Saturday, 14 June 2008

MAINTAINING A CONTINUOUS HARVEST


One of the trickiest things to accomplish in the vegetable garden, I think, is a continuous supply of vegetables every day of the year. It seems like it would require substantial forward thinking if you want to grow everything from seed. I have been growing vegetables since I was about 18 but only in recent years have I been able to put the time into thinking about the sowing of seeds regularly enough to provide us with almost everything, almost all of the time. Now, though, I have found that it is really not that hard. (The beautiful garden in this photo belongs to Maggie and Bob and is genuinely the best display of perfection in a vegetable garden I have ever seen! I took this photo on Friday).

One thing I have learned is not to sow too many seeds at once! I get a foam box and either fill it with cubes of soil with the soil blocker or without. Sow one row only and thinly of each of several types of vegetables. Of course you can do this in the garden if you prefer. Label them well with a waterproof marker. Once the seeds have germinated and are ready to plant out they will be close to a month old. So, sow some more of the same or different seeds. If you sow a boxful of seed every month, preferably on the full moon, I reckon you would just about have the right amount for a small family. Maybe, with things like lettuce you should do it every 2 weeks, if you eat a lot of salads. You can adjust it month by month or year by year as you get the hang of it. I often sow a lot more than this, sometimes a whole box of one thing, so I have plenty of seedlings to give away. It is always nice to have extras for friends.

The second thing to take into account is how you are going to make room for it all in the vegetable garden with some coming in and some coming out all the time. I mostly manage this by raising seedlings in the foam boxes which gives space to the garden for the month or so they are germinating and getting big enough to plant out. In winter I can fit lots more into the same garden area because I don't have to worry about only having plants along the dripper lines - I plant things right up to the edges of the paths and in beds rather than rows, often tall things like fennel interspersed with lower stuff like lettuce, that can take a bit of shade even in winter.

The third thing is how to keep enough fertility in the soil to have everything growing well all the time. This is hard, I think. If you are harvesting stuff everyday you are removing all those nutrients all the time. I know some people do it differently but what I usually do is make my own compost and use this often. Add something to the soil each time I plant into it - eg Manutec blood and bone, Alroc rock dust, or some Rapid Raiser (organic pellets made locally from chicken manure).

At the moment this is what I have happening in my garden, more or less :

I am planting out - broccoli, kale, lettuce - several sorts (we eat lots of salads), beetroot, leeks,

I am sowing: see the list in the side bar for what I sowed a couple of weeks ago.

I am harvesting: Asian greens (bok choyish stuff, cabbage, mustards), lettuces, spinachy things, spring onions, kale, celery, last of the capsicums (surely!), parsley, other herbs, a few daikon seed pods, fennel flowers and fronds, nasturtiums (leaves and flowers), sorrel.

I am about to harvest: Chinese sea shells, water chestnuts, sweet potatoes.

I have growing in the garden for harvesting in the future: fennel, lettuce, spinachy things, kales, spring onions, broccoli, celery, Asian greens of various sorts, chicory, peas (sugar snap, Deb's purple), chervil, coriander, mizuna, broccoli, parsnips, carrots, shallots, garlic.

Obviously, as the seasons change you have to sow different things, but if you keep to sowing one box every month, it will be a good start. I hope other people will be able to add their knowledge to this rough guide, in the comments.

12 comments:

Rachel said...

thanks for posting that information, Kate. I haven't been gardening long at all (comparatively), and I'd really like to get into being able to provide fruit and veg year-round for the table. I know that so long as we're here in our present house, it'll never be all of our food needs as we only have a courtyard, but I'd like to be able to have something going year-round. I was just wondering how to do this last week, so you must be reading the gardening vibes my brain's sending out!

FWIW, I can cheat and go to Ceres twice weekly, though, for their organic market, so at least I know I'm eating organic and local a majority of the time!

Maggie said...

Rachel, I presume you are in Melbourne if you go to Ceres. When we lived in Melbourne it was one of my favorite places to go. Every city should have a Ceres, lucky you.
Our green garden says thanks for great write up Kate.

rebecca77 said...

Great post! I am really just a beginner food gardener - I have grown vegies for a long time but never attempted to feed the family from my garden til now! Thank you! I used to live about 100m from CEREs before we moved and loved it....my husband was the treasurer there til a few months ago too!

Pattie said...

Kate: To add one thing to this, I have found that somehow nature continues to provide. Just when I tihnk there is nothing currently to harvest, some edible weed or wild berry appears to fill the gap. Really, this amazes me and has really helped me relax into the rhythm of the garden.

Oh, and Maggie--beautiful garden!

Rachel said...

I sure am in Melbourne - we live literally right around the corner from Ceres as well. Since we live in a townhouse, we call Ceres and the whole Merri Creek trail our "backyard". It's a little corner of heaven - backyard, education centre, go-to garden gurus, cafe, market!

Maggie said...

Rachel, I am so envious, everyone from here who is going to Melbourne, I say you must go to Ceres, I plan to write about it soon. We spent many happy Sunday afternoons there.
I looked at their site last night and see it is International Compost Awareness week, something else to write about. Hey Kate! maybe Rachel could be Our Ceres on the site reporter. I see there is a winter solstice function this coming weekend. Wish I could go. Maggie

Rachel said...

The darndest thing is, I only rarely go to Ceres' functions! I'm usually there during the weekdays, usually with my daughter, and don't like crowds! However, you did mention the magic word "reporter", which is, in fact, my day job. ;-)

I don't know the last time you both got to go to Ceres, but with new families coming to the area, a new housing development right across the street (used to be a big vacant lot if you remember it) and the success of Ceres' educational programmes, the place really does get packed now. Ceres made a great decision to hire parking space from the Cretan community house at the corner. It was getting really difficult on Wednesdays and Saturdays to navigate around the blocks as a resident.

I think Ceres' ongoing challenge is to manage their growing popularity - I know they're putting a lot of work into it. And lord knows, I find them a personal boon for many of my questions; between my brother-in-law (a horticulturalist) and the staff in their garden centre, I get all my questions answered.

Maggie said...

We lived in Melbourne 8 years ago, so I guess it's completely different now.
When we visited there was the garden centre, the cafe, some animals and peoples veggie plots and always plenty of parking.
Veggie gardens are becoming popular so I guess resources like this will become more and more popular.
We need more community gardens everywhere!

Chook said...

Great post! I would love to have at least some veggies to harvest every day but spend too much time dreaming about it and not enough time sowing. Since we don't have winter snow, there should be no reason why we can't. I might have to make it an official "chore" in my diary to sow one box each month.

Rachel said...

the neighborhood has changed, of course, in eight years (I remember it because 2000 was my first visit to Melbourne and Australia, with my then-fiance!). Brunswick East is now a pretty hip neighborhood (only a matter of time), and so it's mostly built up now. Ceres has also built a fantastic new reception center right at the top of the property, and has done a lot of work to increase the infrastructure for educational purposes. The market is huge now as well. But the allotment gardens are still there and thriving - and with a healthy waiting list for vacancies, which I've joined!

Veggie Gnome said...

I like the foam box idea. I usually have lots of punnets on my plant stand on the balcony. Some with seeds that are just sown, some that are just germinating, some that are waiting to be planted out. What really gets me better organised, though, is the moon planting calendar provided by Cosmic at http://cosmicgardening.blogspot.com/

This gives me a good idea what can be sown and planted each day/week/month.

She is now putting up her monthly guide on her forum http://cosmicconnection.forumc.biz/index.htm

Deb said...

Kitchen gardens are for frequent harvests so I think it’s important to get in the habit of continual small plantings. It then becomes part of life done quickly with out fuss. I plant usually a 1mt row of a wide variety of what I think will grow, once a month,2 days before he full moon because the seeds germinate well and it give me a rhythm, over the summer I plant every 2 weeks. Planting small crops often means gardening in small increments of time , very important for those not as time rich as me, just think you can wonder out into the garden do the planting the you can go back to the ironing ~ only joking

So today I did the seed planting (2 days before the full moon) with Lauren who is getting excited about having her own garden next month We planted plenty for both gardens.
I hope this comment works as before I did it twice & it failed both times so fingers crossed