With a little careful planning you should be able to get full value from every square yard of your vegetable garden and keep it working all the time.
Successional cropping is somewhat similar to inter-cropping because many crops, grown for successional crops, may be cultivated between or alongside vegetables needing more time to reach maturity. The aim of successional cropping is to prevent gluts and shortages. The gardener must be able to assess how many lettuces, peas, summer turnips, radishes etc., the family will require from a single sowing. He sows or sets out plants accordingly and he continues to sow every few weeks, providing he has the space for the sowings. He may start with radish, for example, by sowing three short, close rows under cloches in March. A short, double row is sown outdoors in early April, followed by a sowing between the pea rows in mid-April. Further small sowings are made in May, June and July. By sowing in this manner, there will be a supply of fresh, young radishes from mid-May until October. Lettuce seeds should be sown in small batches between March and August. For successional crops of peas, the gardener should bear in mind that there are early, mid-season and late varieties. All three kinds may be sown at around the same time and the plants will come into bearing successionally. There are also varieties of heading broccoli (cauliflower-broccoli) for cutting during the autumn, late winter, spring and early summer. With potatoes, there are kinds which bulk up for lifting in June and July; others mature more slowly for late summer use. Main-crop potatoes are not dug and stored until the autumn.
Catch-cropping, like inter-cropping, is aimed at using every available square inch of the garden. It means no more than making use of any vacant plot for a quick-growing vegetable. Radishes may be sown in April on the site reserved for outdoor tomatoes. The radish crop will have been pulled for use before the tomatoes are set out. The soil banked on either side of leek or celery trenches may be cropped with radish or lettuce.
Even the most experienced gardeners quite often fail to regulate the supply of vegetables throughout the year. In most cases, the weather is to blame. A warm June, for instance, may hasten the summer and autumn cabbage crops but lead to disaster among the lettuces which bolt at once after forming hearts. A severe winter may cripple broccoli and spring cabbages. So very often, too, due to the vagaries of the weather, there are many fine lettuce and radish tor use when the family is away on holiday. Arrangements should be made for these crops to be harvested and shared by neighbours while the family is away. Unless friends, relations or neighbours help in this way, the gardener is likely to return from holiday to find his bean plants covered with a useless crop of old, stringy pods.
Planning starts in January when the seed catalogues are studied and orders placed for seeds and seed potatoes. Variety is of great importance and the good gardener is always able to harvest some-thing fresh at any time of the year. During the winter, home-grown produce generally consists of cabbage and allied greens together with fresh or stored roots. The owner of a large kitchen garden should consider buying a deep freeze cabinet in which surplus summer vegetables and soft fruits may be stored for winter use so that the diet is more varied. The forcing of such crops as sea kale, chicory and endive is another way of preventing monotony in winter fare.
No kitchen garden is complete, nor can the diet be so varied, without the use of at least one form of glass (or possibly plastic) protection. These are frames, cloches or greenhouse. The uses of each are described briefly below.
The garden frame
Frames make use of trapped sun heat and also protect plants by four sides and removable top or light. Sowings may be made earlier in the cold frame than in the open. During the summer, melons and cucumbers may be grown in the cold frame. The winter use of the cold frame is to house plants of lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower and onion.
Many different models are available. Some have a brick or concrete base with sides of glass; others have brick, concrete or wooden sides. The frame light may be hinged or sliding and the framework may be wood or metal. Many practical gardeners construct their own garden frames and one may be easily and cheaply made. A large frame is far better than a small one, not only because there is more space for crops, but also because the atmosphere of the small frame is quickly influenced by outside temperatures. It is in the small frame that lettuce and cauliflower plants freeze in severe winter weather or melon plants wilt because of extremely high temperatures in August.
A seed bed may be prepared in the cold frame in early March and sowings of lettuce, summer cabbage, Brussels sprouts, leeks and onions made as soon as weather conditions seem favourable to quick germination. Plants of half hardy vegetables such as dwarf and runner beans, tomatoes, ridge cucumbers, melons, pumpkin and marrow may also be raised in the cold frame. The seeds should not, however, be sown until early April in the case of tomatoes and later that month for the others. In the case of half hardy vegetables, the seeds should not be sown in the bed of the frame but in peat pots sunk in the bed. Particular attention must be paid to watering and ventilation as well as to protection at night if frosts may occur.
Good summer frame crops are self blanching celery, tomatoes, melons and cucumbers. Tomato and celery plants may be set out in mid May and the light removed in June. Melon and cucumber plants are set out in early June and the light is not removed.
Here again, trapped sun heat is used to produce crops in the same way as in the cold frame. Cloches, however, need far less attention as regards watering and ventilating than cold frames and the seeds or plants given cloche protection are in rows. Cloches enable the gardener to make sowings of radish, lettuce, onions, broad beans and peas from late February to early April. Not only do cloches protect the seeds and seedlings from severe frost and strong winds, but they automatically prevent bird damage. When the weather improves or the plants grow too large, the cloches are moved to cover other crops. In the south and Midlands, the cantaloupe melon is a good summer cloche crop; in colder areas, the ridge cucumber is preferred. During the autumn, cloches are of use in drying off the onion crop, ripening off outdoor grown tomatoes or protecting the last batch of lettuce. In winter, cloches protect lettuce, endive, spring onions and cabbage plants.
It is possible to protect crops much more extensively.
As far as vegetables are concerned the garden frame and cloches are considered more useful than the greenhouse. As with cold frames, the smaller the unheated greenhouse, the quicker the temperature rises and falls.