Planting a Summer Garden
CONTINUE TO ENJOY THE FRUITS OF YOUR LABOR
by Stephanie Wrightson, Sonoma County Master Gardener
Your spring vegetables will be declining and bolting soon when Sonoma County’s hot, dry summer makes its appearance. The succession summer garden will provide a continuous harvest for your family and is a fun activity for you and your children as the school year ends.
A succession garden is a bit different than succession planting, companion planting and intercropping. A number of people use the terms interchangeably and, in fact, may practice all four at the same when transitioning their kitchen garden each growing season. Think of the succession garden as the macro-plan for the garden from season to season: in June, we are planting our summer crops in an area that has been cleared of some spring vegetables or that is specifically reserved for summer crops - or we are sowing and transplanting alongside our waning spring vegetables with a view to next season’s produce. The primary purpose of succession planting is to provide continuous crop output within the season by sowing seed of a given crop at 1- to 2-week intervals. For instance, you can stagger corn production by making a subsequent planting when the first is 1- to 2-inches high. Beans, turnips, seasonal lettuce and beets are well-suited to this practice. Companion gardening involves planting two crops in the same place at the same time such as planting early radishes and slower germinating carrots together. Intercropping involves planting early maturing crops between rows of late maturing crops to increase production in a small area. For example, beans, radishes, green onions, or seasonal leaf lettuce may be planted between rows of tomatoes, peppers or corn. The quicker-maturing plants will be harvested before the others become large.
When planning your summer succession garden consider the concepts of succession planting, companion planting and inter-cropping to maximize the output from your garden space. Use the height of one plant to protect another that prefers less sun; situate tall, leafy plants on the north side of your garden so that they do not overshadow sun-lovers; sow early and late germinating seeds together; or plant a cover crop between rows of vegetables to keep weed growth down. Some tender summer seedlings need some sun protection for the first few weeks of their garden life. Consider planting them next to waning spring vegetables that will temporarily shelter then from the hot mid-day sun. Squash, melon and cucumber seedlings do not take up much room until after spring vegetables are finished. Within a growing season, you also can boost production by planting more than one variety with different “days to harvest.” An example is planting cherry tomatoes. The indeterminate varieties have an earlier harvest date than most full-sized tomatoes and, with typical Sonoma County weather, can produce into mid-fall.
Obviously, summer fruits and vegetables perform best with plenty of sun (six to eight hours), and most prefer fertile, well-drained soil. If you have leafy green spring vegetables planted in an area with less sun, the same location is not ideal for your summer succession garden. If you are planting in the spring garden bed, you may need to amend the soil by adding some well-composted organic material or sidedressing plants with nitrogen once fruit sets. And, given our abundant rain this year, there may be competing weeds to pull.
So, enjoy the fruits of your labor! The summer succession garden will provide great exercise and fun for you and your family as well as a continuous bounty.
HELPFUL RESOURCES FOR SUCCESSION PLANTING:
“Follow a Year-long Garden Plan,” by Master Gardener and Press Democrat writer Rosemary McCreary
“Planning Succession Crops” on Master Gardener Steve Albert’s Harvest to Table website
Vegetable Garden Methods and Crop Calendars under the Kitchen Garden dropdown of the top navbar.