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Crop Planning for Sustainable
Vegetable Production
Closing the planning circle: produce crops when you want
them and in the right quantities; sell them where and
when you need to and support yourself with a rewarding
livelihood while replenishing the soil.
©Pam Dawling, 2016
Author of Sustainable Market Farming
SustainableMarketFarming.com
facebook.com/SustainableMarketFarming
What’s in This Presentation
• Why make detailed plans?
• How to plan? Helpful tools
• Step by step planning. 12 steps
1. How much money
2. Which markets to sell at
3. Which crops to grow
4. Harvest schedule
5. How much to plant
6. Field Planting schedule
7. Seedling/Transplant schedule
8. Maps
9. Packing more in
10. Adjust and tweak
11. Plan B
12. Next Year’s Better Plan
• Lots of Resources
Why Plan? On-farm Rewards
҉Plan in the winter, farm in the growing season!
҉Make the most productive use of your land.
҉Pace yourself, enjoy your life!
҉Reduce stress and confusion
҉Become a better farmer - keep good records,
make good plans.
҉Invest in your future - Planning gets easier each
year – just tweak last year’s plan.
Market Rewards for Planning
҉ Earn a living!
҉ Enjoy the satisfaction of full CSA bags, groaning tables every week!
҉ Enjoy your great reputation providing what customers want.
҉ Enjoy having information at your fingertips - when broccoli will start,
or cucumbers end.
҉ Achieve balance each week: some leafy crop, something brightly
colored, something bulky and filling, something new, something
highly flavored.
҉ Use your full market season, all your opportunities.
How to Plan? Helpful tools
• Be clear about your goals (before choosing tools).
• Design a system you like, so you’ll use it.
• Do you prefer clipboards, computers, or photos?
• There are Web-based Tools, Spreadsheets,
Worksheets and Notebooks
• Build in the ability to adapt the plan if conditions
change.
Web-based Planning
AgSquared online planning software:
www.agsquared.com includes a free trial.
• If you already have your plans on spreadsheets,
you can import them into AgSquared – you don’t
have to start over.
• “Smart scheduling” Once you’ve got your
information in there, you can adjust a date or row
length and the changes will automatically be
made to the other relevant spreadsheets.
• Space for record-keeping is vast - you can include
comments on the weather, pests, soil
observations etc which might be helpful later.
How AgSquared works
COG-Pro is a record keeping software made for Certified Organic
Farms.
The planning tools include prompts for info needed for certification.
It uses a simple tabbed notebook visual and generates reports for
the certification process.
Spreadsheets
• Make your own, or copy others – see Resources at
end
• During the year we follow printed sheets - don’t
often need the computer.
• The program does the calculations.
• Quickly sort out selected parts of the information
and rearrange it
Spreadsheets from Johnny’s
Johnny’s Selected Seeds has spreadsheet based tools available at
http://www.johnnyseeds.com/t-InteractiveTools.aspx
Crop Planning for Vegetable Gardens
There are also smaller scale on-line planners:
• Gardenplanner.southernexposure.com
• Gardenplanner.motherearthnews.com
There is also an app:
 Gardenplanpro.com
Worksheets
• Cindy Conner explains worksheets in her book
Grow a Sustainable Diet.
• She also sells a DVD/CD set Develop a
Sustainable Vegetable Garden Plan. Aimed
primarily at homesteaders, the steps help you
figure how many seeds and plants you need,
when to plant and where, and when to expect a
harvest.
• Mark Cain www.drippingspringsgarden.com and
Daniel Brisebois and Frédéric Thériault Crop
Planning for Organic Vegetable Growers, are
other good sources for ideas on worksheets.
Planning is Circular, Just Like Farming
1. How much
money do
you need to
earn?
2. Which
markets
to sell at
3.
Which
crops
to grow
4. How much of
what to harvest
when: Harvest
Schedule
5. How much to
grow to achieve
your harvest goals
6. Calculate sowing dates to
meet harvest dates: Field
Planting Schedule7. When to sow for
transplants: Seedlings
Schedule
8. Where to plant
each sowing of
each crop: Maps
9. Packing more in:
succession plantings,
intercropping, relay
planting, double
cropping
10. Adjust to make
your best
possible plan
11. What to do if
something goes wrong:
Plan B
12. Record results
for next year’s
Better Plan
Step 1. How much Money do you
Need to Earn?
• What are your living expenses?
• What are your farm expenses?
• What do you want to save for old age, rainy
days, raising children, college funds. . .
• The Federal Minimum Wage is $7.25/hour
(Jan 2014), going up to
$10.10. Just saying. . .
• Do you have other
sources of income?
Setting Prices
The Iowa State University publication Determining Prices for
CSA Share Boxes compares pricing based on either
• what customers will pay,
• what other growers are selling the crop for
• what it costs to produce.
It includes a chart of share value of 24 crops based on grocery
prices and the quantity included.
Step 1
Enterprise Budgets
Vern Grubinger in Sustainable Vegetable Production from Start-up to
Market explains how to make an enterprise budget for each crop. These
calculations compare one crop with another, while not delving into
overhead costs.
 In your Crop Journal, record the amount of work done on each crop
each day:
o Bed prep, cultivating
o Planting, mulching, staking.
 Record at each harvest
o weight or count of each crop,
o time spent harvesting and cleaning it;
o money raised from each crop each week.
 At the end of the season, add up the total time for each crop
o Divide the income for that crop by the time spent on it, and
o divide the income for that crop by the area, or number of beds.
 Aim for $400/100’ bed per season. The range could be $109-1065.
Step 1
Step 2 Which Markets will you Sell at?
New growers are often advised to start with a
farmers’ market rather than a CSA the first year, as you
can sell a more erratic supply of crops at market.
On the other hand, if you have experience from
working on another farm, a commitment to careful
planning, and you need that upfront beginning-of -
season cash, you may decide to start a CSA right away.
If you have an off-farm job to tide you over, it may
be practical to leave the financial questions for a
year, and build on that experience.
Which Crops are Most Profitable?
Some crops offer more money per
area, some are more profitable in
terms of time put in.
Clifton Slade at Virginia State
University in his 43560 Project aims to
show how to earn $43,560 from one
acre ($1 per square foot), four times
the return of a typical large-scale
commercial vegetable production.
He recommends choosing crops which
produce one vegetable head or stalk,
or 1 pound of produce, per square
foot, using 5’ x 300’ raised beds. Leafy
crops feature prominently.
Morris Heading Collards, Photo Kathryn Simmons
Step 3
Which Crops are Most Profitable?
Richard Wiswall Organic
Farmer’s Business Handbook
Outdoor kale can produce
$2463 from 1/10 acre, and of
the crops he compared, only
parsley and basil earned more.
Field tomatoes came in at
$1872, and several vegetables
(bush beans, sweet corn, peas)
made a loss.
Vates kale. Photo Kathryn Simmons
Step 3
Which Crops Take Most Attention?
Steve Solomon in
Gardening When it Counts
provides tables of vegetable
crops by the level of care
they require.
His Difficult list includes
Bulb onions, leeks, Chinese
cabbage, asparagus, celery
and celeriac, cauliflower,
Brussels sprouts, early
cabbage and cantaloupe.
Onion bed. Photo Kathryn Simmons
Step 3
Consider Flowers as well as
Vegetables
Mark Cain of Dripping
Springs Garden, Arkansas:
 50% of their growing
area in cut flowers and
50% in vegetables.
 The cut flowers bring in
75% of the income.
Photo Tom Freeman, Twin Oaks Flowers
Step 3
Step 3 Reasons to Grow some Crops that
Don’t Make the Highest Income
 provide a good crop rotation for your farm,
 provide diversity (customers will only buy so much
parsley and basil).
 provide for different times of year, even for the whole
year.
 Kohlrabi. Photo McCune Porter
Step 4 How Much to Harvest
 The average person eats 160-200
pounds of fresh vegetables per
year (USDA)
 the average CSA share feeds 2 or
3 people,
 an annual share will need to
include about 500 pounds of 40-
50 different vegetables,
distributed, say, once a week for
8 months and once a month for 4
months.
 Many CSAs have a shorter season
than this – your call.
Photo Bridget Aleshire
Step 4 Your Harvest Schedule
• Decide which crops you
want to harvest when, how
often and over what length
of time, including quantities.
• For a CSA, make a Share
Schedule, telling sharers
what to expect when.
• Multiply that up, add a
margin for culls and failures,
and list how much of each
crop to have ready for
harvest each week.
Resources for Quantity Calculations
• The Center for Agroecology and
Sustainable Food Systems at UC Santa
Cruz:
– Crop Plan for a Hundred-Member CSA,
with planting requirements for 36 crops
• Jean-Paul Courtens of Roxbury Farm,
Kinderhook, New York:
– On his website, you’ll find the 100
Member CSA Plan, including a Weekly
Share Plan, Greenhouse Schedule, and
Field Planting and Seeding Schedule
(with charts of possible crop yields).
Step 4
Step 5 How Much to Grow to Achieve
Your Harvest Goals
Take likely yields and add a margin for culls and failures
(10%?). The table I provide in Sustainable Market Farming
lists 48 crops, with likely yield, quantity required for 100 CSA
shares, and length of row needed to grow this amount.
More Resources on Yields
• Some seed companies have
tables of likely yields in their
catalogs.
• Elizabeth Henderson and
Robyn Van En Sharing the
Harvest.
• John Jeavons How to Grow
More Vegetables has charts:
– Pounds Consumed per Year by
the Average Person in the US
– Average US Yield in Pounds per
100 Square Feet.
– These are particularly useful to
small-scale growers, and can be
multiplied up by others.
Spring brassicas at Twin Oaks.
Photo McCune Porter
Step 5
Step 6 Harvest Dates Sowing Dates
When to sow to meet the harvest dates?
 Find the number of days to maturity (from the catalog).
 Is that number from seeding to harvest or transplant to
harvest?
 Work back from each target harvest date, subtracting
days to maturity, to give the planting date.
 Days to maturity in catalogs are generally for spring
planting once conditions have warmed to the usual range
for that crop.
‒ If you are starting very early, add about 14 days - seedlings
grow slower when cold.
‒ In summer crops mature sooner than in spring.
‒ When growing late into the fall, add about 14 days for the
slowdown.
Days to Maturity
• “Days to Maturity” usually means “Days to First Harvest” which
may not be the same as “Days to Full Harvest”.
• With carrots it doesn’t matter exactly what size they are, but an
unripe eggplant is just no good.
• With CSAs, you can distribute eggplant to some sharers one week,
and others the next, although keeping track involves more work.
• If it’s important to have a plentiful harvest when you do start, add
another 7-14 days.
Carrot photo Kathryn Simmons
Step 6
Decide whether to Sow or
Transplant Photo Kathryn Simmons
 Choose high-yielding
varieties suited to your
climate, budget,
certification and market
 Buy seeds or starts? Is what
you want available as
plants? Do you need
Organic? Is the price
worthwhile? Money vs
labor.
 Do you have the equipment
to grow transplants?
Step 6
Direct Seeding Pros and Cons
Photo Kathryn Simmons
• Pros
– Less work than transplanting
– Less money compared to buying starts
– No need for a greenhouse and
equipment
– Better drought tolerance – roots grow
without damage
– Some crops don’t transplant easily
– Some crops have millions of plants!
(Carrots)
• Cons
– Uses more seed
– Uses more time thinning
– Occupies the land longer
– Maybe harder to get started in cold (or
hot) conditions
Step 6
Getting the Best from Direct Sowing
 Good soil conditions lead to even
germination: tilth (size of particles),
moisture
 Decide by soil temperature, not
calendar. New Seed Starter’s
Handbook.
 Correct depth and sowing density
 Good seed contact with soil: tamp
lightly
 Good tools: EarthWay, precision
seeders, hoes, jab planters for large
seeds, tractor seed drills.
• Photo Bridget Aleshire
Step 6
Transplanting Pros and Cons
Pros
• Start earlier than outside, get earlier
harvests
• Start seed in more ideal conditions in
greenhouse, better germination, more fun!
• Easier to care for new seedlings in a
greenhouse
• Protected plants grow quicker
• Select sturdiest plants, compost the rest
• More flexibility if weather turns bad. Plants
still grow!
• Fit more crops into the season
• Use time windows for quick cover crops
• Save on seed costs
Cons
• Extra time caring for the starts
• Transplant shock can delay harvest
• More attention needed to watering new
plants
Photo Kathryn Simmons
Step 6
Getting the Best from Transplanting
 Roots need space. Open flats, plug trays, soil blocks, bare root
plants.
 Transplant shock is less for plants with good root systems - harvest
starts sooner.
 Good seed compost
 Use a soil thermometer, not a calendar, to decide when to plant
out tender plants. Don’t rush them!
 Measure and mark the correct spacing: tractor equipment, rolling
dibbles, row marker rake, measuring sticks and triangles, span of
finger and thumb.
 Ideal conditions for transplanting are mild windless afternoons
and evenings just before (or during!) light steady rain.
 Transplanting late in the day gives the plant a chance to recover
during the cooler night hours - the rate of water loss is slower.
 Shadecloth or rowcover can be used to reduce the drying effects
of wind and sun.
Step 6
Transplant Age and Size
Vegetable Notes Ideal Age at Transplanting
Cucumbers,
melons,
squash 2 true leaves max (maybe less) 3–4 weeks
Watermelons (older is OK) 3–4 weeks
Sweet Corn 3–4 weeks
Tomatoes age is less important 4–8 weeks
Lettuce 4–7 weeks
Brassicas 5 true leaves is ideal 6–8 weeks spring/
3–4 weeks summer
Peppers & eggplant 4 or 5 true leaves, not flowering 6–8 weeks
Onions (spring sown)
& leeks 10–12 weeks
Celery 10–12 weeks
Step 6
Field Planting Schedule
Draw up your list of outdoor planting dates, along with
varieties, row feet, spacing, notes and space to write
down what you actually do.
Step 6
Step 7 When to Sow for Transplants
 If the crop is to be transplanted and the catalog doesn’t include the
time to grow the transplant, add that. See Sustainable Market
Farming
 Use your own experience or the catalog information, or somewhere in
between
 In future years you will have your own records to customize your calculations
 Extract the dates to sow for transplants, and make your Seedlings
Schedule
Seedlings in Twin Oaks Greenhouse
Photo Kathryn Simmons
Seedlings Schedule
Step 7
Pepper transplants. Photo Kathryn Simmons
Step 8 Maps
 Where in the fields to
plant each sowing of
each crop ?
 Start filling your map
with your major
crops
remembering crop
rotation
and cover cropping
considerations.
Note the spaces for
squeezing in other
crops
Crop Spacing
Yield is related to plant density.
 Area per plant is the important bit, not
particular row spacing.
 There is a balance point at which the plant
density provides the maximum total yield.
At that density some plants will be too small
to use. That’s taken into account when
calculating yield.
 Crop size (do customers want big carrots or
small carrots?)
 Disease control (humidity and molds)
 Preferred layout (beds with equidistant
plants, or rows).
 Ease of cultivation (tractor equipment,
hoes, horses) and irrigation
 For large plants such as okra or eggplant, it
makes more sense to plant a single row in a
bed and have the plants close together in
that row, in a “hedge.”
Photo of Morris Heading Collards by Kathryn Simmons
Step 8
Optimal Crop Spacing for Various Goals
Crop Row spacing In-row spacing Notes
Beets 7" (18 cm) 4" (10 cm) For early harvest
12" (30 cm) 1" (2.5 cm) For max total yield (small).
2" (5 cm) for bigger beets
Beans, fava 18" (45 cm) 4.5" (11 cm) For tall varieties.
Beans, green 18" (45 cm) 2" (5 cm) 12" (30cm) × 3" (7.5 cm) gives the same area/plant
Broccoli (Calabrese) 12" (30cm) 6" (15 cm) For equal amounts of heads and side shoots
Cabbage 14" (35 cm) 14" (35 cm) For small heads
18" (45 cm) 18" (45 cm) For large heads
Carrots 6" (15 cm) 4" (10 cm) For early crops, limiting competition
6" (15 cm) 1.5" (4 cm) For maincrop, medium size roots
Celery 11" (28 cm) 11" (28 cm) For high yields and mutual blanching
Cucumber (pickling) 20" (51 cm) 3" (8 cm)
Leeks 12" (30 cm) 6" (15 cm) Max yield of hilled up leeks, average size
Lettuce 9" (23 cm) 8" (20 cm) Early crops under cover
12" (30 cm) 12" (30 cm) Head lettuce
5" (13 cm) 1" (2.5 cm) Baby lettuce mix
Onions 12" (30 cm) 1.5" (4 cm) For medium size bulbs
12" (30 cm) 0.5" (1 cm) For boiling, pickling, kebabs
Parsnips 12" (30 cm) 6" (15 cm) For high yields of large roots
7.5" (19 cm) 3" (8 cm) For smaller roots
Peas, shelling 18" (46 cm) 4.5" (11.5 cm) Can sow in double or triple bands, 4.5" (11.5 cm) apart
Potatoes 30" (76 cm) 9-16" (23–41 cm) Depends on size of seed pieces; small pieces closer
Sweet Corn 30-36" (76–90 cm) 8" (20 cm) Closer than 8" (20 cm) the plants shade each other.
Tomatoes, bush types 19" (48 cm) 19" (48 cm) For early crops
Watermelon 66" (168 cm) 12–24" (30–60 cm) For small varieties. 5–10 ft2 (0.5–1 m2) each
66" (168 cm) 30–84" (76–215 cm) For large varieties. 13–40 ft2 (1.2–3.7 m2) each
Step 8
Step 9 Packing More in:
Intercropping, Relay Planting and
Double Cropping
• Promptly clearing short term crops like beans or cucumbers
helps with pest and disease control and opens up the space for
double-cropping or for more cover crops to replenish the soil
• Fast growing crops like lettuce, radishes and greens can be
planted between or alongside
slower-growing crops to
generate more income and
diversity
• We grow peas with spinach,
peanuts with lettuce,
okra with cabbage
Tyee spinach in a relay with snap peas.
Photo Kathryn Simmons
Season Extension in Every Season
Advantages and disadvantages in time and money
 Growing earlier crops in spring:
o Choose fast-maturing hardy varieties
o Warm microclimates
o Transplants
o Rowcovers, low tunnels, Quick Hoops, high tunnels (= hoophouses)
 Extending the growth of cool-weather crops into summer:
o Learn how to germinate seeds in hot weather
o Shadecloth
o ProtekNet to keep bugs off
o Intercropping allows a new crop to establish in the shade of the old one
 Extending the survival of frost-tender crops beyond the first fall frosts
o Rowcover
o Minimizing frost damage
 Growing cold-hardy winter vegetables
Step 9
For details, see my slide show
Cold-Hardy Winter Vegetables
on SlideShare.net
Step 9 Packing More in
Find Space for Succession Crops:
• Beans, edamame, cucumbers, melons ,
squash, sweet corn can be produced
through the frost-free period, if you
sow several times.
• Beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, collards, kale,
spinach can be grown in spring and again in the
fall in the Southeast.
• Lettuce can be grown year-round
• Lettuce, spinach, turnips, radishes, scallions, tatsoi
and some other Asian greens can be sown in
succession in the winter hoophouse
Step 9 Packing More in
Succession
Crops Planning
Chart
• We list the spare
spaces in the plots (in
order of availability)
• and the crops we hope
to plant (in date order)
• Then we pencil in
arrows, fitting the
succession crops into
the spaces available.
Succession Crop Scheduling
• Plan sowing dates for even,
continuous supplies of popular
summer crops, such as beans,
squash, cucumbers, sweet corn;
year round lettuce and winter
hoophouse greens.
• Length of time from sowing to
harvest varies according to
temperature (and day length in
some cases).
• Planting squash once a month will
not provide an even supply.
• Keep records and use information
from other growers in your area to
fine-tune planting dates.
Photo Credit: Kathryn Simmons.
For all the details, see my slideshow
Succession Planting for Continuous
Harvests on SlideShare.net
Step 9
Several Approaches to Succession
Crop Planning – which suits you?
1. Rough plan: “every two
weeks”
2. “No paperwork”
methods
3. Sow several varieties on
the same day
4. Plan a sequence of
sowings to provide an
even supply, using
graphs
5. Use Accumulated
Growing Degree Days
data
Squash drawing by Jessie Doyle
Step 9
Rough Plan:
Every 2 weeks for beans
and corn,
Every 3 weeks for squash
and cucumbers and
edamame
Every 4 weeks for carrots
2 or 3 plantings of
muskmelons
(cantaloupes) at least a
month apart.
CREDIT: Kathryn Simmons.
Step 9
“No Paperwork” Methods
• Sow another planting of
sweet corn when the
previous one is 1”–2"
tall
• Sow more lettuce when
the previous sowing
germinates
• Sow more beans when
the young plants start
to straighten up from
their hooked stage
Step 9
Sow
Several
Varieties
on One
Day
Use varieties
with different
days-to-maturity
sown on the
same day. We
do this with
broccoli, lettuce,
sweet corn.
Step 9
Make a Graph - 6 Steps
1. Gather Sowing and Harvest Start
Dates for each planting of each
crop.
2. Make a graph for each crop:
sowing date along the horizontal
(x) axis and harvest start date
along the vertical (y) axis. Mark in
all your data.
3. Mark the first possible sowing date
and find the harvest start date for
that.
4. Decide the last worthwhile harvest
start date, mark that.
5. Then divide the harvest period into
a whole number of segments,
according to how often you want a
new patch.
6. Figure the sowing dates needed to
match your chosen harvest start
dates
For details of this method see
Succession Planting on SlideShare.net
Step 9
Step 9
Year Round Lettuce Part 1
Photo Credits Kathryn Simmons
The short version is that
we sow
• twice in January,
• twice in February,
• every 10 days in March,
• every 9 days in April,
• every 8 days in May,
• every 6-7 days in June
and July,
Step 9
Year Round Lettuce Part 2
Photo Credits Kathryn Simmons
• every 5 days in early
August,
• moving to every 3 days in
late August,
• every other day until Sept
21.
• After that we ease back to
every 3 days until the end
of September.
Those last plants could feed
us right through the winter.
Step 9
Winter Succession Crops in the
Hoophouse
To provide continuous supplies of salad and cooking greens,
as well as radishes and small turnips, we plan successions of
winter hoophouse crops.
For details, see my
slideshow Hoophouse in
Fall and Winter on
SlideShare.net
Step 9
Step 10 Look at the Overview - Tweak
to Make Your Best Possible Plan
• Can’t fit everything in? Drop crops or
change your plant quantities?
• Always keep your highest priorities in
mind – best markets, signature crops,
personal needs.
• Use all available space for food crops
or cover crops
• Check timings of seedlings – do you
have enough germinating capacity?
• Is it physically possible to do all the
transplanting you plan in the time
allotted?
• Simplify planting dates, eg squash and
cucumbers on the same days.
Photo credit Kathryn Simmons
Step 11 What to Do if Something
Goes Wrong: Plan B
Have a brainstorm list to help
deal with disasters:
 Do immediate damage control to stop the
problem getting worse
 Ask for help from sharers, neighbors, kids,
 Salvage anything you can and process it in
some way to sell later.
 Plant some quick-growing crops to
substitute for crop failures
 Buy from other local growers to tide you
over
 Team up with other growers, share a
market booth, save on the rent
 Write down what went wrong and why, so
you don’t have the same problem next year
Senposai can be harvested 40 days from
sowing. Photo Kathryn Simmons
Step 12 Record Results for Next Year’s
Better Plan:
• Make recording easy to do
• Have a daily practice of writing down what was done that day
• Allow time for that, without losing much of your lunch break
• Delegate to reliable people
• During the main growing season, we don’t do a lot of paperwork.
We record planting dates and harvest start and finish dates.
• At the beginning of the winter, have a Crop Review Meeting, discuss
and write up what worked and what didn’t, to learn from the
experience and do better next year.
• Adjust dates to halfway between last year’s plan and whatever
actually happened - gradually zero in on the likely date without wild
pendulum swings based on variable weather.
Resources - General
 ATTRA attra.ncat.org Market Farming: A Start-up Guide, Plugs and Transplant Production
for Organic Systems, Scheduling Vegetable Plantings for a Continuous Harvest,
Intercropping Principles and Production Practices (mostly field crops, but the same
principles apply to vegetable crops), Season Extension Techniques for Market Farmers,
and many other great publications.
 SARE sare.org -A searchable database of research findings. Available to download: Using
Cover Crops Profitably and Crop Rotations on Organic Farms, A Planning Manual
 extension.org/organic_production http://www. eOrganic.info. The organic agriculture
community with eXtension. Publications, webinars, videos, trainings and support. An
expanding, accessible source of reliable information.
 Growing Small Farms: growingsmallfarms.ces.ncsu.edu Click Farmer Resources. Debbie
Roos keeps this site up to the minute. Includes Farm Planning and Recordkeeping
 Southwest Florida Research and Education Center,
www.imok.ufl.edu/programs/vegetable-hort/research-extension-ozores/veg-transplant/
(Information on age of transplants, container size, biological control for pests, diseases,
hardening off, plant size, planting depth and temperature. )
Resources - Slideshows
 Many of my presentations are available at www.Slideshare.net . Search for Pam Dawling. You’ll find
 Cold-hardy Winter Vegetables
 Crop Planning for Sustainable Vegetable Production
 Crop Rotations
 Fall and Winter Hoophouses
 Fall Vegetable Production
 Intensive vegetable Production on a Small Scale
 Succession Planting for Continuous Vegetable Harvests
 Spring and Summer Hoophouses
 Mark Cain Planning for Your CSA: www.Slideshare.net (search for Crop Planning)
 Farm Planning for a Full Market Season Tom Peterson, Appalachian Farmers Market Association and
Appalachian Sustainable Development http://vabf.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/tom-peterson-
farm-planning-for-a-full-market-season.pdf
 Cultural Practices And Cultivar Selections for Commercial Vegetable Growers. Brad Burgefurd, Wide
scope. www.slideshare.net/guest6e1a8d60/vegetable-cultural-practices-and-variety-selection
 Planning the Planting of Cover Crops and Cash Crops, Daniel Parson SSAWG 2012
www.slideshare.net/parsonproduce/southern-sawg
 Cover Crop Innovation by Joel B Gruver www.Slideshare.net
 Cover crops for vegetable cropping systems, Joel Gruver,
www.slideshare.net/jbgruver/cover-crops-for-vegetable-crops
 Finding the best fit: cover crops in organic farming systems. Joel Gruver. Some overlap with previous
slideshow. www.slideshare.net/jbgruver/cover-crops-decatur
Resources - Books
 The Market Gardener, Jean-Martin Fortier, New Society Publishers
 The Complete Know and Grow Vegetables, J K A Bleasdale, P J Salter et al.
 Knott’s Handbook for Vegetable Growers, Maynard and Hochmuth
 The New Seed Starter’s Handbook, Nancy Bubel, Rodale Books
 The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook, Richard Wiswall, Chelsea Green
 Sustainable Vegetable Production from Start-up to Market, Vern Grubinger,
 The New Organic Grower, Eliot Coleman, Chelsea Green
 Extending the Season: Six Strategies for Improving Cash Flow Year-Round on the Market Farm a free e-
book for online subscribers to Growing for Market magazine
 Sharing the Harvest, Elizabeth Henderson and Robyn Van En
 Gardening When it Counts, Steve Solomon
 Grow a Sustainable Diet: Planning and Growing to Feed Ourselves and the Earth, Cindy Conner, New
Society Publishers, (worksheet based). DVD/CD set Develop a Sustainable Vegetable Garden Plan
 Crop Planning for Organic Vegetable Growers, Daniel Brisebois and Frédéric Thériault (Canadian
Organic Growers www.cog.ca)
 Nature and Properties of Soils, fourteenth edition, Nyle Brady and Ray Weil
 Garden Insects of North America, Whitney Cranshaw
 Managing Weeds on your Farm: A Guide to Ecological Strategies. Charles Mohler and Antonio
DiTommaso. SARE. In prep.(not yet published)
 SARE Crop Rotations on Organic Farms, A Planning Manual, Charles Mohler and Sue Ellen Johnson,
editors.
Resources - Planning
 The Twin Oaks Harvest Calendar by Starting Date and by Crop are available
as pdfs on my website
sustainablemarketfarming.com/2013/11/07/growing-for-market-articles-2/
 AgSquared online planning software: agsquared.com
 COG-Pro record-keeping software for Certified Organic Farms: cog-pro.com
 Free open-source database crop planning software
code.google.com/p/cropplanning.
 Mother Earth News interactive Vegetable Garden Planner, free for 30 days:
motherearthnews.com/garden-planner.
 Target Harvest Date Calculator: (Excel spreadsheet) johnnyseeds.com/t-
InteractiveTools.aspx
 Growing Small Farms: growingsmallfarms.ces.ncsu.edu click Farmer
Resources, Farm Planning and Recordkeeping to download Joel Gruver’s
spreadsheets. Debbie Roos keeps this site up to the minute.
 Mark Cain www.drippingspringsgarden.com under the CSA tab, you can
download their Harvest Schedule. Notebook-based system.
Resources – Detailed Planning
 Tables of likely crop yields johnnyseeds.com/assets/information/vegetablecharts.pdf.
 gardensofeden.org/04%20Crop%20Yield%20Verification.htm two charts, one of organic
crops from The Owner-Built Homestead by Ken & Barbara Kern, one from California.
 Determining Prices for CSA Share Boxes Iowa State U
extension.iastate.edu/agdm/wholefarm/pdf/c5-19.pdf
 New England Vegetable Management Guide Crop Budgets
http://nevegetable.org/cultural-practices/crop-budgets
 Clif Slade’s 43560 Project: Virginia Association for Biological Farming newsletter
vabf.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/clif-slade-43560-demo-project.pdf.
 USDA annual vegetable consumption www.usda.gov/factbook/chapter2.pdf
 John Jeavons How to Grow More Vegetables has charts: Pounds Consumed per Year by the
Average Person in the US and Average US Yield in Pounds per 100 Square Feet.
 The Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at the UC Santa Cruz Crop Plan
for a Hundred-Member CSA, for a range of 36 crops in its Unit 4.5 CSA Crop Planning:
casfs.ucsc.edu/education/instructional-resources/downloadable-pdf-files2 or directly at
63.249.122.224/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/4.5_CSA_crop_plan.pdf
 Jean-Paul Courtens , Roxbury Farm www.roxburyfarm.com. Information for Farmers tab,
100 Member CSA Plan, including a Weekly Share Plan, Greenhouse Schedule, and Field
Planting and Seeding Schedule (with charts of possible crop yields). Courtens is also willing
to send you their 1,100-member schedule.
Crop Planning for Sustainable
Vegetable Production
Closing the planning circle: produce crops when you want
them and in the right quantities; sell them where and
when you need to and support yourself with a rewarding
livelihood while replenishing the soil.
©Pam Dawling, 2016
Author of Sustainable Market Farming
SustainableMarketFarming.com
facebook.com/SustainableMarketFarming

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Crop planning for sustainable vegetable production 2016 Pam Dawling

  • 1. Crop Planning for Sustainable Vegetable Production Closing the planning circle: produce crops when you want them and in the right quantities; sell them where and when you need to and support yourself with a rewarding livelihood while replenishing the soil. ©Pam Dawling, 2016 Author of Sustainable Market Farming SustainableMarketFarming.com facebook.com/SustainableMarketFarming
  • 2. What’s in This Presentation • Why make detailed plans? • How to plan? Helpful tools • Step by step planning. 12 steps 1. How much money 2. Which markets to sell at 3. Which crops to grow 4. Harvest schedule 5. How much to plant 6. Field Planting schedule 7. Seedling/Transplant schedule 8. Maps 9. Packing more in 10. Adjust and tweak 11. Plan B 12. Next Year’s Better Plan • Lots of Resources
  • 3. Why Plan? On-farm Rewards ҉Plan in the winter, farm in the growing season! ҉Make the most productive use of your land. ҉Pace yourself, enjoy your life! ҉Reduce stress and confusion ҉Become a better farmer - keep good records, make good plans. ҉Invest in your future - Planning gets easier each year – just tweak last year’s plan.
  • 4. Market Rewards for Planning ҉ Earn a living! ҉ Enjoy the satisfaction of full CSA bags, groaning tables every week! ҉ Enjoy your great reputation providing what customers want. ҉ Enjoy having information at your fingertips - when broccoli will start, or cucumbers end. ҉ Achieve balance each week: some leafy crop, something brightly colored, something bulky and filling, something new, something highly flavored. ҉ Use your full market season, all your opportunities.
  • 5. How to Plan? Helpful tools • Be clear about your goals (before choosing tools). • Design a system you like, so you’ll use it. • Do you prefer clipboards, computers, or photos? • There are Web-based Tools, Spreadsheets, Worksheets and Notebooks • Build in the ability to adapt the plan if conditions change.
  • 6. Web-based Planning AgSquared online planning software: www.agsquared.com includes a free trial. • If you already have your plans on spreadsheets, you can import them into AgSquared – you don’t have to start over. • “Smart scheduling” Once you’ve got your information in there, you can adjust a date or row length and the changes will automatically be made to the other relevant spreadsheets. • Space for record-keeping is vast - you can include comments on the weather, pests, soil observations etc which might be helpful later.
  • 8. COG-Pro is a record keeping software made for Certified Organic Farms. The planning tools include prompts for info needed for certification. It uses a simple tabbed notebook visual and generates reports for the certification process.
  • 9. Spreadsheets • Make your own, or copy others – see Resources at end • During the year we follow printed sheets - don’t often need the computer. • The program does the calculations. • Quickly sort out selected parts of the information and rearrange it
  • 10. Spreadsheets from Johnny’s Johnny’s Selected Seeds has spreadsheet based tools available at http://www.johnnyseeds.com/t-InteractiveTools.aspx
  • 11. Crop Planning for Vegetable Gardens There are also smaller scale on-line planners: • Gardenplanner.southernexposure.com • Gardenplanner.motherearthnews.com There is also an app:  Gardenplanpro.com
  • 12. Worksheets • Cindy Conner explains worksheets in her book Grow a Sustainable Diet. • She also sells a DVD/CD set Develop a Sustainable Vegetable Garden Plan. Aimed primarily at homesteaders, the steps help you figure how many seeds and plants you need, when to plant and where, and when to expect a harvest. • Mark Cain www.drippingspringsgarden.com and Daniel Brisebois and Frédéric Thériault Crop Planning for Organic Vegetable Growers, are other good sources for ideas on worksheets.
  • 13. Planning is Circular, Just Like Farming 1. How much money do you need to earn? 2. Which markets to sell at 3. Which crops to grow 4. How much of what to harvest when: Harvest Schedule 5. How much to grow to achieve your harvest goals 6. Calculate sowing dates to meet harvest dates: Field Planting Schedule7. When to sow for transplants: Seedlings Schedule 8. Where to plant each sowing of each crop: Maps 9. Packing more in: succession plantings, intercropping, relay planting, double cropping 10. Adjust to make your best possible plan 11. What to do if something goes wrong: Plan B 12. Record results for next year’s Better Plan
  • 14. Step 1. How much Money do you Need to Earn? • What are your living expenses? • What are your farm expenses? • What do you want to save for old age, rainy days, raising children, college funds. . . • The Federal Minimum Wage is $7.25/hour (Jan 2014), going up to $10.10. Just saying. . . • Do you have other sources of income?
  • 15. Setting Prices The Iowa State University publication Determining Prices for CSA Share Boxes compares pricing based on either • what customers will pay, • what other growers are selling the crop for • what it costs to produce. It includes a chart of share value of 24 crops based on grocery prices and the quantity included. Step 1
  • 16. Enterprise Budgets Vern Grubinger in Sustainable Vegetable Production from Start-up to Market explains how to make an enterprise budget for each crop. These calculations compare one crop with another, while not delving into overhead costs.  In your Crop Journal, record the amount of work done on each crop each day: o Bed prep, cultivating o Planting, mulching, staking.  Record at each harvest o weight or count of each crop, o time spent harvesting and cleaning it; o money raised from each crop each week.  At the end of the season, add up the total time for each crop o Divide the income for that crop by the time spent on it, and o divide the income for that crop by the area, or number of beds.  Aim for $400/100’ bed per season. The range could be $109-1065. Step 1
  • 17. Step 2 Which Markets will you Sell at? New growers are often advised to start with a farmers’ market rather than a CSA the first year, as you can sell a more erratic supply of crops at market. On the other hand, if you have experience from working on another farm, a commitment to careful planning, and you need that upfront beginning-of - season cash, you may decide to start a CSA right away. If you have an off-farm job to tide you over, it may be practical to leave the financial questions for a year, and build on that experience.
  • 18. Which Crops are Most Profitable? Some crops offer more money per area, some are more profitable in terms of time put in. Clifton Slade at Virginia State University in his 43560 Project aims to show how to earn $43,560 from one acre ($1 per square foot), four times the return of a typical large-scale commercial vegetable production. He recommends choosing crops which produce one vegetable head or stalk, or 1 pound of produce, per square foot, using 5’ x 300’ raised beds. Leafy crops feature prominently. Morris Heading Collards, Photo Kathryn Simmons Step 3
  • 19. Which Crops are Most Profitable? Richard Wiswall Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook Outdoor kale can produce $2463 from 1/10 acre, and of the crops he compared, only parsley and basil earned more. Field tomatoes came in at $1872, and several vegetables (bush beans, sweet corn, peas) made a loss. Vates kale. Photo Kathryn Simmons Step 3
  • 20. Which Crops Take Most Attention? Steve Solomon in Gardening When it Counts provides tables of vegetable crops by the level of care they require. His Difficult list includes Bulb onions, leeks, Chinese cabbage, asparagus, celery and celeriac, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, early cabbage and cantaloupe. Onion bed. Photo Kathryn Simmons Step 3
  • 21. Consider Flowers as well as Vegetables Mark Cain of Dripping Springs Garden, Arkansas:  50% of their growing area in cut flowers and 50% in vegetables.  The cut flowers bring in 75% of the income. Photo Tom Freeman, Twin Oaks Flowers Step 3
  • 22. Step 3 Reasons to Grow some Crops that Don’t Make the Highest Income  provide a good crop rotation for your farm,  provide diversity (customers will only buy so much parsley and basil).  provide for different times of year, even for the whole year.  Kohlrabi. Photo McCune Porter
  • 23. Step 4 How Much to Harvest  The average person eats 160-200 pounds of fresh vegetables per year (USDA)  the average CSA share feeds 2 or 3 people,  an annual share will need to include about 500 pounds of 40- 50 different vegetables, distributed, say, once a week for 8 months and once a month for 4 months.  Many CSAs have a shorter season than this – your call. Photo Bridget Aleshire
  • 24. Step 4 Your Harvest Schedule • Decide which crops you want to harvest when, how often and over what length of time, including quantities. • For a CSA, make a Share Schedule, telling sharers what to expect when. • Multiply that up, add a margin for culls and failures, and list how much of each crop to have ready for harvest each week.
  • 25. Resources for Quantity Calculations • The Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at UC Santa Cruz: – Crop Plan for a Hundred-Member CSA, with planting requirements for 36 crops • Jean-Paul Courtens of Roxbury Farm, Kinderhook, New York: – On his website, you’ll find the 100 Member CSA Plan, including a Weekly Share Plan, Greenhouse Schedule, and Field Planting and Seeding Schedule (with charts of possible crop yields). Step 4
  • 26. Step 5 How Much to Grow to Achieve Your Harvest Goals Take likely yields and add a margin for culls and failures (10%?). The table I provide in Sustainable Market Farming lists 48 crops, with likely yield, quantity required for 100 CSA shares, and length of row needed to grow this amount.
  • 27. More Resources on Yields • Some seed companies have tables of likely yields in their catalogs. • Elizabeth Henderson and Robyn Van En Sharing the Harvest. • John Jeavons How to Grow More Vegetables has charts: – Pounds Consumed per Year by the Average Person in the US – Average US Yield in Pounds per 100 Square Feet. – These are particularly useful to small-scale growers, and can be multiplied up by others. Spring brassicas at Twin Oaks. Photo McCune Porter Step 5
  • 28. Step 6 Harvest Dates Sowing Dates When to sow to meet the harvest dates?  Find the number of days to maturity (from the catalog).  Is that number from seeding to harvest or transplant to harvest?  Work back from each target harvest date, subtracting days to maturity, to give the planting date.  Days to maturity in catalogs are generally for spring planting once conditions have warmed to the usual range for that crop. ‒ If you are starting very early, add about 14 days - seedlings grow slower when cold. ‒ In summer crops mature sooner than in spring. ‒ When growing late into the fall, add about 14 days for the slowdown.
  • 29. Days to Maturity • “Days to Maturity” usually means “Days to First Harvest” which may not be the same as “Days to Full Harvest”. • With carrots it doesn’t matter exactly what size they are, but an unripe eggplant is just no good. • With CSAs, you can distribute eggplant to some sharers one week, and others the next, although keeping track involves more work. • If it’s important to have a plentiful harvest when you do start, add another 7-14 days. Carrot photo Kathryn Simmons Step 6
  • 30. Decide whether to Sow or Transplant Photo Kathryn Simmons  Choose high-yielding varieties suited to your climate, budget, certification and market  Buy seeds or starts? Is what you want available as plants? Do you need Organic? Is the price worthwhile? Money vs labor.  Do you have the equipment to grow transplants? Step 6
  • 31. Direct Seeding Pros and Cons Photo Kathryn Simmons • Pros – Less work than transplanting – Less money compared to buying starts – No need for a greenhouse and equipment – Better drought tolerance – roots grow without damage – Some crops don’t transplant easily – Some crops have millions of plants! (Carrots) • Cons – Uses more seed – Uses more time thinning – Occupies the land longer – Maybe harder to get started in cold (or hot) conditions Step 6
  • 32. Getting the Best from Direct Sowing  Good soil conditions lead to even germination: tilth (size of particles), moisture  Decide by soil temperature, not calendar. New Seed Starter’s Handbook.  Correct depth and sowing density  Good seed contact with soil: tamp lightly  Good tools: EarthWay, precision seeders, hoes, jab planters for large seeds, tractor seed drills. • Photo Bridget Aleshire Step 6
  • 33. Transplanting Pros and Cons Pros • Start earlier than outside, get earlier harvests • Start seed in more ideal conditions in greenhouse, better germination, more fun! • Easier to care for new seedlings in a greenhouse • Protected plants grow quicker • Select sturdiest plants, compost the rest • More flexibility if weather turns bad. Plants still grow! • Fit more crops into the season • Use time windows for quick cover crops • Save on seed costs Cons • Extra time caring for the starts • Transplant shock can delay harvest • More attention needed to watering new plants Photo Kathryn Simmons Step 6
  • 34. Getting the Best from Transplanting  Roots need space. Open flats, plug trays, soil blocks, bare root plants.  Transplant shock is less for plants with good root systems - harvest starts sooner.  Good seed compost  Use a soil thermometer, not a calendar, to decide when to plant out tender plants. Don’t rush them!  Measure and mark the correct spacing: tractor equipment, rolling dibbles, row marker rake, measuring sticks and triangles, span of finger and thumb.  Ideal conditions for transplanting are mild windless afternoons and evenings just before (or during!) light steady rain.  Transplanting late in the day gives the plant a chance to recover during the cooler night hours - the rate of water loss is slower.  Shadecloth or rowcover can be used to reduce the drying effects of wind and sun. Step 6
  • 35. Transplant Age and Size Vegetable Notes Ideal Age at Transplanting Cucumbers, melons, squash 2 true leaves max (maybe less) 3–4 weeks Watermelons (older is OK) 3–4 weeks Sweet Corn 3–4 weeks Tomatoes age is less important 4–8 weeks Lettuce 4–7 weeks Brassicas 5 true leaves is ideal 6–8 weeks spring/ 3–4 weeks summer Peppers & eggplant 4 or 5 true leaves, not flowering 6–8 weeks Onions (spring sown) & leeks 10–12 weeks Celery 10–12 weeks Step 6
  • 36. Field Planting Schedule Draw up your list of outdoor planting dates, along with varieties, row feet, spacing, notes and space to write down what you actually do. Step 6
  • 37. Step 7 When to Sow for Transplants  If the crop is to be transplanted and the catalog doesn’t include the time to grow the transplant, add that. See Sustainable Market Farming  Use your own experience or the catalog information, or somewhere in between  In future years you will have your own records to customize your calculations  Extract the dates to sow for transplants, and make your Seedlings Schedule Seedlings in Twin Oaks Greenhouse Photo Kathryn Simmons
  • 38. Seedlings Schedule Step 7 Pepper transplants. Photo Kathryn Simmons
  • 39. Step 8 Maps  Where in the fields to plant each sowing of each crop ?  Start filling your map with your major crops remembering crop rotation and cover cropping considerations. Note the spaces for squeezing in other crops
  • 40. Crop Spacing Yield is related to plant density.  Area per plant is the important bit, not particular row spacing.  There is a balance point at which the plant density provides the maximum total yield. At that density some plants will be too small to use. That’s taken into account when calculating yield.  Crop size (do customers want big carrots or small carrots?)  Disease control (humidity and molds)  Preferred layout (beds with equidistant plants, or rows).  Ease of cultivation (tractor equipment, hoes, horses) and irrigation  For large plants such as okra or eggplant, it makes more sense to plant a single row in a bed and have the plants close together in that row, in a “hedge.” Photo of Morris Heading Collards by Kathryn Simmons Step 8
  • 41. Optimal Crop Spacing for Various Goals Crop Row spacing In-row spacing Notes Beets 7" (18 cm) 4" (10 cm) For early harvest 12" (30 cm) 1" (2.5 cm) For max total yield (small). 2" (5 cm) for bigger beets Beans, fava 18" (45 cm) 4.5" (11 cm) For tall varieties. Beans, green 18" (45 cm) 2" (5 cm) 12" (30cm) × 3" (7.5 cm) gives the same area/plant Broccoli (Calabrese) 12" (30cm) 6" (15 cm) For equal amounts of heads and side shoots Cabbage 14" (35 cm) 14" (35 cm) For small heads 18" (45 cm) 18" (45 cm) For large heads Carrots 6" (15 cm) 4" (10 cm) For early crops, limiting competition 6" (15 cm) 1.5" (4 cm) For maincrop, medium size roots Celery 11" (28 cm) 11" (28 cm) For high yields and mutual blanching Cucumber (pickling) 20" (51 cm) 3" (8 cm) Leeks 12" (30 cm) 6" (15 cm) Max yield of hilled up leeks, average size Lettuce 9" (23 cm) 8" (20 cm) Early crops under cover 12" (30 cm) 12" (30 cm) Head lettuce 5" (13 cm) 1" (2.5 cm) Baby lettuce mix Onions 12" (30 cm) 1.5" (4 cm) For medium size bulbs 12" (30 cm) 0.5" (1 cm) For boiling, pickling, kebabs Parsnips 12" (30 cm) 6" (15 cm) For high yields of large roots 7.5" (19 cm) 3" (8 cm) For smaller roots Peas, shelling 18" (46 cm) 4.5" (11.5 cm) Can sow in double or triple bands, 4.5" (11.5 cm) apart Potatoes 30" (76 cm) 9-16" (23–41 cm) Depends on size of seed pieces; small pieces closer Sweet Corn 30-36" (76–90 cm) 8" (20 cm) Closer than 8" (20 cm) the plants shade each other. Tomatoes, bush types 19" (48 cm) 19" (48 cm) For early crops Watermelon 66" (168 cm) 12–24" (30–60 cm) For small varieties. 5–10 ft2 (0.5–1 m2) each 66" (168 cm) 30–84" (76–215 cm) For large varieties. 13–40 ft2 (1.2–3.7 m2) each Step 8
  • 42. Step 9 Packing More in: Intercropping, Relay Planting and Double Cropping • Promptly clearing short term crops like beans or cucumbers helps with pest and disease control and opens up the space for double-cropping or for more cover crops to replenish the soil • Fast growing crops like lettuce, radishes and greens can be planted between or alongside slower-growing crops to generate more income and diversity • We grow peas with spinach, peanuts with lettuce, okra with cabbage Tyee spinach in a relay with snap peas. Photo Kathryn Simmons
  • 43. Season Extension in Every Season Advantages and disadvantages in time and money  Growing earlier crops in spring: o Choose fast-maturing hardy varieties o Warm microclimates o Transplants o Rowcovers, low tunnels, Quick Hoops, high tunnels (= hoophouses)  Extending the growth of cool-weather crops into summer: o Learn how to germinate seeds in hot weather o Shadecloth o ProtekNet to keep bugs off o Intercropping allows a new crop to establish in the shade of the old one  Extending the survival of frost-tender crops beyond the first fall frosts o Rowcover o Minimizing frost damage  Growing cold-hardy winter vegetables Step 9 For details, see my slide show Cold-Hardy Winter Vegetables on SlideShare.net
  • 44. Step 9 Packing More in Find Space for Succession Crops: • Beans, edamame, cucumbers, melons , squash, sweet corn can be produced through the frost-free period, if you sow several times. • Beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, collards, kale, spinach can be grown in spring and again in the fall in the Southeast. • Lettuce can be grown year-round • Lettuce, spinach, turnips, radishes, scallions, tatsoi and some other Asian greens can be sown in succession in the winter hoophouse
  • 45. Step 9 Packing More in Succession Crops Planning Chart • We list the spare spaces in the plots (in order of availability) • and the crops we hope to plant (in date order) • Then we pencil in arrows, fitting the succession crops into the spaces available.
  • 46. Succession Crop Scheduling • Plan sowing dates for even, continuous supplies of popular summer crops, such as beans, squash, cucumbers, sweet corn; year round lettuce and winter hoophouse greens. • Length of time from sowing to harvest varies according to temperature (and day length in some cases). • Planting squash once a month will not provide an even supply. • Keep records and use information from other growers in your area to fine-tune planting dates. Photo Credit: Kathryn Simmons. For all the details, see my slideshow Succession Planting for Continuous Harvests on SlideShare.net Step 9
  • 47. Several Approaches to Succession Crop Planning – which suits you? 1. Rough plan: “every two weeks” 2. “No paperwork” methods 3. Sow several varieties on the same day 4. Plan a sequence of sowings to provide an even supply, using graphs 5. Use Accumulated Growing Degree Days data Squash drawing by Jessie Doyle Step 9
  • 48. Rough Plan: Every 2 weeks for beans and corn, Every 3 weeks for squash and cucumbers and edamame Every 4 weeks for carrots 2 or 3 plantings of muskmelons (cantaloupes) at least a month apart. CREDIT: Kathryn Simmons. Step 9
  • 49. “No Paperwork” Methods • Sow another planting of sweet corn when the previous one is 1”–2" tall • Sow more lettuce when the previous sowing germinates • Sow more beans when the young plants start to straighten up from their hooked stage Step 9
  • 50. Sow Several Varieties on One Day Use varieties with different days-to-maturity sown on the same day. We do this with broccoli, lettuce, sweet corn. Step 9
  • 51. Make a Graph - 6 Steps 1. Gather Sowing and Harvest Start Dates for each planting of each crop. 2. Make a graph for each crop: sowing date along the horizontal (x) axis and harvest start date along the vertical (y) axis. Mark in all your data. 3. Mark the first possible sowing date and find the harvest start date for that. 4. Decide the last worthwhile harvest start date, mark that. 5. Then divide the harvest period into a whole number of segments, according to how often you want a new patch. 6. Figure the sowing dates needed to match your chosen harvest start dates For details of this method see Succession Planting on SlideShare.net Step 9
  • 53. Year Round Lettuce Part 1 Photo Credits Kathryn Simmons The short version is that we sow • twice in January, • twice in February, • every 10 days in March, • every 9 days in April, • every 8 days in May, • every 6-7 days in June and July, Step 9
  • 54. Year Round Lettuce Part 2 Photo Credits Kathryn Simmons • every 5 days in early August, • moving to every 3 days in late August, • every other day until Sept 21. • After that we ease back to every 3 days until the end of September. Those last plants could feed us right through the winter. Step 9
  • 55. Winter Succession Crops in the Hoophouse To provide continuous supplies of salad and cooking greens, as well as radishes and small turnips, we plan successions of winter hoophouse crops. For details, see my slideshow Hoophouse in Fall and Winter on SlideShare.net Step 9
  • 56. Step 10 Look at the Overview - Tweak to Make Your Best Possible Plan • Can’t fit everything in? Drop crops or change your plant quantities? • Always keep your highest priorities in mind – best markets, signature crops, personal needs. • Use all available space for food crops or cover crops • Check timings of seedlings – do you have enough germinating capacity? • Is it physically possible to do all the transplanting you plan in the time allotted? • Simplify planting dates, eg squash and cucumbers on the same days. Photo credit Kathryn Simmons
  • 57. Step 11 What to Do if Something Goes Wrong: Plan B Have a brainstorm list to help deal with disasters:  Do immediate damage control to stop the problem getting worse  Ask for help from sharers, neighbors, kids,  Salvage anything you can and process it in some way to sell later.  Plant some quick-growing crops to substitute for crop failures  Buy from other local growers to tide you over  Team up with other growers, share a market booth, save on the rent  Write down what went wrong and why, so you don’t have the same problem next year Senposai can be harvested 40 days from sowing. Photo Kathryn Simmons
  • 58. Step 12 Record Results for Next Year’s Better Plan: • Make recording easy to do • Have a daily practice of writing down what was done that day • Allow time for that, without losing much of your lunch break • Delegate to reliable people • During the main growing season, we don’t do a lot of paperwork. We record planting dates and harvest start and finish dates. • At the beginning of the winter, have a Crop Review Meeting, discuss and write up what worked and what didn’t, to learn from the experience and do better next year. • Adjust dates to halfway between last year’s plan and whatever actually happened - gradually zero in on the likely date without wild pendulum swings based on variable weather.
  • 59. Resources - General  ATTRA attra.ncat.org Market Farming: A Start-up Guide, Plugs and Transplant Production for Organic Systems, Scheduling Vegetable Plantings for a Continuous Harvest, Intercropping Principles and Production Practices (mostly field crops, but the same principles apply to vegetable crops), Season Extension Techniques for Market Farmers, and many other great publications.  SARE sare.org -A searchable database of research findings. Available to download: Using Cover Crops Profitably and Crop Rotations on Organic Farms, A Planning Manual  extension.org/organic_production http://www. eOrganic.info. The organic agriculture community with eXtension. Publications, webinars, videos, trainings and support. An expanding, accessible source of reliable information.  Growing Small Farms: growingsmallfarms.ces.ncsu.edu Click Farmer Resources. Debbie Roos keeps this site up to the minute. Includes Farm Planning and Recordkeeping  Southwest Florida Research and Education Center, www.imok.ufl.edu/programs/vegetable-hort/research-extension-ozores/veg-transplant/ (Information on age of transplants, container size, biological control for pests, diseases, hardening off, plant size, planting depth and temperature. )
  • 60. Resources - Slideshows  Many of my presentations are available at www.Slideshare.net . Search for Pam Dawling. You’ll find  Cold-hardy Winter Vegetables  Crop Planning for Sustainable Vegetable Production  Crop Rotations  Fall and Winter Hoophouses  Fall Vegetable Production  Intensive vegetable Production on a Small Scale  Succession Planting for Continuous Vegetable Harvests  Spring and Summer Hoophouses  Mark Cain Planning for Your CSA: www.Slideshare.net (search for Crop Planning)  Farm Planning for a Full Market Season Tom Peterson, Appalachian Farmers Market Association and Appalachian Sustainable Development http://vabf.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/tom-peterson- farm-planning-for-a-full-market-season.pdf  Cultural Practices And Cultivar Selections for Commercial Vegetable Growers. Brad Burgefurd, Wide scope. www.slideshare.net/guest6e1a8d60/vegetable-cultural-practices-and-variety-selection  Planning the Planting of Cover Crops and Cash Crops, Daniel Parson SSAWG 2012 www.slideshare.net/parsonproduce/southern-sawg  Cover Crop Innovation by Joel B Gruver www.Slideshare.net  Cover crops for vegetable cropping systems, Joel Gruver, www.slideshare.net/jbgruver/cover-crops-for-vegetable-crops  Finding the best fit: cover crops in organic farming systems. Joel Gruver. Some overlap with previous slideshow. www.slideshare.net/jbgruver/cover-crops-decatur
  • 61. Resources - Books  The Market Gardener, Jean-Martin Fortier, New Society Publishers  The Complete Know and Grow Vegetables, J K A Bleasdale, P J Salter et al.  Knott’s Handbook for Vegetable Growers, Maynard and Hochmuth  The New Seed Starter’s Handbook, Nancy Bubel, Rodale Books  The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook, Richard Wiswall, Chelsea Green  Sustainable Vegetable Production from Start-up to Market, Vern Grubinger,  The New Organic Grower, Eliot Coleman, Chelsea Green  Extending the Season: Six Strategies for Improving Cash Flow Year-Round on the Market Farm a free e- book for online subscribers to Growing for Market magazine  Sharing the Harvest, Elizabeth Henderson and Robyn Van En  Gardening When it Counts, Steve Solomon  Grow a Sustainable Diet: Planning and Growing to Feed Ourselves and the Earth, Cindy Conner, New Society Publishers, (worksheet based). DVD/CD set Develop a Sustainable Vegetable Garden Plan  Crop Planning for Organic Vegetable Growers, Daniel Brisebois and Frédéric Thériault (Canadian Organic Growers www.cog.ca)  Nature and Properties of Soils, fourteenth edition, Nyle Brady and Ray Weil  Garden Insects of North America, Whitney Cranshaw  Managing Weeds on your Farm: A Guide to Ecological Strategies. Charles Mohler and Antonio DiTommaso. SARE. In prep.(not yet published)  SARE Crop Rotations on Organic Farms, A Planning Manual, Charles Mohler and Sue Ellen Johnson, editors.
  • 62. Resources - Planning  The Twin Oaks Harvest Calendar by Starting Date and by Crop are available as pdfs on my website sustainablemarketfarming.com/2013/11/07/growing-for-market-articles-2/  AgSquared online planning software: agsquared.com  COG-Pro record-keeping software for Certified Organic Farms: cog-pro.com  Free open-source database crop planning software code.google.com/p/cropplanning.  Mother Earth News interactive Vegetable Garden Planner, free for 30 days: motherearthnews.com/garden-planner.  Target Harvest Date Calculator: (Excel spreadsheet) johnnyseeds.com/t- InteractiveTools.aspx  Growing Small Farms: growingsmallfarms.ces.ncsu.edu click Farmer Resources, Farm Planning and Recordkeeping to download Joel Gruver’s spreadsheets. Debbie Roos keeps this site up to the minute.  Mark Cain www.drippingspringsgarden.com under the CSA tab, you can download their Harvest Schedule. Notebook-based system.
  • 63. Resources – Detailed Planning  Tables of likely crop yields johnnyseeds.com/assets/information/vegetablecharts.pdf.  gardensofeden.org/04%20Crop%20Yield%20Verification.htm two charts, one of organic crops from The Owner-Built Homestead by Ken & Barbara Kern, one from California.  Determining Prices for CSA Share Boxes Iowa State U extension.iastate.edu/agdm/wholefarm/pdf/c5-19.pdf  New England Vegetable Management Guide Crop Budgets http://nevegetable.org/cultural-practices/crop-budgets  Clif Slade’s 43560 Project: Virginia Association for Biological Farming newsletter vabf.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/clif-slade-43560-demo-project.pdf.  USDA annual vegetable consumption www.usda.gov/factbook/chapter2.pdf  John Jeavons How to Grow More Vegetables has charts: Pounds Consumed per Year by the Average Person in the US and Average US Yield in Pounds per 100 Square Feet.  The Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at the UC Santa Cruz Crop Plan for a Hundred-Member CSA, for a range of 36 crops in its Unit 4.5 CSA Crop Planning: casfs.ucsc.edu/education/instructional-resources/downloadable-pdf-files2 or directly at 63.249.122.224/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/4.5_CSA_crop_plan.pdf  Jean-Paul Courtens , Roxbury Farm www.roxburyfarm.com. Information for Farmers tab, 100 Member CSA Plan, including a Weekly Share Plan, Greenhouse Schedule, and Field Planting and Seeding Schedule (with charts of possible crop yields). Courtens is also willing to send you their 1,100-member schedule.
  • 64. Crop Planning for Sustainable Vegetable Production Closing the planning circle: produce crops when you want them and in the right quantities; sell them where and when you need to and support yourself with a rewarding livelihood while replenishing the soil. ©Pam Dawling, 2016 Author of Sustainable Market Farming SustainableMarketFarming.com facebook.com/SustainableMarketFarming

Editor's Notes

  1. Carrots provide the same maximum yield at very different densities. The weight of tiny carrots from very crowded beds can be the same as the weight of giant carrots from carefully cultivated and thinned beds (or from precision-sown pelleted seed).
  2. Silver Queen.
  3. There are methods of succession planting that involve no paperwork. This one uses the size of the previous sowing as a cue for when to make the next planting
  4. Draw a smooth line.
  5. Allow time for writing