Courtesy of Wally S., Wally’s Urban Market Garden, Saskatoon SK
Now that the season is in full swing I’m hearing from beginning SPIN farmers who have their relays in play. One recently wrote:
“For loose leaf lettuces and spinach, I know they will produce for a long while after they are planted as long as you leave at least 1/4 of the plant. Are you saying that we should harvest the entirety of the plant at once and proceed with the next plant in the relay? With spinach and lettuce I know they will continuously produce, and I just can’t see where it makes sense financially to harvest the lot at once and relay. I’m just trying to look at it from a profit standpoint “
There’s no better way to look at it, and the way to play relays is this. Once a bed is finished being harvested, then it is relayed. The harvesting of the bed may occur over several weeks, or longer, say in the case of dill. You should make as much income as you can from that bed, and get as many harvests as you can, but when the crop is harvested to “completion”, at that point you relay.
Some crops do wear out. In my experience, spinach does not produce continuously. I usually takes two cuts, spaced a week or two apart. Then I relay to a different crop.
Another category of crop are those that typically produce for the entire summer and into fall, such as chard and kale. No relay, just perpetual harvest. These are planted in the single crop area of a SPIN farm.
With any system, including SPIN, you always need to be thinking and adapting it to what makes sense to you, and what works for you in your particular situation. With crops, once you get a feel for when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em, you’ll be well on your way to a winning season.