McCreary: Follow a year-long garden plan

Although we don't always think about what our vegetable gardens will be doing months from now, it's smart to have a year-long plan and a sketch of what's growing where in all four seasons.

A good plan clearly shows how long crops will be in the ground before they're harvested. It means we'll know when space is available in late summer for planting the fall and winter garden. And a plan allows an open window for rejuvenating soil between plantings.

To get started, pay closer attention than usual to information on the back of seed packets as you collect them for this year's garden. You'll find a suggested range of times to plant, number of days until germination and weeks until harvest.

After you gather all this data, lay out a sketch for succession planting. A few crops such as cilantro require little space, grow fast, require timely picking before going to seed and should be replanted at short intervals so you have them available for your kitchen. Parsley, in contrast, grows far more slowly, lives for two years and can be picked continuously.

If you frequently use herbs such as basil and chervil that grow fairly compactly, consider keeping them in a few pots close to the back door or on the patio for convenience and to free-up garden beds. A shrubby herb like rosemary can be grown as a landscape shrub rather than in the vegetable garden where it takes up considerable space over the years.

Following a plan

A good plan reveals that you can use the same trellising structure for a climbing or vine summer crop that you used for a spring crop of vine peas. It shows a summer row crop or herb following dwarf or bush peas.

Hopefully, your plan will remind you that, like flowering annuals, the more peas you pick, the more are produced, and that peas stop abruptly as soon as the weather heats up.

A good plan keeps you on track to re-plant lettuce well before the last head is cut or before the rows of cut-and-come-again types are depleted.

It will remind you that cucumbers, summer and winter squash and sprawling tomatoes need ample space as their vines continuously elongate over several months from late spring until late summer-or longer.

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