Dig up the plants as soon as their main production is over and replace them with seedlings for a different crop. As the weather warms, cool-season crops, such as peas, are completing their production. Have young squash or cucumber plants ready to take their place on the trellis. As soon as the broccoli is finished, have tomato plants ready to take its place in the bed. A planting area that's never idle produces a surprising amount of food.
1. After seedlings have developed two or three sets of leaves, they'll be crowded and need thinning. Remove extra plants to achieve the correct spacing and allow the remaining plants room to grow.
2. Thin a crop of young plants by snipping off the stems at the soil surface. For larger plants, this is preferable to pulling them, when you might damage the roots of neighboring plants.
Soil that produces a steady flow of produce over several months needs help, because a succession of crops inevitably depletes the soil of nutrients. They must be replaced to maintain production over the entire season -- plus an extended season. Mix a granular, slow-acting fertilizer into the soil when you first prepare the bed. This food provides a large portion of the nutrients needed for plant growth over several weeks.
1. Immediately replace exhausted early-season crops with seedlings for the next crop. This follow-up procedure, called succession planting, achieves maximum production from the garden space.
2. Between succession plantings, cultivate the soil to aerate and level it. Clean up old plant debris before replanting. Add granular fertilizer if previous crops, such as tomatoes, were heavy feeders.
Cool-season vegetables can handle the chill of early spring and late fall. They fade rapidly when the warmth arrives in early summer and eventually succumb to freezing in winter. They're ideal for extended-season growing. Vegetables that don't mind being chilly, such as peas, broccoli, and spinach, make it possible for you to have two crops a year -- one in spring, another in fall. Often the second crop, at the onset of winter, is the one that you're happy to put into the freezer.
Try these cool-season vegetables: