together, which is a great way of reducing pest and disease problems in your gardens.

One thing that can happen with annual crops, is that once all of these veggies are harvested and eaten there aren’t any left to eat for the remainder of the season.

This is where you must consider ‘Succession Planting’….it helps to keep the food coming !

To keep a constant supply of your favourite produce you’ll need to consider succession planting. This is when you have a plan for what you’d like to grow and eat and follow that plan to have a continual supply of produce growing. This is an important method for maximising your garden’s yield.

“Farmers use succession planting to ensure a constant supply of vegetables to take to market; you can use it to produce a consistent supply of vegetables to take to your table.”

When something’s harvested you then replace it with another small crop and just make smaller plantings in about 4 weeks intervals, rather than planting everything at one time. Following this method allows us to have a few crops of veggies each season.

By having a succession plan you’re eliminating the guesswork out of what and when to plant during the season. Start by making a list of all the vegetables you want to grow and get to know their growth habits.  Then mark on your plan when to plant another round of these plants.

Another way is to diarise 4 weeks after initial planting, a reminder for when you need to plant again. Keep in mind that seedlings produce crops faster than sowing seeds, so you may want to try both.

Or when you harvest something you just plant something else straight away near that spot. It can be the same or a different plant. Always apply good planting techniques and use compost or worm castings and liquid fertilisers when planting. Re-mulching may also be necessary after planting.

Here’s a plan that I use for Cool Season Succession Planting.

In my climate (sub-tropical) our Cool Season begins from about March. During the end of February I’ll prepare the garden beds ready for planting and also start sowing seeds for the season.

From March onwards I start planting cool season crops of broccoli, kale, cabbage, pak or bok choy, cauliflower, silverbeet, leek and peas. I’ll also plant lettuce as we use this year round.

To have a continual supply of these vegetables throughout the cool season (which ends here about early September) I would replant another crop of annual veggies again during April, May and June.

This means we’ll have the first round of veggies from April and then continue enjoying them until Spring when we plant our Warm Season crops.  I also like to mix up the different varieties of each vegetable I grow to give my family an assortment of foods. By following this method I know that we’ll be enjoying a range of vegetables throughout the cooler months.

For our Warm Season, as this flows through Christmas and holiday time, I like to have a continual supply of lettuce, asian greens, plenty of parsley and coriander and also chinese cabbage. I’ll plan to have these in during early Spring and then replant again before the heat of Summer’s upon us.

This will vary in each climate, so please make a plan for your own climatic zones and conditions. Get to know your seasons and the plants that grow well during those times, consider what you like to eat and how it grows, then make a plan to have plenty of the vegetables and herbs growing and ready to harvest as needed.

By taking a few simple steps and using some planning tips, you’ll have a fresh supply of your favourite foods year round to harvest and enjoy.

It really is enjoyable and very rewarding to enjoy the benefits of a planned garden.

Would you like to be a part of an online gardening community to reduce gardening problems and gain a deeper understand of growing fresh food for your health?

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© cath manuel 26 june 2012

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