We desert gardeners are on the horns of a dilemma again. It happens twice a year when the planting seasons change. Now, in August, our gardens are suffering from summer’s heat and we wonder whether to pull out unproductive peppers, eggplant, tomatoes and dying remnants of chard, beans, and other cool season survivors. We know that the cooler nights will enable tomatoes, eggplants and peppers to recover and even become their most productive, until mid-November when a frost can kill them.
So the problem is to either let them be, or to pull them to make room for soil preparation as the first step of growing the fall cool season vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, lettuce, carrots, radishes, turnips, peas and beans. That season is about to begin.
Fall gardens are more varied and more reliable in giving us food for the table.
This problem of effectively managing overlapping growth opportunities can be avoided if we have two gardens and this is what I have in my own home. The productive garden of tomatoes, eggplant and Chinese Pole Beans is giving me harvests and will continue to do so until the first frost of the fall in mid-November. The other garden is ready for rototilling as soon as I clear out the residue of Faba Bean stalks from the final harvest in May. Since that time it has been fallow. It will be planted to cool-season leafy vegetables, but there is a golden window of opportunity for an extra quick harvest if I get going right away.
I’m going to sow seeds of sweet corn and bush beans before the middle of August and that will give me a harvest at Thanksgiving and a little beyond. Of course, short-season varieties are necessary for success so the Sweet corn will be Serendipity and the beans will be Contender both claim to be 55 days to maturity. Seeds will be soaked for a few days to get early germination so I’ll need to be careful not to break the tender root shoots when sowing the seed the right way up, with the roots pointing down. Tumbling seed into a furrow or hole without regard to which way is up delays their appearance above the soil because roots often have to turn themselves round after they’ve come out of the seed at all angles
Here’s a story of congested planning in a single garden. My Community Garden grew Faba Beans from November to May with some interplanted onions (that did not do very well). Then sweet corn was sown, together with sweet potato cuttings interplanted. Sweet corn was finally harvested early August and the plot then became solid Sweet potato vines. After the sweet potato harvest in November or December the plot will be used for broccoli and lettuce but prgramming will be tight.
The competition for light took its toll on the onions and on the sweet potatoes. This might have been avoided by a more open sowing of Faba Beans and then corn, but either way would give a lighter harvest. Management of a single garden is trickier than management of two separate gardens, especially when timing is concerned.