Pacing Garden Productivity

Gardeners as a rule don’t give enough thought to controlling productivity. This is generally a simple matter with herbs which I wrote about on this blog recently. Herbs almost take care of themselves, and when the leaves or sprigs on the individual plants get large enough, you obviously pick them and put them into salads or cooked dishes.  Then, when the excesses become too great to handle and you sense a deluge coming on, you sacrifice a few plants and dry the leaves or sprigs or keep them in the refrigerator. If the excesses are large enough, you freeze them or dry them in quantity for later use. By staying focused along the way you get everything you need fresh or you’ll dry or freeze or refrigerate for timely use later. Of course, that also means that you are not looking at impossible harvesting tasks at the end of the season when you’d rather be doing something else.

Currently, as we have a sizable variety of plants in pots and Earth Boxes, and the goal is to have a constant supply of salad fixings and a variety of exquisite vegetables coming along at various times, pace and timely planting and harvesting are key. Tomatoes are a long and slow process and I’ve discussed those previously as well. As I noted earlier, I’ve had tomatoes right along just by pacing the plantings. Some were planted early, others later. Those planted in October we’ve been eating since January. Those planted later are coming along and should begin to be harvested by the time the later tomatoes transplanted as young thriving plants into Earth Boxes in February start to come into play. We try never to buy tasteless tomatoes in supermarkets.

Many other kinds of vegetables have to be planted in pots and added to the mix over the months between October and late May. After that we’ll be in Ohio for a few months of the summer where we’ll have a totally different kind of garden. We’ll be leaving some of those behind dried or frozen. Those will be great next September-October before plants in pots on the lanai come into play.

This year we started in the Fall with kohlrabi, Chinese cabbage (boc-choi) as well as all kinds of root crops like carrots, beets, and tons of onion sets. The beets and onions we plant again later in February. Of course, from September though November we have lots of moderately cold sensitive herbs as well as some that are not so cold-sensitive herbs  and vegetables going strong right from September on. This early crop of herbs gets planted out front in between  flowering plants where the herbs take advantage of the automatic sprinkling system. These are mainly basil, dill, parsley. In November, we go to Arizona for a month and the herbs can be left where they are, but everything else on the lanai is harvested except for the onions, kohlrabi, Chinese cabbage and the tomatoes in Earth Boxes. Our neighbor waters everything now and then: Earth Boxes only once a week and the other pots of vegetables usually only every other day or every third day. When we come back to Florida in December, we harvest everything except the onions and the herbs. The Kohlrabi and Chinese cabbage are harvested slowly over a month or more. They keep well but what we can’t eat has to be converted into dishes that can be frozen for later use. The onions and herbs are harvested in late December or early January. The basil particularly bears watching because it is quite sensitive to frost. Everything else is fine as hard frosts in our area are quite infrequent. The tomatoes, of course, are quite sensitive and need to be covered and protected if the temperature drops near freezing overnight.  However, since they are in Earth Boxes (on wheels) we can roll them into a protected area under the lanai overhang and even heat them a bit with lights if necessary. We had a few cold nights in January, but nothing under freezing temperature.

In February-March we start some major crop rotations, but we have many more planting options as the weather is beginning to warm substantially. We’ve just finished most of a fantastic crop of Romaine lettuce. We planted 15-16 in four large pots. We’ve had salads from the outer leaves for a while now and harvested 8-10 other plants over the last week or two. About half of those were given to friends. The others remain in four big zip-lock plastic bags in the refrigerator. The remaining six plants will come along over the next few weeks — they were planted a bit behind the others. Two of the large pots that were emptied of lettuce are now replanted with pole beans and fitted with small bamboo sticks up which the bean plants will grow. We also have a big Earth Box with the same variety of pole beans and that’s about 3-4 weeks along, as is another smaller pot with a fitted set of poles. All of these pole beans should be finished by late May, and if they are not I will leave them with my next door neighbor, who will be more than happy to finish them off over June and early July if necessary. We’ll clean up the vines when we return.

We’ve got spinach, other kinds of lettuce, basil, dill, and cilantro for salads. There are two flat containers of spinach one of which is 2 week ahead of the other. We have beets, eggplant, parsley, chives. All of this was planted over the last month at 1-2-3 week intervals so that everything’s not coming into harvest all at once. It’s great to have a lot of variety, but it just doesn’t work to have it all coming out of the pots at the same time.

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One response to “Pacing Garden Productivity

  1. Funny, you should say. That’s exactly what I’m thinking about this year: less okra, less beans, staggered tomatoes, more cucumbers…

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