December is an odd month in the garden. Crops planted in spring are coming to fruition, but some may already be petering out in the face of some long forecast, furnace-like weather. Yet there’s still plenty of warm growing months ahead. What’s a gardener to do? Succession plant, that’s what.
Warm season crops such as sweetcorn have a single cropping window, which means a limited period of time to enjoy fresh corn cobs. Unless you succession plant. Get a second sowing of corn in the ground while the original crop is half grown, and you’ll extend your harvest window by a month or more.
The same even applies for long season croppers like tomatoes, beans and loose leaf lettuces. Eventually these plants wear out and will bolt to seed, succumb to disease or simply become unproductive. By sowing a follow up crop, and perhaps a third sowing after the follow up, you can be enjoying beans and toms until season’s end. Here are some specifics for your climate zone.
In cold and warm temperate areas, plant a succession of corn, bush beans, tomatoes, zucchini, beetroot, capsicum, lettuce, Florence fennel, carrot, potato, radish, spring onion and rocket. And if you haven’t already got your cucurbits in, plant a first sowing of pumpkin, watermelon, rockmelon, squash and cucumber. If space is limited, grow things like cucumbers on a trellis. A sheet of reinforcing mesh works perfectly.
Conditions in the subtropics aren’t ideal for a wide range of vegies. Try a second sowing of sweetcorn, bush beans, loose leaf lettuce (choose a bolt resistant variety such as ‘Drunken Woman’), amaranth, and zucchini. Conditions are ripe, however, for planting fruit trees and shrubs, which should settle in nicely as wet season rains arrive. There’s plenty to choose from, but for starters try guava, mango, babaco, tamarillo, jaboticaba, pomegranate, Brazilian cherry, and whatever citrus trees take your fancy.
In arid and semi arid areas, plant only the survivors that revel in searing heat. Watermelons perform brilliantly in an inland summer, and with water available for irrigation you could also try capsicum, eggplant, chilli, basil and corn. For a super tough fruiting shrub, plant a few Australian desert limes. This native citrus handles drought, heat, and frost with aplomb, bearing masses of small piquant fruits.
Tropical gardeners, plant thoughtfully. If summer rains haven’t already arrived, they won’t be far away. Anything prone to fungal disease and/or root rots will struggle during the wet season so stick to proven performers such as corn, yams, sweet potato, rosella, okra and snake beans. Plant fruit trees as for the subtropics, along with jakfruit, lychee, durian, pummelo, carambola and mangosteen.
By: Justin Russell
First published: November 2018