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Succession in the Greenhouse

June 22, 2012

It’s still spring outside at my house.  Shame on me for venturing into the garden to get a photo of sprouting carrots for a blog post!  The soil is too wet for foot traffic even.   So weeds are getting a jump on us, and planting is going slow in the outside gardens.  Summer comes and goes with two hot days, and now four days of rain or so in the forecast.   So it goes in the third straight cold, wet spring in a row – I am planting summer crops and winter crops at the same time.   It was barely dry enough to put in the next round of brassicas last night, but with flats of seedlings begging for a change,  rain storms looming, and a low supply of kraut, I planted until the no-seeums got to me at dusk.  Good thing too, planting before a rain is always a good for transplants and seeds alike.

However, the saving grace here is the greenhouse.  It’s like summer in there.  Flowers blooming, seedstock setting seed, and continuous planting going on.

I always try to stay on my every-other-week seeding schedule, so I have something to plant if some space frees up.  The first beds planted in greens in April got a little weedy, I planted them densely and didn’t weed too diligently knowing I could catch up once the plants started to bolt and could just renew the bed.

Gently easing out quack grass rhizomes with a hoe.

Once I do the initial tilling in the spring with the tractor, the rest is handwork.  My favorite tool is a hoe.  A razor-sharp nursery or beet hoe to be exact.  Sharpened on three sides, you can sidle up to the vegetables and slice weeds like nobody’s  business.  If you think hoeing is hard work, you are doing something wrong, either the wrong tool, too short of handle, compacted soil or your technique needs some honing.

A lot of our gardening is done with simple hand tools, and a wheelbarrow.   Especially in the greenhouse where I have literally planted myself into many corners employing succession planting.  These beds held bok choy, lettuce and turnips, but were planted partially with kale, chard and kohlrabi which will yield food over a much longer time period.  Actually the kale and chard will overwinter and stay in place until next year providing greens for us and the laying hens for quite sometime.

Ready for planting – again.

Simple and elegant succession planting:

♥  Pull bolting veggies and deliver to laying hens.

♥  Weed bed – grassy weeds to the burn pile, succulent weeds to the hens or compost pile.

♥  Fill empty wheelbarrow with composted stable manure.

♥  Add compost and other amendments if needed, rake smooth and plant.

♥  Repeat over and over and reap the rewards.

Having systems in place allow your garden to work like a well oiled machine.  You need to have seedlings or seeds waiting in the wings, and you need to be accumulating your livestock (urban too) manure in a way that is beneficial for your gardenstead.

28 Comments leave one →
  1. Joshua Bardwell permalink
    June 22, 2012 10:11 am


    That is all…

  2. June 22, 2012 11:13 am

    Urban livestock.

    I think my sister successfully overcame the city limit of 4 chickens per household by raising pigeons. Now she can translocate nutrients from the neighborhood. If she comes through with the mini-pig..I mean weird breed of dog…she’ll be set for fertility.

    I second @Joshua. How long did it take to build that soil?

    • June 24, 2012 7:56 am

      HFS, now goats are getting to be the next urban fad here – pigeons are delicious!

      The history of that ground is: in garden for years until the late 60’s, then pasture, then I started gardening there in the 70’s after a good sod. It only took a year or so to get in that shape, but keeping that way is the hard part 😉 I’m not really that old, it just feels like it 😉

  3. June 22, 2012 11:31 am

    I have a hoe i brought back from NZ in my bag. minus the handle of course, i cannot garden without it and i keep it very sharp! ! Your plants are looking great, what an awesome green house and all that rain.. (sigh) have a lovely day.. c

    • June 24, 2012 7:58 am

      Ceciliag, sounds wonderful! Sharpness is the key! More rain on the way – long, cool growing seasons here, not too hot, not too cold but a hard climate to raise warm weather crops though. Lots of greenhouses around here in the PNW.

  4. June 22, 2012 12:18 pm

    So true. I’m still working on successions; I haven’t go my timing down too good yet.

  5. mims permalink
    June 22, 2012 3:52 pm

    thanks for this great post, but how to you get your chickens to eat purslane? I grow it for househod consumption (yum, I love it) but try as I might, my chickens wont eat it! Dotn they know they need their omega-3s?

  6. June 22, 2012 4:27 pm

    Ah, to be able to succession plant cool season crops in June. Must be nice. It is 90 plus here and no rain in site. It’s hard to get even bean to germinate in this weather.

    • June 24, 2012 5:32 am

      Kristin, Ha! It reached a whopping 55F yesterday after the sun peeked out! I planted 24 more cabbage plants!!

  7. June 24, 2012 1:38 am

    Pretty hopeless outside here in the middle of the UK; wet, windy and cold. When we had a few warm days in very early Spring and I should have overcome instinct (“no, no, it’s far too early”) and seeded; then fleeced-over the beds. Now I realise seeds/fleece are easier (and cheaper) than trying to get the sun to shine on cue!
    I use a ‘swoe’ quite a bit but find it hard to keep the stainless steel blade really sharp. I was just pondering the purchase of a collinear hoe having watched the Johhny’s Seeds video. What makes the beet/nursery hoe favourite with you?

    • June 24, 2012 5:31 am

      Carrie, I know what you mean – rain, and clouds here too with a day or two of sun. 😦

      I guess I like the nursery hoe, because that is what I have had for years, its well worn. I watched the video, and the technique Eliot uses is the same as what I was taught as a child. I think to most people when you say hoeing the garden, they automatically think you’re out there chopping the soil like a maniac. I find hoeing enjoyable and easy work, if I let the weeds go then that is another matter 😉 It’s probably personal preference, the right technique and the right tool make any job easier.

  8. June 25, 2012 12:17 pm

    Hey I nominated you for the Sunshine Blog Award over at my blog! 😀

  9. June 25, 2012 8:33 pm

    Love it. My greenhouse, though much smaller than yours, is the love of my life right now. And I have seedlings ready to poke into any vacated position. It is about the only thing that went right this year. We will probably have nice weather well into fall, when it really doesn’t do much good. It is so nice to have one small place under our control!

  10. July 3, 2012 6:40 pm

    Summer Vacation? Good for you. I know you’re busy but just wanted to drop a note to say hi.

    • July 3, 2012 8:07 pm

      HFS, ha ha! I finally squeaked out a post tonight, Jane has not been well, and other stuff comes up too! Thanks for checking in – still raining here and its cold tonight – mid 40’s. Almost need to build a fire 😉

      • July 4, 2012 3:15 am

        That’s not right. It’s 6:15am and I have already soaked through my clothes with sweat. We have had 3/8 of an inch of rain in the last 6 weeks and you’re telling me you’re cold and wet. That’s not right.

        • July 4, 2012 5:34 am

          HFS, yep, sitting here in a couple of shirts and a down vest typing this…the sun is out today though, maybe we’ll reach 75F.

        • July 4, 2012 8:03 am

          I’ll remember you when I’m floating in the pond with the kids later.

        • July 4, 2012 8:17 am

          HFS, cold glacial waters here…you should come take a dip!

        • July 4, 2012 9:00 am

          I was married 15 years ago tomorrow. At our wedding I had a bad cold. The week before our wedding I presented some frog research findings in Seattle. During my stay we toured the area collecting (and releasing) amphibians on and around Mount St. Helens and along the Columbia River Gorge. I slipped and fell in a snowmelt stream on St. Helens and sniffled all week long. Frog research turned into a frog in my throat at our wedding.

          No thanks on the offer. We do swim in our pond year round though we have to pick our days in Jan and Feb. Sometimes we have to hope the ice melts as the sun rises.

        • July 4, 2012 9:13 am

          At least you didn’t croak…;) Well, we live in the gorge above the waterfalls, so you know the terrain and climate here then – cool and damp at least on the west side of the mountains.

          July wedding here too!

        • July 4, 2012 9:13 am

          At least you didn’t croak…;) Well, we live in the gorge above the waterfalls, so you know the terrain and climate here then – cool and damp at least on the west side of the mountains.

          July wedding here too!

        • July 4, 2012 4:55 pm

          Just so you know the pond water was about 85 degrees. Yuk.

        • July 4, 2012 7:36 pm

          HFS, ick! I’m back in my sweatshirt and vest tonight – hopefully it’ll be warmer tomorrow!

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