There’s a mindset common among even some veteran growers that the garden is mostly planted in the spring only. It’s a mindset that I started with four years ago and have been discarding ever since. It didn’t take me long to find that succession planting, particularly with cabbage crops, was a useful method to keep a steady flow of fresh vegetables coming in at a rate that I can use.The hot weather this summer has given me the opportunity to rethink some old habits and push the envelope so to speak. For starters I'll talk about the summer squash I grew this year, Cocozelle. The first healthy plant was from seed planted on May 1. It produced just under five pounds of squash in June and early July before heat then disease killed it. I seeded another Cocozelle about a foot away on July 1. Once I pulled up the older plant the new one really took off. This plant started making squash in mid August and has giving me just over six pounds so far. Last week it started to wilt, then recovered.
This plant may or may not produce more squash. Does it make sense to just succession plant summer squash about once a month? Most squash will go from seed to table in less time than a snap bean. Given their susceptibility to the borer, wilt, rust, powdery mildew, etc etc I think it probably makes sense to look at summer squash as a succession crop, just one that takes up a lot of space.
Beans are another example. I plant patches of beans about three weeks apart where spaces in the beds open up. After digging up the last of the potatoes that bed got the last seeding of snap beans for the season. I gave up on pole beans a few years ago because they attracted hordes of Japanese beetles. This year I’ve seen a few of these beetles but not many. I wondered if it was too late to plant some Kentucky Wonder (65 days). Why not? The worst outcome is that I won’t get any beans in the fall.
I found a packet of Kentucky Wonder at the local lumberyard, at a deep discount no less. One of the potato cages was repurposed as a bean tower with the cage suspended on two fence posts about a foot off the ground. The beans were seeded on Aug 3. They are now at the top of the cage and should start flowering any day now. The rest of the bed is planted with Roma II and Provider. Often we don’t get the first frost here until November, and I think there’s a good chance I’ll get some batches of Kentucky Wonder, which in my opinion is better than any bush bean.
The last experiment might lead you to think I’m crazy. I lost the spring-seeded winter squash to disease after five days of 100 degree heat. The butternut was finally pulled up on July 31 and I planted some fall green manure mix where the squash had been. A few days later I sowed some butternut seeds in the corner of the bed. It’s been growing quickly and now has set five small butternuts. If the plant stays healthy then, yes, I believe I’ll get some butternuts from this plant. From past experience any fruit set before mid-September should have time to ripen. We’ll see.