There are some terms we year-round gardeners throw around pretty easily and “catch crop” is one of them. It sounds complicated, but is actually very simple. A catch crop is a fast-growing, quickly maturing crop that can be grown between cold season (winter) and warm season (summer) crops. January is most definitely too early to plant any warm weather crops like tomatoes, pole beans, and peppers, BUT that doesn’t mean it’s too early to plant at all. There’s a long list of plants that can be sown in January and February. The key is making sure these plants mature quickly so you can clear out your beds by April and May when it’s time to transplant the tomatoes and other warm weather crops into your beds. Here’s a fairly comprehensive, but not exhaustive list: radish, snow peas, lettuces, mesclun mix, tatsoi mustard greens, bok choi, broccoli rabe, cilantro, parsley, endive, radicchio, mache, arugula, baby chard, and spinach. You can also try starting longer season crops that do okay in warm weather such as carrots and some varieties of cabbage, but you just need to be ready to reserve that bed space for those plants through most of the summer. We’ve cataloged our catch crop planting this year with photos.
There is no way to beat the succulent, FRESH greens this time of year and with so many creative ways to eat them cooked and uncooked you’ll find yourself wishing for a few more cold days before the heat of summer kicks in.
For a great recipe using the radish and radish tops in a hot dish check out this post from last year: https://growingspaces.com/an-entirely-new-canvas/
Author: Stacey L. L. Couch