Sequence of plantings

jfhspike(6)May 23, 2010

I'm a novice square-foot gardener...or to be more accurate, I've done it on and off for 10 years, but without a lot of careful study. This year I built four nice raised beds (12" high, filled with half-topsoil, half compost mix). And I planned out a bunch of stuff to plant, and some of it's working pretty well. (The 5 squares of leaf lettuce is providing a salad every day or two, for instance).

My question is about sequencing. For instance, I've been told to plant peas starting on St. Patrick's day in New England, and then "every two weeks until early June". Same deal with radishes: plant 16 to a square, and then replant every week or two." So: where do I do that replanting??? Surely not in the same square: the radish leaves are covering most of the square after 3 weeks, just about the time that the new seeds would be starting to show leaves, which would be totally shaded. Same with the peas: there's no way I can plant 8 more peas in that same square when the first set of peas is just a foot least I think not.

So: how do you sequence your plants? In a couple of weeks, the peas from St. Patrick's day will be ready to harvest and pull up. Do I plant new peas there a week or so before that? Do I wait and pull up the old plants, dig in more compost, and THEN plant new peas? Or do I plant my eggplants there, since they say not to xplant until about June 1?

Everyone's SFG "plans" show one item per square, but since many items like radishes, peas, beans, cilantro, dill, mustard, lettuce may well "finish up" quite early in the season, it's be nice to see what you do NEXT in those squares, and when.

Thanks in advance for any help.


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John, I'm certainly not an expert at anything but I'll tell you what I do.

I plant the early spring crops (radish, peas, lettuce) in the squares next to tomatoes or squash. That way when the early crops are done it is about time for the big crops to need their full space.

For example, I will put a zucc in a 3x3 square for full spacing. But in the spring, when the zucc is only 1x1 big, the other squares have radish or lettuce in them. When the squash is taking up 2x2 space I can get another month of spring veggies around the perimeter of the space. Usually when the squash takes up the full space it is too hot for lettuce around here anyway.

I'm sure there will be more posts for true succession planting directions to follow. These people here are amazing at this stuff. I find for me the best laid plans... just give you something to change later on.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2010 at 3:16PM
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I think the confusion is with the word "replant." When the book says to plant 16 radishes in a square and replant every two weeks or means that you plant your one square of 16 radishes.....and then two weeks later you plant an additional, seperate square of 16 radishes somewhere else in your garden. The thinking is that you will have a constant supply of radishes rather than one big harvest.

Additionally you can place items in your beds depending on what season of crop they are and how large they are as momstar does. (and I'm going to do that same thing around the squash plants next year. Thanks for the fabulous idea)

My variation is...I planted two squares of radishes along the south edge of one of my 4x4 beds...they take about 25 days from planting until harvest. On that same day, in the middle of that bed I planted collard greens and swiss chard...which will eventually have big ol leaves which will shade anything planted near them. Two weeks later I planted another couple of squares of radishes on the north edge of that same bed. The Swiss chard and collards are still small so the radishes will still get enough sun on that north side. I am currently eating the radishes from the south side of the bed. Over the next couple weeks the radishes from the north side will be ready. By then the collards and Swiss chard will be larger. At that time I can a few scoops of soil to the bed and plant something else where the radishes were...possibly some lettuce if its not too hot and there's enough shade...or perhaps some flowers, or some bush bean.

I find it helpful to keep a journal because as you go along, you'll learn what works and what doesn't plus you can jot down any ideas you have which you can try the following year.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2010 at 1:41PM
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heather38(6a E,Coast)

As far as replanting go's the others are correct, a different square for each replanting, which is what I did a last year, but I quickly discovered that what Mel describes as in your cabbage will make way for say Toms, doesn't work in practice, as my Toms are already in ground and the cabbages I started in Feb are only just starting to think about forming a head, and seriously I can not eat 16 Radish's in a week, so what I did this year is in each Square say 4 radish then a line of leaf lettuce, or some turnips ect, but then I realised when transplanting my cabbages that there is a lot of wasted space at the edge of the space, so that is where I now plant my radish, lettuce ect
My broccoli are now inter-planted with Sweetcorn, which hopefully will mean just as the broccoli give up the ghost, the corn will replace.
I planted pole and runner beans, 6 of each in 1 Sq foot, this worked brilliantly last year, but this year, in the centre of the WigWam I planted a cabbage, as I had a few spares. I am hoping the shade of the beans will allow these cabbages to produce until later in the season.
My toms have small plants planted at the corners as the plants grow up and I trim the lower stems off as the plant grows.
haven't got round to planting Cukes, but last year I sort of supported them on a frame over my lettuce to extend the season.
not all these methods have been tried and tested but the fun is in the experiment.
I am not a million miles from you about 20 miles from the RI border, so maybe similar in season to you.
have fun and experiment a bit, this has increased my fun, in an already fun activity for me :)

    Bookmark   May 28, 2010 at 9:18PM
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Thanks for the comments, folks. You've more or less confirmed what I already expected, which is nice. I find myself perfectly able to make a two-dimensional plan (what goes where?), and consider the 3D aspects (what'll shade what?), but the time-dimension is beyond me, because my experience is that nothing is ever really ready to harvest when it SHOULD be. That 25-day radish might take 35 days if it's planted early in the season, for example. I think that the best I can hope for is some sort of "think ahead" strategy where I get some idea of what might go in each spot AFTER the current item. [I've already done this to some degree: the peas are 5' tall and flowering right now, but planted just in front of them are a some jacob's cattle beans, which are beginning to climb. I anticipate harvesting the peas before the beans are too tall, then pulling out what I can of the pea-plants so the beans get all the space in the square (and on the trellis). We'll see how that works out.


    Bookmark   May 31, 2010 at 7:29AM
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eaglesgarden(6b - se PA)


You need to think in 4-D. Time being the 4th dimension! (The 5th Dimension used to be a singing group, but that's for another discussion.)

Here's how I do it. This might help, or might not.

I'll focus on the lettuces as an example:

Lettuce needs to be grown 4 to a square, IF you are going to let them go to full size. BUT, you can get a better yield if you grow and harvest more aggressively. I plant 16 lettuce to a square. Then, as the lettuce starts to get larger (and look a little crowded) I take entire plants to use in salads. These "baby" lettuces cost more in a market, but they are just "thinnings" to me. They don't take any extra space, and provide me with salads much sooner than normal. When thinning, I start with the corners, and eventually I am left with 5 lettuces in a square (usually after two thinnings per square). Also, this allows me to plant less squares of lettuce than I would need otherwise. So, I can get away with only 8 squares of lettuces (various types, not all the boring a salad would that be!).

I plant 4 squares (earlier season takes longer to grow), and then wait a week or so, and plant two more squares, then wait some more and plant two more. By the end of that cycle, I can stop planting for a while, because my plants are now big enough to cut and come again, which is why I leave 5 plants, as opposed to just 4. The center one doesn't get too crowded, because as it does, I cut some leaves off the outside and have a nice salad. When the weather starts to warm up, and the time for tomatoes and peppers come, I then pull the center lettuce and replace it with a pepper or tomato. At this stage, the pepper/tomato is small, so they don't need much space. Finally, as the pepper or tomato starts to fill out and take up more space (and the roots spread wider) I take out the remainder of the lettuce, just before they start to bolt.

This allows me to use the 8 squares of lettuce for early season lettuce ("thinnings"), mid season lettuce, (cut and come again), main crop lettuce (remove for space), main season tomatoes/peppers. To get even more use from the squares, in the fall as the tomatoes and peppers are slowing down, just before I pull them, I plant some lettuce under them for fall lettuces, and use a similar method, but I can only plant 12 lettuce in that space, as the pepper/tomato takes up the center 4 spots).

So, that allows for MONTHS of lettuce, tomatoes and peppers all from just 8 squares. Once this system is going strong, I don't need to purchase lettuce for salads. In the summer, I don't worry about lettuce, but enjoy tomato salads, etc.

Ultimately, Heather is right. You need to try some things, and experiment to find a method of replanting/harvesting that works for you. Ultimately it's your garden, and if you don't eat what you are growing, then you are growing the wrong stuff! Keep track of what you grow, what you have too much of, and what you wish you had more of. Let that be your guide and experiment ways to increase that which you eat the most of, and try to keep it spaced out, so that you aren't overrun with too much of anything all at once! Zucchini is my biggest nemesis with this. I also wish the zucchini were coming on sooner than it does, so I plant too many, and then get overrun, forcing me to pull some plants early, so that I have more space to squeeze in other stuff instead.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2010 at 12:11PM
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Well I resist the temptation to fill the squares at the first break of spring. I start the first or second week of April and I still am filling in the squares. One other good trick is to have a few plants ready to go in pots. I keep a few of my favorites going on the patio table where I can keep a close eye on them. Why waste a whole square on a seedling, that way you can time the replacement planting closer. I do use Mel's idea of nursery squares I am using them with onion and leek this year. About 70 per square and just started transplanting into vacated Pock Choi squares today. I will also put them into some vacated Beet squares. Boy the beets caught me without replacement plans. But are great steamed and buttered I like the whole baby beet and greens when under the size of a ping pong ball. I really like some of the ideas on here and will try them Some I use now. That's what I love about square foot, Small garden with time to try new ideas and big production.


    Bookmark   June 3, 2010 at 1:34AM
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eaglesgarden(6b - se PA)

I agree with Curt. I try to use transplants whenever possible. They don't need garden space until they are ready to go into their final growing place. If I started all my plants from seeds, they would take longer to germinate, and would I would have a harder time keeping the area clear of weeds. This way, when I transplant the seedlings, the area is 100% weed free, and they get the best possible start.

Transplant veggies: all lettuces, onions, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash (all varieties), cole crops

Direct sowing veggies: peas, spinach, beans, carrots, parsnips,

Curt, I haven't used the "nursery" squares, but I think that I might try that for my fall plantings. By the end of the summer, my wife is kind of tired of seeing seedlings in the house! lol But, I guess that's the price of "farm fresh produce" as close as your backyard!

I am thinking of putting a "high box squares" in for the nursery, where I just build up 6 inches of seed starting mix over my existing soil, to enable easier transplant (bigger root balls). Is this something that you use, or think would be feasible?

70 seedlings per square, even as a nursery seems pretty close together. Do you have any trouble with shock and roots being too tightly bound? I was thinking 36 would be a more reasonable number per square.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2010 at 10:06AM
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70 seedlings for onion or leek is fine you can grow them like grass the secret a good loose potting soil that will break apart easy at transplanting time. Mine is 1 part peat moss 1/2 part vermiculite 1/2 part perlite and 1 part aged worm castings.Onion/Leeks tops and roots can be trimmed at transplant for easy handling. I do leave about 1 inch or so of roots. Sounds to drastic? well ever plant sets, dried roots on them and they grow fine. I used a variation of your high rise idea for a square of carrots. I made a mini-high rise 11 3/4 inch square outside measure and 1-1/2 inch tall placed it on a 1/8 inch 12x16 inch sheet of plastic then I filled with mini-soil blocks 72 of them and planted carrots placed it in a warm place and the carrots were up in a week when they were a week old I took them out to the garden leveled a square. Then I took an old kitchen knife and ran it under the soil of the high rise to release the blocks then I placed the high rise on the square and slid the plastic out from under the plants viola instant carrot square. Next time 3 inch deep high rise no soil blocks. just solid potting mix. I will do this only with hard to start seeds or in early spring to speed up germination. Onion, Leeks, mix of cole crops, Carrots no transplant just thin as needed. Your high rise idea is a good one I will use it for sure. Mel's mix can pack some after a hard rain or two.


    Bookmark   June 4, 2010 at 1:49AM
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eaglesgarden(6b - se PA)


70 onions/leeks in a square makes sense. I was thinking more along the line of lettuces, coles, etc. I was thinking that 36 of them to a square would be a tight as I would go. I did onions indoors this year very tightly, and the coir/worm casting mix I used was perfect for transplanting them later, the roots just fell apart. I didn't trim the roots, but it does make sense, considering how much trouble I had making sure the roots were growing down.

Sounds like I have some new techniques to try this summer for my fall plantings! Woo-hoo!!!

    Bookmark   June 5, 2010 at 12:06PM
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To the O P the idea of course is to give a longer window of opportunity for replacement, without taking up too much space. Slow growers like Alliums and coles are great for this as long as the lead time is before first frost. Or in the case of some onions length of day,but you know all that.


    Bookmark   June 5, 2010 at 5:21PM
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To the O P the idea of course is to give a longer window of opportunity for replacement, without taking up too much space. Slow growers like Alliums and coles are great for this as long as the lead time is before first frost. Or in the case of some onions length of day,but you know all that.


    Bookmark   June 6, 2010 at 4:24AM
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Thanks, again, everyone. I've learned a lot reading your answers. It mostly matches some of what I'd been thinking already.

My own lettuce strategy (if you can call it that!) this year was to use leaf-lettuce rather than head-lettuce, and to scatter enough seed that it looked like it might be too much. That's worked pretty darned well -- so well that I'm having trouble eating enough of it. But next year (or in the fall) I might try some head-lettuce, following the ideas folks have given me.

I can tell you one thing, just in case anyone wondered: Daikon grows REALLY big compared to other radishes, and should be considered a back-row kind of plant rather than a front-row one. And even 9 per square is too much -- 4 or 5 would make more sense. [When Daikon bolts, it gets about 2.5 feet high!)

And for those who, like me, thought it might be fun to harvest your own mustard seed, two things:

1. You can (and probably should) eat some of the leaves; they're spicy but a nice addition to salad, or can be cooked like collards.

2. It's a weed. There's no reason to plant it in your nice square-food garden. Plant it anywhere with some dirt and some sun, and it'll grow. In an SFG, it just shades things like mad.


    Bookmark   June 9, 2010 at 10:39PM
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eaglesgarden(6b - se PA)


Remember that head lettuce can be eaten the same as leaf lettuce. Just take leaves from the outside, and it will still form a nice (but slightly smaller) head. After all, you need to break it apart to eat it anyway!

Personally, I like buttercrunch and any romaine I can find (freckles romaine is my favorite - it adds a little color to the salad). I also find that red leaf lettuce is nice, mild flavor but a really deep red color.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2010 at 11:16PM
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