Profiting from three gardening seasons | Options

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Taking advantage of 3 gardening seasons | Features

How can more vegetables be grown in more months of the year? Choosing vegetable crops that match the seasons will increase gardening time. Drawing a planting plan on paper indicates which vegetables to grow and when to plant them.

This will help determine the number of seeds and grafts needed. In the planning process, include plants that will grow in the same garden in spring, summer, and fall. This involves harvesting the crop when it is ripe, removing those plants, and planting the next crop in good time.

Start late winter to late spring and plant cool season plants. These plants grow best in relatively cool air temperatures (50 to 65 degrees) and produce their vegetative growth during the short, cool spring days. These crops include peas, beets, radishes, kale, lettuce, collards, broccoli, and spinach.

If planted too late in spring, the summer heat will reduce their quality, forcing some to flower and set seed (studs), and others to develop flavors, bitterness, poor texture and low yields. Lettuce will rise and develop bitter flavors in the heat.

Spinach and peas can be sown directly in the garden from mid to late February. In March, plant beet, cabbage, carrot, radish, kale and lettuce seeds in the garden along with onion sets. In addition, around March 15, potato seed heads and cabbage transplants can be planted.

Plant broccoli and cauliflower in the garden towards the end of March.

Plant spring garden crops together for later planting of fall vegetables in the same area.

If you do this, however, do not plant closely related vegetables in the same rows in the fall because of possible disease and insect transference from the spring crops.

Also, a word of caution when preparing soil for spring crops, wait until the soil is workable and dry enough to prevent wet clod formation. Do not work the floor when it is wet. This ruins the soil texture and causes soil compaction. This can delay desired planting dates too much, but this is better than compacting the soil.

Also, avoid using organic mulch materials like straw in early spring. Instead, allow as much sunlight as possible to hit the ground to warm it. Use mulch after the end of April to retain soil moisture and discourage weeds.

The summer garden includes a variety of crops, some harvested in the summer months and others bearing into autumn. In general, summer crops are planted during the cool days until the warmer days when the threat of frost has passed. The summer garden crop should begin to produce when the spring garden crop ends.

Summer garden vegetables consist of cool-season crops that are sown or transplanted before the danger of frost has passed, but can endure hot weather at harvest time. These include heat-tolerant lettuce varieties and fast-maturing plants

In addition, for the summer garden there are warm-season crops that are sown or transplanted after the average frost-free date, around April 20. Warm season harvests require warm soil and air temperatures for vegetative growth and fruiting.

These include green beans, pole beans, corn, cucumbers, okra, southern peas, watermelon, summer squash like zucchini, and winter squash like acorn squash. Tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, cucumbers and melons are transplanted after the threat of frost has passed, which can be from the last week of April to the first week of May.

Gardening doesn’t have to end with your summer-grown crops, as some vegetables are suited for late summer. Plan to have your spring and summer gardens followed by a fall garden. Plant plants according to your plan, grouping the taller veggies to avoid shading shorter ones. To encourage good summer germination, fill each seed furrow with water and let it soak. Keep the soil moist until the seeds have germinated.

Autumn vegetables are harvested after early September. They are of two types: the last successor plantings of warm-season crops in early July, such as French beans, tomato plants, pepper plants, and cool-season crops that grow well during the cool autumn days and withstand frost. Summer squash can be planted until August 15th.

Cool nighttime temperatures slow growth, so harvesting in the fall takes longer than in the summer. Keep this slower pace in mind when checking seed catalogs for average days to maturity. Some of the best vegetables are produced during the warm fall days and cool nights. These environmental conditions add sugar to cabbages and crunchiness to carrots.

The following vegetables can be successfully seeded or transplanted for fall harvest: beets, lamb’s lettuce, carrots, collards, French beans, leaf lettuce, mustard, parsnips, radishes, swedes, spinach, and turnips. Broccoli and cabbage plants planted in the garden by August 15 usually produce a sweet harvest in the fall.

Annette’s tip

Remember to rotate closely related plants every three years. The following groups of vegetables are closely related and are subject to the same diseases and insect problems.

• Beets, chard and spinach

• Cabbage, cauliflower, kale, collards, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, beets and mustard greens

• Peas, broad beans, beans and lima beans

• Potatoes, aubergines, tomatoes and peppers

• Pumpkins, squash, watermelons, cucumbers and cantaloupes

Annette Meyer Heisdorffer is the Daviess County Horticultural Advisor. Her column appears weekly on the Home & Garden page in Lifestyle. Email her at annette.heisdorffer@uky.edu.