In our previous segments (Planting Calendar Part I and Part II), we discussed how temperature and day length can affect the growth of plants in our gardens and looked at different systems of crop rotations to maximize harvest yields. In this final segment, we will set up an example scenario to demonstrate how you can apply some of these principles. My advice is to start small, with a few plants that you know grow well in your garden. I’d recommend starting with sequential cropping rotation as your first system to implement, since it’s pretty intuitive.
In our example we will be combining all 3 types of cropping (succession, inter, and ratoon) with a diverse mix of herbs and veggies in 2 separate raised beds; swiss chard, dill, fava beans, pole beans, tomatoes, nasturtium, borage, and broccoli. Please note that I’m basing this plan off the temperate climate of the eastern US; you’ll have to adjust accordingly based off your local climate specifics.
Find your plant ideal dates using the technique I described in Planting Calendar Part I or use the GrowVeg Garden Planner to jumpstart your planning (all the diagrams on this page use the GrowVeg tool). In the diagram you can see 3 different colored bars indicating indoor time (blue), transplant time (green), and harvest time (red). I’ve grouped the herbs and vegetables into two separate seasons (spring – green highlight, summer – yellow highlight) based off these times.
Note: In cases where the dates for plants overlap, the red harvest bar is more important for fruiting vegetables like tomatoes, whereas for leafy greens, the green bar is more important in determining the season of the plant.
Our spring crops are Dill, Broccoli and Fava Beans. We’ll intercrop the Dill and plant it wherever we have extra space in the beds because it acts as an effective pest deterrent and companion plant. The Swiss Chard is a fast grower in the spring and lasts until the frost, and it can recover quickly from harvesting, so we will ratoon crop it (continuously harvest its leaves).
In the other bed alongside the Swiss Chard and Dill we’ll put Fava Beans. The Fava Beans will provide some nitrogen fixation for the following summer crops.
Once our spring crops have been harvested, we’ll want to cut and drop the remaining plants down to the roots (without pulling out the roots, letting them slowly release nutrients through gradual decay). The Tomatoes are heavy feeders, so we’ll put them in the Fava Bean bed alongside some Borage to attract insect pollinators for effective pollination. We’ll follow the Broccoli crop in the other bed with Pole Beans (which grow until the frost) to improve the soil. Finally, we’ll intercrop with Nasturtium to replace the Dill’s insectary properties.
My time has been passed viciously and agreeably; at thirty-one so few years, months, days, hours, or minutes remain that Carpe Diem ‘is not enough. I have been obliged to crop even the seconds-for who can trust to tomorrow?Lord Byron
As you can see from our example with 8 different edible plants, using ideal temperature ranges and crop rotation systems can equip us with an effective process for designing what and when to plant in our gardens to generate as much food as possible. Hopefully you can use these tips and information as a springboard to extending and maximizing your harvest this year!