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Monday, 18 May 2009

Overlapped Seed Sowing

Warning - seriously geeky gardening post!

There are a number of techniques for getting the maximum crop out of a kitchen garden. In "Catch Cropping" as soon as a crop has finished, you clear the ground and plant something else. 

I take it one step further. I don't wait for crop A to finish, I sow seeds for crop B during the last few weeks of crop A's life. Here's an example:

Mid February: Sow Broad Beans
Early July: Sow Dwarf Beans seed under the still growing Broad Beans. For the first half of July, the Dwarf Beans stay underground doing whatever Dwarf Beans do when they only just been sown.
Mid July: Broad Bean harvest finished, cut them down. Dwarf Beans start to show
Autumn: Harvest Dwarf Beans.

Disadvantages? Yeah, there's a few:

  • Those of an organic bent will know that you are supposed to dig in Broad Bean plants after harvest. With this system you can't do that directly. You'd have to dig them in on some other part of the garden or just put them on the compost heap.

  • The books tell you that the main harvesting period for Broad Beans is July and August. If that's when yours area ready, this system won't work. I've found that mid-June to mid-July is the season here. I've tried to move it without much success.

  • You "should" sow Dwarf Beans much earlier. My system gives a somewhat smaller and later crop. Consider using cloches towards the end of their life.

Another crop that lends itself to this technique is overwintering onions. Here's the system:

Previous autumn: Plant overwintering onion sets
May/June: Sow/Plant Crop B seeds under the still growing onions
June/July: Harvest onions. Crop B starts to show
Whenever: Harvest Crop B

"Crop B" can be any of the many crops that you put in the ground in May or June - check your seed packets and gardening books. I've used tomato plants and plan to use Radicchio this year.

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