At Good Heart Farmstead, we grow certified organic vegetables for a CSA and local restaurants.  Our harvest season begins in March with wholesale greens, kicks into high gear in June at the start of our CSA, and runs through December.  With a long season that spans Vermont’s seasons, succession planting is essential to keep the fields producing.

As a farmer, there’s a lot I look for in a crop: high-yields, pest and disease resistance, consistency, flavor, and beauty (because beautiful vegetables are so satisfying to grow and eat).

Here are a few of our favorite succession crops:

Zucchini

After years of harvesting zucchini (and subsequent scratchy arms from the spiny stems) my number one priority as a farmer is ease of harvest.  That means relatively spineless stems and an open habit that makes it easy to see the fruit.

My favorite varieties for yield, appearance, and ease of harvest are:

Midnight Lightning: the easiest to harvest, and a beautiful slender deep green.

Dunja F1: a strong disease resistance package, slightly lighter green than midnight lightning.

Cha-Ching F1: beautiful light green speckled fruit, our customers love the appearance, and we love the high yields.

We plant two successions of zucchini to keep the CSA harvest consistent.  The first one is transplanted out in mid-May for a mid-June through August harvest. The second succession is transplanted in mid-July and harvested in mid-August through September.

Bunched carrots and beets at Good Heart Farmstead.

Carrots

Carrots are one of our most popular CSA crops, and our first seeding is typically around April 19.  Subsequent successions are seeded in early May, mid-June, mid-July, and late-July, with July 25 being our last reliable seeding for storage carrots.

We sow enough for a 2-3 week harvest off each seeding; this gives us a range of sizes from baby to mature throughout the season.

Napoli F1 starts our season early and ends it sweetly.  We seed one last succession of Napoli as late as August 10 for a November harvest of mid-sized carrots.  Our long-time CSA members start talking about fall carrots in August—a testament to their frost-sweetened flavor!

Miami F1 is our main storage crop, and we love it for its quick maturity and how it sweetens in storage.  Now in June, we’re eating up the last of our Miami’s from storage just as the first succession of Napoli F1 sizes up.

Beets

We aim to harvest beets every other week, and our succession planting calendar matches that.  We transplant all our beets, starting them in soil blocks, in order to save time irrigating direct-seeded beds and to quickly flip beds from one crop to another.

Touchstone and Boro F1 beets at Good Heart Farmstead.

Our first transplant of beets happens at the end of April, and our last transplant is in by August 15.  The succession planting for our storage beets is scheduled for July 25.

Boro F1 is the mainstay variety in our fields.  It’s sweet, consistent, and a beautiful deep red.  At 50 days to maturity, it’s easy to get multiple harvests from one planting: an early harvest for baby beets, and a later one for full-size.

Touchstone Gold is my favorite variety, if for no other reason than its beauty.  It brightens up the CSA pick-up and market stand, and is stunning as an addition to a mixed bunch of beets.  Flavor-wise, it’s milder than Boro F1 and other red beets, and its greens are tender enough to eat raw, even when mature.  I’ve found that gold varieties tend to have lower germination rates than red beet varieties, but the flavor, color, and quality of the roots and tops keep Touchstone Gold in our field (and our kitchen).

Rhonda F1 is our storage beet.  In proper conditions, it can keep until spring, keeping us eating beets from storage until a new season’s first harvest is in.  Slower to mature than Boro F1, at 65-70 days to maturity, Rhonda can be seeded at the same time as Boro and harvested two weeks later.  By grouping seedings together for a staggered harvest, you streamline your workflow and increase efficiency in the field.

Lettuce

Ezrilla one-cut lettuces planted tightly to maximize space efficiency.

Baby leaf lettuce is the most important crop on our farm.  As our main wholesale crop, we’re producing it March through November for local restaurants, and extending the season more each year.  Beyond wholesale, mesclun is a favorite among our CSA members and adds greatly to the value of the share.

We seed lettuce every 7-10 days depending on the season and variety days to maturity, and grow baby leaf, one-cut, and head lettuce.

Our favorite baby leaf lettuce for the summer season is Gourmet Blend.  Its consistent germination and growth rate, paired with its ability to produce well through the heat make it a solid main season lettuce mix.

One-cut lettuces are taking a leading role in our fields more and more each year.  Because we can transplant them, the one-cuts allow us to pack successions in tighter, flipping a bed from one crop to another in one day, without having the down-time of direct-seeded germination.  We also love the loft and texture that the one-cuts add.

Our favorite is Ezrilla, a green incised variety that adds volume and weight to our salad mix.  And with a subtle sweetness, it’s super delicious, too.

In the head lettuce category, our two summer favorites are Nevada and Lovelock.  Both varieties stand up to the summer heat and sun, staying crisp through the hottest months.