Progression of harvests rewards gardeners aware of plant cycles
Harvestime has two sides: First, of course, is the gathering in of the end-of-the season fruits and vegetables; while the other side of the season is cleaning up and keeping the continuing garden thriving.
I for one am just as excited about this season as I am with the arrival of spring.
The fall is perhaps the first chance you've had to sit back and assess what went wrong with the garden this year and what you can do to avoid the pitfalls in 1982.
If you haven't already, you may even want to plan a fall garden next year, assuming the climate and weather allow it.
Many gardeners, for example, no longer count on the early summer for their principal crop, but strive rather to maintain a longer progression. Indeed, with the abundance of seeds and roots from which to choose these days, if planned carefully, it's not hard to have that kind of thing going for us.
During the second half of the summer and well into the fall, you can be planting alongside of harvesting. But first know whento expect the first hard frost of fall as well as the last freeze of spring.
A gardener must be aware of the potentials, demands, and vulnerabilities of teh various plants in his plot.
Take extra care to foster, aid, and abet fast and flourishing growth at any time of the year.
Do not forget that the same plants that flourish so naturally in early spring will do the same when planted in the fall. Most of these cool-weather plants should be started as early as possible in the year -- or else late (missing the heat of summer either way.)
Early parsnips will make a summer crop, of course, but a new planting also may be made in the fall to be ready for use throughout the winter. Kale is another all-year green vegetable that can be enjoyed in winter as well as the summer months.
While peas will probably by your earliest rop in the spring, in some parts of the Midwest they also can be planted in the fall if the soil is humusy and dependable -- one that drains well and is not clayey. In New England, peas are usually planted in mid-March.
If the soil does not drain well, fall-planted seeds may rot, while clay soil can become too tight for the seeds to sprout.
Give some thought to the kinds of vegetables you want to grow next year. Maybe you'll want to try some of the newer varieties in you own plot.
As you plan, remember the progression of crops in the garden:
Those quickies, the lettuces, radishes, carrots, cresses, and onion sets mature, encourage a gardener even more than the spring rains.
Then, almost before they have run their course, come the midseason brassicas -- cabbages, collards, broccoli, brussels, sprouts, kale, and cauliflower, as well as potatoes, beets, and peanuts -- all of which need a cool to cold atmosphere to get their best efforts going. however, they also will do well on through the hot days if kept growing with plenty of moisture and a rich, fertile soil.
Between the early and late plantings come the many refugees from the tropics, all of which thrive with the midsummer sun. Among these are okra, eggplant, and squash in its many varieties, plus cucumbers, tomatoes, and beans. Most of these heat-loving plants should be started late so as to have the seeds germinate in a warm soil. Corn and sweet potatoes are both in this category.
All producing vegetables must be kept growing fast, without setbacks, in order to do their best, thriving as they run their natural cycles before they are removed from the garden to make room for their successors.
So this fall, while you are harvesting and processing the zucchini, tomatoes, and beans, you may be thinking about what comes next.
One day, you may find yourself turning the bright pages of the seed catalogues, planning and choosing for next year's fall garden, and including schedules and plants for the winter and spring as well -- all on the same day