Friday, March 27, 2009

Succession Planting

Today, I was going to introduce my two geese to everyone (tomorrow!), but I decided to change my topic at the last minute. Yesterday, I was on a wonderful site called Blotanical, which is a garden blog finder. I was perusing through blog sites to add those I liked to my favorites list for regular reading.

I found lots of postings about the vegetable garden at the White House, including a few that posted the actual layout of what would be planted. Most sites cheered the fact that Mrs. Obama was instrumental in wanting her family and White House guests to eat fresh foods for their meals. I have read that she, like many parents, felt guilty about feeding her family much too much in the way of convenience foods over the past few years (no small wonder, with the hectic pace of the campaign trail!). Now that they were settled in one place, she wanted to improve their eating habits. Hooray!

One blog out of Canada, however, caught my eye because while it was complimentary to the White House garden in general, it raised a point that perhaps others have thought of as well. First, I should say that the focus of the blog was short-season gardening because of their location -- keep this in mind as you read along. The writer had apparently looked at the layout of the garden and made the comment, "But where are the tomatoes!!!" Tomato addict that I am, I took a second look at the layout of the White House garden to see if this was so, but then I had an "Ah Ha!" moment. I think I have solved the riddle of the missing tomatoes!

If you look closely at images of the garden, you will see that it says "Spring Garden". No doubt, the White House gardeners will plant tomatoes in the "Summer Garden"! I suspect that our Canadian blogger, in his short season, may need to concentrate growing as much as he can, while he can! That made me want to talk a bit about succession planting.

I am so lucky here in my coastal Zone 7 location to be able to garden a good portion of the year by carefully planning what I plant and when. Typically, I am able to harvest lettuce into December -- albeit under a row cover! I have pulled carrots out of my garden in the middle of winter that are tender and not at all woody! But, in a way, I still consider myself a "short-season" gardener, too, because I consciously divide my long growing season into a "spring" garden", a "summer garden", and a "fall garden". The goal is to plant successively to maximize my harvest throughout the year.

For instance, I have already planted my peas, carrots, parsnips, beets, and fava beans, which all like to germinate when it's a bit colder. When these have been harvested in late May or early June, I will plant my peppers, eggplant, and okra in the same spot when the weather is warm enough for them to thrive. Likewise, I will plant a fall crop in that location when these have finished producing (probably, more peas and also parsnips, the latter of which I will allow to winter-over). Next week, I will sow some lettuce seeds specifically chosen for early planting in cooler conditions. However, I need to make sure that I have enough lettuce in the ground by the end of May because once things heat up in June or July, it is too hot for newly sown seeds to germinate. Rest assured, though, I can plant another crop in September, when our days are not quite so blisteringly hot.

You get the idea, don't you?...It requires thinking outside the box a bit. But, for me, that is the fun -- and the challenge -- of it! And that is how I manage to grow and harvest quite a lot of delicious vegetables in my little island garden throughout most of the year! That is also why I feel very certain that the Obamas will have their tomatoes -- in their summer garden!


  1. Maybe Michelle is as new at all this as the rest of us, and didn't know squat about tomatoes. Took me a while to figure it all out too! Now I dole out advice to the newbies like I actually know what I am doing.:D
    I like your new blog. Can't wait to see how your veggie garden comes along.

  2. Great post. I too, wondered about the lack of tomatoes in the White House garden and I like your theory. We'll see if a summer garden is forthcoming.
    Grow and Tell!!