Is it OK to plant brassica after tomatoes?

chickencoupeAugust 16, 2012

Since I have limited good soil, that's what is happening. I hope it'll be OK.

Because beans are recommended for soil improvement like a cover crop and after tomatoes:

Is it OK to plant beans species randomn throughout (the producing areas) as well? I mean.. I'm not looking to actually harvest these but just "fill up" my garden to help soil amendments in my new dirt. Of course, adequate spacing is an issue so the plants will get enough air flow, I realize.

Because of my back, I'm looking at lazy ways to do things. I'm not overly concerned about bugs this year because they haven't found the garden yet. Next year might be a tad different, though. I dunno.



PS I couldn't figure out why the OSU planting guide suggested broccoli, cauliflower and other brassica be sprouted outside the garden. So, I direct sowed the seeds a couple days ago in spite of its wisdom and found new sprouts this morning. I'm happy to know they like the soil.

I watered them away this morning.

That's why. Doh! LOL

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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

CROP ROTATION: There is no problem with planting brassicas after tomatoes.

In fact, if you work on keeping your soil healthy by adding organic matter annually, I think that in a home garden, crop rotation tends to be over-rated, especially in our climate. The exception would be if your soil becomes infected with diseases specific to a certain family of crops--like the solanacea family--in which case it would be more important to rotate crops. In some parts of the country where broccoli diseases persist in soils, they have to rotate or they have trouble with those persistent diseases, but I've never heard of those brassica diseases becoming an issue in Oklahoma home gardens. We are more likely to get some solanacea family diseses established in our soils, but usually are high temperatures help keep them in check for most of our growing season.

I add lots of organic matter to may soil every year and that does make a difference, so I don't even attempt crop rotation unless I had a specific problem in one area of the garden in the current year. Then, if I did, I rotate that specific vegetable to a different place.

About the only crop I deliberately rotate to a new area is summer squash and I do rotate it to a new area whether my garden got hit by SVBs or not. I try to plant summer squash on a 4-year rotation starting from the south side in year 1, then moving to the north side in year 2, the west side in year 3 and the east side in year 4. Everything else gets planted wherever it gets planted.

BEANS: You can plant beans wherever and however it pleases you. You do realize that in order for them to be effective as a soil improver the bean plants need to be rototilled into the soil and allowed to decompose there? That's how they put the nitrogen back into the soil as the plants decay.

PESTS: Even if insects had found your garden this summer, this is the time of year that the pest populations are dropping anyway. At our house, the spider mites, grasshoppers and blister beetles in the gardening areas have peaked and are dropping. I'm also seeing more and more beneficials like green lacewings, which means they've been rebounding pretty good after having low levels earlier this season. I'm still seeing tons of grasshoppers migrating in to the pastures, but the wild birds hang around the garden a lot (because I put some bird seed there) and they've been doing a pretty good job lately of eating grasshoppers in the garden at least.

DIRECT-SOWING: Most things can be direct-sown anytime and they will sprout. There is no technical problem with direct-seeding brassicas in the spring or fall. In much of the country, that's how it is done, but in much of the country they only get one broccoli crop a year---direct sown in spring or early summer and harvested in summer or fall. We are different here and can plant two separate seasons of brassica crops, but have to work around the weather to get a harvest from them.

The reason that OSU recommends starting from plants is that we have to work around the early arrival of heat in spring and the chance arrival of early hard frosts in autumn. Brassicas grown from transplants in spring have the best chance of producing a harvest before the heat arrives and makes the plants bolt. In the fall, OSU recommends starting with plants because it gives you the greatest chance of getting a harvest before temperatures drop into the mid-20s and freeze damages the plants, perhaps ruining your chance of getting a harvest. It isn't that seeds won't sprout or that you cannot grow brassicas from direct-sown seed--it is that with seeds direct-sown in August, the odds are lower than you'll harvest your brassicas before it gets too cold for them. (Some years it never really gets too cold for them if you cover them up any rare night we're going below the mid-20s. Other years, cold weather arrives early and stays.)

Harvesting success from brassica plants direct-sown from seed for fall is highly variable. Some years there will be a night or two with a very hard freeze at the end of September which could kill your plants before they produce. Other years? November is the more normal time, and at least one year since moving here, and possibly two, we didn't have a hard freeze until mid-December. So, if you start with 5-week old plants, you're likely to harvest well before the first killing freeze in fall, but if you start with seeds, the odds are higher that you won't.

Your success with fall brassicas often hinges on the days-to-maturity of the varieties you're growing. If you chose brassicas with DTMS in the 50-65 day range, then even direct-sown seed can grow plants that will produce before hard freezes hit. If you choose brassicas with DTMs in the 70-90 day range, then the odds of harvesting before sub-freezing temps set them back are higher. Some brassicas won't hardly freeze anyway, but some are very sensitive to temps below the mid-20s.

Obviously if a person put 5-week old brassica plants in the ground today and the person next door sowed seed today, you'd expect the person who started with 5-week old plants will have a better chance of harvesting before sub-freezing temperatures arrive. However, this is Oklahoma where the weather does all kinds of crazy things, so I am never going to say something is guaranteed to work or guaranteed not to work. Our weather here doesn't allow us the luxury of guarantees, not ever.

OSU-RECOMMENDATIONS: With everything that OSU recommends, there are research-tested scientific reasons for each and every recommendation. In real life, our gardens experience such wild swings from too cold to too hot and too wet to too dry that we can take risks and not necessarily follow all of OSU recommendations. Remember that recommendations are just what is recommended. That doesn't mean you cannot grow in other ways. Sometimes you can ignore the recommendations and it pays off, but other years you'll be wishing you'd done it OSU's way.


    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 10:46AM
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lol I'm sorry, Dawn. I learn from doing. My memory sucks royally. I did know that about beans but had forgotten (as well of about half of this). I've learned how to use the "clippings" tools on Gardenweb. That should help. I need to just plant, plant plant so I can at least know what they're supposed to look like. lol

Otherwise, I need to stop worrying too much and go review my notes.

You mention the green lacewigs. They are SO abundant here. We've been propping the doors open the last few days and those lacewigs are everywhere here.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 12:27PM
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Dawn, I'm so sorry. You've mentioned a solution for fire ants before. I'm still shocked but absolutely certain I have fire ants. They made themselves apparent right after I watered the garden section (and it rained right after). To be certain I had two other people with better eyes compare the research online to the hive and ants outside in the garden. The identification of the ant and the type of hive indicates they are fire ants. I don't want to believe it because I'm in South Central Oklahoma!! The quarantine maps all indicate migration no further than your county or similar distance inside the Oklahoma border (sorry bout that, btw).

At any rate. What product did you recommend that worked well? Gah, I cannot believe this. Fire ants!


    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 1:27PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


Green lacewings are abundant here now, but they weren't in March or April. I think that not many of them had survived last summer's heat and drought, and now the populations finally have rebuilt to good levels.

For imported fire ants, the best organic solution I've used is a bait that contains spinosad. I'll link examples of the one I have found in stores most recently. I usually buy mine at an organic gardening store in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. In some previous years I have found it in Lowe's, Home Depot and/or Wal-Mart here in OK, but not this year. I get it in a little bitty container that holds about a half-pound for about $8.00 or so. It doesn't take very much of it to treat a mound.

I've also used Come And Get It in the yard, but not in the garden. I try to treat only mounds, and not to spread a broadcast treatment over a large area because I want to avoid harming the native ants. The native fire ants are our best weapon against imported fire ants, so broadcasting a product over a large area would wipe out the native fire ants, which leave humans alone, and would allow the imported fire ants, which attack humans, to take over an area.

Abamectin is pretty good for fire ant control, but I am not sure if it is approved for use in food-producing areas, and think it might not be. I've only used an abamectin product in the yard, not in the edible garden. In two very wet years (2004, 2007) we did broadcast Come And Get It in the front and back yards due to large mounds of fire ants. (Often the mounds were at least the size of a volleyball.)

Fire ants have been steadily moving north for decades, tolerating more and more cold temps over the years as they move north. When I was a kid, maybe in my teenage years, in Texas, they seemed shocked that the imported fire ants had "finally" made it as far north as north central Texas. Back then, they didn't think they'd make it further north, but of course they did. By the time we moved here in 1999, the fire ants were already here.

Undoubtedly the imported fire ants will make it as far north as Jay (SW KS), Sheri (Far NW OK) and Carol (FA NE OK) one of these days.

I now am awaiting the arrival of Rasberry Crazy Ants from Texas. They are nowhere near me yet, but I bet they make it up here in the next decade or two. (And if they are any closer to me than Houston, TX, now, I don't even want to know about it.)


Here is a link that might be useful: Ecosense Fire Ant Bait

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 3:18PM
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That is great news about the lacewings. Thank you again. When I found out I just wanted to cut to the chase and get it taken care of. You had mentioned treatments on more than one occasion, so I thought I would ask about what works.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 2:03AM
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