An easy way to prolong your harvest and use your gardening space more efficiently is by planting in succession. Succession planting is a gardening technique where you stagger your planting times throughout the growing season. Whether you use the same or different crop depends on your situation, but it’s a great way to ensure a steady supply of fresh vegetables and herbs throughout the growing season.
Succession Planting the Same Crop
If you use succession planting on one type of seed, you’ll space out your sowing by anywhere from 10 days to a few weeks, depending on the growth rates of that particular plant. This way, when you harvest your crop, you’ll have another crop ready in a few weeks, right about the time you run out of fresh produce. A good rule of thumb is to sow about a quarter of the seeds in your seed packet every two weeks.
Planting Different Crops in Succession
Take advantage of the different growth rates of various plants to maximize the use of available space and resources. For example, you can plant an early variety of lettuce in the spring, and then plant a second crop of lettuce or another vegetable once the first crop has been harvested. This can be repeated multiple times during the growing season to ensure a steady supply of fresh produce.
Other Techniques to Pair with Succession Planting
Used with other techniques, succession planting can really improve the health and productivity of your garden. By rotating your crop locations, you’ll help prevent the buildup of soil-borne diseases and keep pests from settling into one area of the garden. You can also help improve your soil health. If you have compacted soil, a series of root vegetables can help break the soil up. Following up heavy feeders like tomatoes or cabbage with beans or peas can help replenish the nutrient balance.
Companion planting, intercropping, and succession planting can be used effectively together. Ideal companions can improve each other’s productivity and keep away pests. Consider mixing slow and fast crops together, using extra space to grow baby greens or radishes while more demanding, bigger plants like Brussels sprouts have time to develop. This also can discourage weeds from growing in the spaces between plants.
Which Crops Should I Succession Plant?
Succession planting is ideal for any crop that has a relatively short growing season. It can be particularly useful for crops that produce heavily over a short period of time, such as beans or cucumbers. By staggering your plantings, you can avoid the “feast or famine” phenomenon. With a little luck, you won’t have to deal with an overwhelming glut of produce all at once or a disappointing lack of fresh veggies and herbs in the middle of the growing season.
A few of our favorites for succession planting include:
Root Vegetables: Beets, carrots, radishes, turnips, and other root vegetables can be planted successively, with new seeds sown every two to three weeks. Since harvesting root veg involves harvesting the whole plant, they are especially well suited to succession planting.
Leafy Greens: Lettuce, spinach, arugula, pak choi, and Swiss Chard can be planted successively every two to three weeks. This is an especially useful technique for enjoying tender baby greens before the plant bolts or becomes bitter.
Brassicas: Cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, kale, and cauliflower can be planted in succession, with new seeds sown every few weeks. Succession planting can help with the prevention of diseases and pests. It can also allow gardeners extra time to start seeds indoors when the seasons are changing.
Beans and Peas: Bush beans and sugar peas can be planted every two to three weeks, and as the weather changes you can replace varieties that don’t perform well in either cool or heat.
Summer Squash and Cucumbers: These plants can really overwhelm the gardener who doesn’t stagger their plantings. You may feel like all you’re doing is harvesting or baking zucchini bread and pickling cucumbers. Succession planting can help.
Herbs: Many leafy herbs are at their best before they begin to flower, but warm weather can cause these plants to bolt early. Having successive crops of basil, parsley, and cilantro can help you enjoy the best flavor all season long.
If you want to make the most of your space, succession planting can be a valuable tool. You’ll be more likely to use all of the seeds in your packets and enjoy a steady harvest of fruits, vegetables, and herbs at the peak of freshness during the growing season. By staggering your seed planting, you’ll also buy yourself valuable time to put away food for long-term storage without becoming overwhelmed.