Lettuce and carrots are two salad and snacking staples that we like to eat fresh all year round. If we made just one or two plantings of these crops, we’d have a brief glut and then nothing at all. Instead, we use succession planting and intercropping to take advantage of small spaces that become available in the garden as other crops are harvested. If all goes well, we can eat lettuce and carrots fresh from the garden every week of the year.
We start by deciding how much lettuce we want to harvest each week (check out the lettuce Information Sheet from the Virginia Association for Biological Farming for help). We harvest some by mowing (cut and come again salad mix) and some as whole heads. Beginning in early spring, we make weekly small nursery plantings either indoors in flats, in our cold frames, or directly in the garden in special seedling beds. Every week, we transplant seedlings from these nursery plantings into the garden.
In the early fall we make one or two large sowings to be transplanted outside to the garden under row cover. These plants will grow slowly all through the cooler months, so we can harvest them as needed throughout the fall, winter and early spring, when the cycle begins again.
For those interested in learning more about maximizing production from a small garden, John Jeavons has a lot of good info available on Bio Intensive Mini-farming. Here in Central Virginia, Cindy Conner of Homeplace Earth has two great DVDs to help plan your garden and incorporate cover crops for green manure.
Planning succession plantings for carrots is similar to lettuce, except that carrots shouldn’t be transplanted. Sow carrots directly in the ground where they’ll come to full size. Because carrot seeds are small and take 10-12 days or more to germinate, many gardeners will interplant radish seeds every 2-3 inches. The radishes help keep the soil from crusting over and mark the rows, which helps with weeding while the carrots are coming up. Add lots of compost before planting and keeping the area well watered. For more info on growing carrots, one of my favorite blogs, Margret Roach’s A Way to Garden, has a great article on How to Grow Carrots and Dr. John Navazio, chief scientist for the Organic Seed Alliance.
Succession planting is not just for carrots and lettuce. Here at Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, it is one of the secrets to having the widest variety of vegetables possible, in the space we have available, all year round.
Thanks for stopping by and we hope you’ll come back often to see what we’ve got growing and cooking.
Ira Wallace was lives and gardens at Acorn Community Farm home of Southern Exposure Seed Exchangewhere she coordinates variety selection and seed growers. Southern Exposure offers 700+ varieties of non-GMO, open pollinated and organic seeds. Ira is also a co-organizer of the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello . She serves on the board of the Organic Seed Alliance and is a frequent presenter at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIRS and many other events throughout the Southeast.