Plan Your Plantings

Planning plantings to provide people who’ve previously pledged payments with plenty of produce places particularly peculiar and perplexing parameters around the potential possibility of periodic over productions. It is way too easy to grow way too much.

Our first plantings pose no problems. We can never grow too many onions or potatoes. These storage crops are always in high demand, and we are able to off load extras.

On the other hand, when it comes to summer squash and cucumbers it is easy to overload everybody. Unless you make pickles, who needs a peck of cucumbers? And surplus summer squash has neighbors locking their screen doors.

I plan for about 150 families, and plant accordingly. This supplies a 100 member CSA, a restaurant, some other accounts, and leaves us an abundance to put up and give away.

The rows average about 300 feet in length. Fifteen rows of beets will get everyone in a pickle. Twelve rows of lettuce makes sure everybody gets lots of heads. Three rows each of swiss chard and celery provides plenty of weekly pickings, although just one row of parsley suffices. Unless you really relish radishes, two rows work well. Two rows of carrots is all we want to keep weeded, but we all could eat more.

We are so lucky when the work we do is the fun we do.
We are so lucky when the work we do is the fun we do.

Successive plantings are the way to deal with beans, squash, cucumbers and corn. Yesterday we sowed an 80 day variety along with a 90 day one of sweet corns. We will do the same two or three weeks later. Three rows each of summer squash, cucumbers and green beans were also sown, and I’ll wait until June to plant more of them. A third planting happens in July, and this gives us fresh pickings throughout most of the summer of all of these vegetables. Six rows each of tomatoes and peppers makes everyone happy. Three rows of watermelons are about right, although every year is different with them. One row of okra is all I want to be responsible for picking, and one row of sweet basil keeps many freezers full of pesto.

As for the winter squash and sweet potatoes, I say “the more the merrier”. Like Irish potatoes, we store hundreds of bushels of these crops and divvy them out weekly until Christmas. Having something to sell in the off season is handy, so we don’t mind leftovers.

In the fall we plan for about 1,000 heads each of cabbage, Chinese cabbage, and bok choy. This keeps the kraut and kimchi makers satisfied. A half-acre each of kale, mustard, daikons and turnips is way too much, but they are good cover crops so I just go for it. Four rows of spinach was about right, but I bet I plant more this year.

As market gardeners, we have to grow excess. It’s taken me a long time to learn how not to grow an excess of excess, like the annual plantings of 21 rows of lettuce that comes in at once and half of which bolts. Ponder your plans and prepare your planting for appropriate production.

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