Tips on Succession Planting and Interplanting

Courtesy photo    Snow peas are about to bloom, but keep in mind, Alameda’s growing season is all year long.

Since the growing season in Alameda is 365 days long, it is possible to grow something tasty during every season of the year. Although most Alamedans have small spaces in which to cultivate, practicing succession planting (replacing harvested crops with a new edible) and interplanting (growing compatible plants together) takes advantage of the Island City’s frost-free winters to maximize use of the growing area available. 

Regular applications of compost and organic fertilizer will keep a small yard working hard to produce delicious food.

Many plants, such as lettuce, fava beans, Asian mustard greens and broccoli fare best in cool weather. Plant these vegetables in late fall or early winter so they are ripe for harvest in March and April. Winter rains will take care of the watering, and weeds don’t grow as fast as they do when the ground heats up. Fava beans and peas provide the additional benefit of improving the soil by fixing nitrogen that can be used by later plantings.

Start warm weather crops, like tomatoes and peppers, indoors in flats or peat pots and planted outdoors after the lettuce has gone to seed and all the broccoli has been eaten. Seed catalogs provide a wealth of information on the best time to start each vegetable, and the UC Master Gardener Program of Alameda County (http://acmg.ucanr.edu) provides specific information for Alameda’s microclimate.

Brussels sprouts, kale and beets are excellent plants to set out in the fall. They can also be started inside under grow lights until the tomatoes stop producing.

Interplanting is a very old idea. Native Americans often grew their “Three Sisters” — beans, corn and squash — together. The beans would grow up the corn stalks, and the squash vines would ramble underneath.

The simplest way to interplant is to grow climbing plants, such as beans and cucumbers, on a trellis. Position the trellis so that it does not block the sun. Shorter plants, such as herbs, lettuce and kale can be grown next to the trellis. Many flowers are edible and can be interplanted with vegetables. Flowers will brighten the garden, attract pollinators and provide food for beneficial insects.

One of the hottest trends in the culinary arts today is “Farm to Table,” which focuses on using ingredients that travel just a short distance to the dinner table. With a little organization, it is possible to bring just-picked produce from the backyard farm to the table every month of the year.

Alameda Backyard Growers (ABC) is a network of gardeners in Alameda interested in growing food and donating fresh produce to neighbors who face food insecurity. Find the schedule for ABG’s monthly education meetings at www.alamedabackyardgrowers.com. 

ABG’s Project Pick is always looking for fruit trees to pick and volunteers to help pick them so more fresh fruit can be delivered to the Alameda Food Bank. To sign up, email info@alameda 
backyardgrowers.org or leave a message at 239-PICK (239-7485).