You’re listening to Fish Grow Plants—A podcast all about practicing and sharing the love of aquaponics; hosted by Logan Schoolcraft.
Hello, and welcome to Fish Grow Plants! In today’s episode we are comparing the options of whole harvesting a crop versus the cut and come again method of harvesting.
This episode will get at the heart of my take on growing and harvesting. Why?
I’m a lazy grower! Why am I a lazy grower?
Well, I want to get as much out of a plant, seed, or activity as I can. That’s why I’m biased to cut and come again—I don’t have to seed, transplant, etc. time and time again. It’s like that magical money tree people talk about. Plant it once, and it keeps on producing year after year. Granted, it’s not like you do nothing, but at least it seems like there’s a lot less steps involved.
OK, I won’t go on about my biases anymore.
Let’s go over what each of these harvesting methods are and take a closer look at them than my superficial rant.
Whole harvesting is simply the concept of harvesting the whole plant. Simple, it describes what it does very nicely.
This usually entails cutting the plant off from the root, processing the plant and discarding, or composting, the root.
Pros to whole harvesting include ease or simplicity of the process. That is cut, wash, eat could literally be the process in short. For quick growing plants like greens, you can easily take a plant from field to table in a short amount of time. Also, with whole harvest, you’re getting the “first cut” or the freshest the plant has to offer, if timed right (if you’ve never had multiple cuttings of one lettuce, or and old lettuce plant, this might not make too much sense).
Some of the negatives to whole harvest include the time to do a batch of plants that are all ready at the same time. Then you have to wonder, “what am I going to do with all of this?” “where am I going to keep these?” In addition to making sure your processing and storage is quick, cool, and handling the heat well, you have to do something with the vacant holes where the plants just were. Will you simply add more plants? (You have seedlings ready to go, right?) Will you simply cover that area up? Or did you harvest everything you had and now have to figure out what to do next?….been there.
So cut and come again is pretty much as it sounds—you cut, or harvest, from the plant, and then let it grow and come back later to do the same thing. There are probably a lot of plants that can do this at a specific time in their life, but not all can do it all the time, nor will the quality of the “cut” be the same.
For some examples of cut and come again, there are the vining crops like tomatoes, cucumbers, and melons that keep producing fruit, and for the leafy greens, you have things like watercress, Malabar spinach, and to a lesser extent Swiss chard.
A few pros to cut and come again are planting a seed once and harvesting for years, or at least, throughout an entire growing season. No messing with a lot of plants each cycle to get a similar harvest. And maybe my favorite is the set it and forget it—that is if you have to leave your farm, garden, or small system, cut and come again plants will be fine. They will be a bit bigger and wilder looking, but a missed cutting here and there is no problem to them.
A few of the negatives to this method include the real estate given up. That is, if you don’t like the crop, it may be there a while, unless you ruthlessly pull it out. Another downer is some plants do age and their flavor and textures change with them. And a big negative for aquaponic growers is the root mass—figuring out how to maintain a plant from getting its roots all over the entire grow space can be a challenge. It’s a balance between output and maintenance.
Well, that’s the short and sweet version of these two methods. I’m obviously biased to the cut and come again method, but I practice both. I’ve found that it’s best to optimize your harvest for the crop in question. What do I mean?
Well, it depends on your purpose of course, but I think you get more bang for your buck by planting Swiss chard and watercress as cut and come again since they will continue to put on leafy greens after many cuts. But planting a round style cabbage as a cut and come again crop seems like a poor use of space and time.
I try to “see into the future” of how my grow space can efficiently accommodate plants that tend to harvest better whole, and those that allow me to visit them many times over. I guess it is a bit of an art and science and depends again on what your purpose is, where you are growing, and what you are growing. But it’s very doable and the rewards are quite tasty!
Take care and happy aquaponicing!
Questions! Let me have them! Do you need clarification, more information, or maybe you just have a tangent thought—send all your thoughts my way. See the website fishgrowplants.com for episode details, or just fire off an email to [email protected] and I’ll get back to you.
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This has been another episode of Fish Grow Plants—the podcast all about practicing and sharing the love of aquaponics; hosted by Logan Schoolcraft.