When I began planting my own vegetables practically the moment I left my parents' house and moved into my own, I subscribed to the common practice of planting my garden Memorial Day weekend and calling it finished.
Now I can't imagine limiting myself to one basic planting during the season, even as I see others doing just that.
''I got my garden in,'' is the common phrase shortly after the first week of June.
This usually means the rest of the season is devoted to weeding, watering, sometimes feeding and finally harvesting. Once the green beans have finished their job, the plants are pulled up and the space is left vacant. Once the radishes, lettuce and spinach have bolted in the heat of mid-summer, they too are pulled up and tossed on the compost heap, leaving behind a big empty space that usually stays empty. I'm not sure why this happens.
It could be because people don't want to do any more gardening than they have to, but I think the real reason is people don't realize some plants don't mind a bit of frosty weather. Just because nights get cold in September, there are still plenty of things that can get a second chance.
The method is called succession planting and once a gardener gets into the habit of filling empty spaces with new plants or seeds, it can be amazing how much produce even a small garden can put out in one season.
It takes a bit of practice and there will most likely be some trial and error, but after a while succession planting becomes habitual. The key is to learn what plants will have enough time to mature before the season ends. Many vegetables can withstand a few light frosts.
Cool weather vegetables, such as beets, lettuce, spinach, radishes, scallions and mixed spring greens, grow quickly. They can be harvested young and in the case of greens, can be recut a few times. Once these crops have been harvested, another successive planting of the same or another short-season vegetable can go into the ground in its place.
If space isn't an issue, planting extra rows of these vegetables a couple weeks apart also will ensure a continual harvest. When the hot weather takes them out of the garden by mid-June and early July, short season hot weather plants can go in.
These will include more plantings of beets, green beans, cucumbers, zucchini and summer squash. These vegetables are frost sensitive, but they mature quickly and can be harvested in 60 days or less, depending on the variety.
Avid gardeners enjoy starting seeds indoors to have transplants ready to go into the ground as soon as one crop is finished. Putting transplants into the ground instead of seeds gives plants a head start to maturity and stretches the growing season.
Vegetables such as greens, spinach, cabbage and Brussels sprouts will not only withstand a few frosts, but they are even sweeter after a few cold September nights. But with a few exceptions, like tomatoes and peppers, most vegetables will mature within 60 days or less. To determine when to plant, count backwards from our average frost date, which is Sept. 20, for an idea of when to plant a successive row of another vegetable.
For example, if you want to fill your freezer with green beans, you can figure they will mature in about 60 days from germination or less if you start them indoors and put plants in the ground. This means you can plant green beans as late as mid-July and still get a harvest before cold weather takes them out. If you have only enough space for one row of green beans, as soon as the first row planted at the end of May has been harvested, pull out the old plants and replace them with transplants started indoors a few weeks prior. Just make sure to add fresh compost to the planting row to replenish what the previous plants have taken from the soil.