Cut And Come Again
by Rob Sproule
How we grow food is changing. The traditional method of planting long rows and waiting, weeding and waiting and weeding, then harvesting once they mature, is optional now. Square Foot Gardening A dynamic harvesting method, which maximizes the growing potential of the plants, is gaining popularity.
The cut-and-come-again method is about harvesting often and harvesting a little so that the plant keeps growing. It’s essentially pruning for vegetables; every time you prune it grows back fuller.
Cut and come again takes a different approach to harvesting. While traditional
gardening waits until plants are fully mature and takes it all, cut-and-come-againers harvest a small amount from the outside in.
If you’ve ever peeled off the outer half dozen leaves from your lettuce to make a salad, you’re already there.
With salad greens, wait until the outer leaves are about 3inches (8cm). Cut near the base and never yank or you’ll damage the roots. Enjoy your bounty, along with a handful of strawberries, a tomato or two and a few baby carrots, eat that day when it’s at its freshest best. Fertilize regularly. It takes a lot of energy to keep growing and growing. Ideally, splash a liquid fertilizer, like fish or kelp, directly on the leaves every 10 days.
Choose veggies with edible leaves and ones that can be harvested before maturity (ie. leaf lettuce not head lettuce). They tend to be cool weather spring plants that are cheap to grow and don’t take up much space.
Leaf lettuce is the king of cut and come again. You’ll find that cut-and-coming-again harvests usually end up on the dinner plate that day, so mix up the colours and make your salad beautiful. Red, speckled, and textured lettuce is as easy to grow as green. Best BBQ Herbs Don’t stop at just lettuce. Fill some sheltered containers with spinach, swiss chard, arugula, mizuna, spicy radicchio,and kale (which enjoys more sun). You’ll be amazed at how many salads you snip out of that container.
Money Saving Edibles is a blog post that can give you more delicious ideas.
Broccoli and rapini are ideal candidates. Snip the central crowns before they’re grocery store size and the shoots will keep coming. Green onions and celery are often overlooked cut-and-come-againers. Harvest celery from the outside in as you would with leaf lettuce. If it’s healthy, you can cut it all off at the base and it should grow again. Instead of pulling your green onions, enjoy the shoots as they start to ripen and save the onions for later. If you’re a fan of Chinese food, bok choy, gai lan (Chinese broccoli), are ideal candidates as long as they’re in a sheltered spot. Resist the urge to harvest bok choy as a leafy head, which is how it’s typically taken. Leafy herbs like basil, parsley, and chicory are the cut-and-come-againers that keep on giving. They respond to pinching by getting bushier (I think it makes them mad) and will keep growing that way until the plants get woody and bland. Bringing in the Herbs Keep pots of your favourite herbs near at hand for quick snippets while getting dinner ready.
Things to Remember
Cut-and-come-againers tend to be leafy veggies that thrive in cool weather. Plant them, either from starters or direct seed, as soon as the last frost passes (when that is, exactly, is the million dollar question). Try to give them some shade, whether from trees or nearby larger crops like sunflowers and trellises, from the afternoon sun. They’ll probably bolt in the first July heat wave, but fear not. Sow more seeds in early August to enjoy in September and October.