Now that summer is almost here (Olaf should be happy!), I’m thinking more and more about “what next.” Up north, everyone stops gardening for the winter, but down here in South-Central Texas, most people stop gardening for the summer. As it is, I already do my gardening after 7pm these days. If I don’t have my task list done by 8:00, it doesn’t get done. By then the biting bugs are coming out, and I’m riddled with new itchy bumps on my arms and neck. So, I’ve gone back to looking at crop rotation plans and thinking about what I want to plant next year, or even next season for that matter.
Let’s start with what I have.
- [Onion Family] I planted and harvested garlic, so right now it’s growing weed-grass. I need to be deciding if I’m going to cover it and let it bake out the bad stuff for the summer, or if I’m going to try to plant the next rotation and get some other nutrients going in there before the Fall growing season comes in.
- [Perennial Bed] This started as a salad bed with spinach, corn salad, purple cauliflower, pak choi, arugula, mesclun mix, Tom Thumb lettuces, and some scattered carrots. The spinach, corn salad, and Tom Thumb lettuces actually did really well despite the beating they took this winter, but I never really took advantage of the harvest they offered. Eventually I dug it in and turned it into an herb garden instead. Now it has two types of oregano, lemon-variegated thyme, stevia, rosemary, and a dead pineapple sage. The sage makes me sad. It was really tasty and I keep hoping its roots are just in hibernation. I think the bugs probably ate those, too, though.
- [Grass Family – Squash Family] This is my Three Sisters bed. The corn is the most prolific, but there are three french green bean plants, and there are now four acorn squash plants growing through the middle.
- [Bean Family] Modified Three Sisters bed. I have purple pod bush beans growing well around the outside and could easily call that the primary crop. I have two cucumbers half-heartedly growing in two corners. I started with four, but lost one in one of the heavy rainstorms. The third one seems content to stay three inches tall. It hasn’t died, but it hasn’t grown since I planted it two months ago either. Who knows? On a diagonal separating the cucumber corners is a row of small sunflowers that are just starting to bloom.
- [Tomato Family] Tomatoes and basil, with a couple of indecisive nasturtium. The nasturtium grew into some nice-sized plants but never flowered, and now they look like they’re going to die on me. The only one that every bloomed was the teeny tiny three-leafed one that popped up in my lime tree pot. Weird.
- [Tomato Family] Peppers and basil, with Swiss chard separating this plot from the #5 tomato plot. The chard is doing better on this side than the other side, but all of it is being eaten by caterpillars, snails, and grasshoppers. I don’t think I’m going to be able to harvest any of it this year.
- [Cabbage & Carrot Families] There were peas on the outside edges, but the middle was a mix of radishes, carrots and turnips. I have about six carrots left to harvest, and then I was thinking of baking this bed, too.
Perusing vegetable crop rotation plans, I came across this one at Harvest to Table, which seems to fit my gardening style and tastes well. It does a nice job of breaking down the different families and what you can/should follow each one with to optimize soil health and minimize pests and diseases. So using that as a guide, this is my rough plan for what to do in the Fall.
- [Bean Family] So, I’ll probably weed and bake for the summer, then plants peas or beans for the Fall. We really enjoyed the peas but wanted more, and the purple pod beans looks like they’ll be good producers. I wouldn’t mind having a full bed of either one.
- [Perennial Bed] The plants are small now, but they’ll be larger in a year or two.
- [Bean Family] Acorn squash is a Fall crop, and especially as late as these plants popped up, I expect them to go late into the season. My seed packet says 80-90 days, which is September, so I may get a late season of Legumes in here. This might be a better bed for the peas, which need a cooler season, and I can do a second run of the purple pod beans up in bed #1.
- [Cabbage Family] My beans are primarily around the edges, but if I plan carefully, I could do well with Brussels sprouts or broccoli here. Maybe I could try my purple cauliflower again. Then this bed would be fallow/baking next Spring/Summer.
- [Onion Family] Onions or garlic around October.
- [Onion Family] Garlic or onions.
- [Tomato Family] Definitely bake for the summer. Can I get seed potatoes for the Fall? Potatoes would be fun to try, and they apparently make a good winter crop in warmer climates. For my reference, sweet potatoes are NOT in the tomato family and need to be a summer crop. Here’s a good guide on growing from an organic sweet potato. Back to the regular potato idea, that article does remind me why I was undecided on trying potatoes in the ground, though. Growing them in a container makes for easier harvesting unless I grow them in the middle and get really good at hilling. Maybe I should go price some chicken wire to help hold the hill.
Other than that, I still need to put some thought into what I’d like to grow.
We really enjoy carrots and radishes. We need to do more radishes, and we definitely need to space the timing out more. Fortunately, they’re small enough, I can work some into the edges and corners of just about every bed if I wanted to. I’ll just have to look up my companion planting guides to make sure they’re not going next to things that don’t like them. Ditto on the carrots.
We also really enjoyed the peas, but we definitely need to plant more. I’m also going to have to think of a better trellising system, and I need to look more into proper feeding. This year I haven’t really done any extra feeding to my plants at all beyond a little Liquid Seaweed every couple of weeks and a layer of generic Texas compost mixed in with the soil at planting time. Maybe then the whole family can enjoy the harvest, and not just Kirabug.
I’m undecided on the tomatoes and peppers. Maybe it’s early in the season, but my pepper plants just aren’t producing at all. Only one has fruited, but after three peppers (which were very tasty, but small), I think it’s done. I’m up to four tomatoes, but they’re all fairly small, so I’m still unsure of those. It’s starting to be too hot for tomatoes down here, so I’m a little anxious about them. Either way, all five plants have been fairly unproductive.
I don’t think I’ll do corn again, though. I’m curious about the squash. And we’re definitely doing beans of some sort. The purple pod beans are neat, but I’ll have to stake them better next year. I’m still undecided on the cucumbers. Mine aren’t doing as well as my neighbor’s. His are in full sun, though, where mine are shaded by the bean plants, and that is probably making a huge difference.
In fairness to my plants, I completely dropped the ball on attracting pollinators. I might have to drop one of the beds to zinnias and coneflowers, which would be okay, too. We’ll just have to see.