Succession planting is a subject that has been broached many times by many garden writers, including this one. Practiced well, any given piece of ground will yield more with succession planting than when given over to one crop per season, be it ornamentals or vegetables and, yes, even large scale commercial crops. Witness the successful rotation of wheat, soybeans and corn in successive growing seasons (or parts of seasons) here nowadays.
Two acquaintances of mine have parlayed the practice to utmost perfection in their vegetable gardens.
Marvin Klopfenstein out in the Palestine community tells me he is anticipating, as we speak, his third crop of sweet corn from a single plot this season.
He expects to harvest it sometime in October, after already enjoying two earlier crops of the Peaches and Cream and Incredible varieties. This all from the same two rows in his edibles garden. He has also replanted carrots and English peas for a fall crop in addition to the more traditional crop of late spring. Not many people get to enjoy fresh sweet corn in October and if you are reduced to having to buy it you know how scarce it is that late in the season, and prices are higher as well.
Marvin agrees that earworms are more problematic on his corn ears with the last crop, but, hey, half an ear is better than none and usually, even with the worms, you can realize more than just half an ear from each stalk.
English peas and snap peas are tricky to grow here. They must get planted in February to do their best and, with our onrushing putrid summer weather setting in early as it does, the optimum conditions for pea development are short.
It is common knowledge that some crops do better in fall than spring. Turnips, for instance, planted in August will generally produce a good yield well into the winter and even produce greens in early spring. Cabbage, spinach and other leafy greens do well with a second planting.
Marvin has added English peas to that list and says his fall crop does well, what with succeeding cooler nights that they prefer. Well, along comes Tom Etheridge who has the same kind of luck with succession planting. Tom gives away more than he and Joann can eat, everything from those early peas to strawberries in spring followed with field peas and other hot weather crops in summer and fall.
Tom likes to get his early peas in the ground by Valentine’s Day. A few years ago, the ground was frozen flint hard on the day of the Saint of Love, and Tom invented a unique method of getting his crop in on time. He utilized a metal punch and hammer to open small holes every few inches in the frozen ground, dropped a seed pea in each hole, and sat back and waited. When a thaw came, the seeds erupted from the ground like, well, peas. He said it was one of the best crops he ever had. Tom is only in his 90s, so manages two big vegetable gardens, one here and the other at his earlier home in Mayfield. His knees are still holding up.
JIMMY WILLIAMS is the garden writer for The Post-Intelligencer, where he can be contacted on Monday mornings at 642-1162.