What is succession planting, and how can it help the home gardener? An example serves as the best explanation. Peas are a cool weather crop and can be planted as soon as the garden soil can be worked. Cucumbers can’t handle frost, and should be planted in the summer when the temperatures are much higher. Planting the peas early, then later pulling up the plants, when the harvest is dwindling, to sow cucumber seeds is an example of succession planting. The same trellis can be used, and you’ve grown two vegetables in one space.
What are some other examples?
-Early potatoes may be planted and harvested in June, then transplants of kohlrabi, squash or cucumber planted in it’s place. Start transplants from seed earlier or buy transplants from the garden center or online.
-Grow beets early, harvest, then sow a crop of kale from seed.
-Lettuce can be grown early, then later replaced with green onions, leeks or radishes.
-Start growing carrots, then in early summer, harvest and replace with bush beans.
Another form of succession planting involves sowing the same vegetable or herb seeds, a week or two apart, so you have a steady supply throughout the growing season. Cilantro, basil, dill, lettuce, watercress, beans and beets work well for this type of planting. Cilantro has a limited growing season because it bolts easily, and the leaves are only tasty when smaller, before the flower forms. By planting small amounts a week or two apart, you’ll be able to harvest each new planting at a different time.
Beans and lettuce can be grown this same way, as well as radish, if they are harvested fairly small and watched carefully. Baby lettuce is a gourmet treat, especially if a mix of different leaf lettuce is grown. Beans work well with staggered sowing, so they aren’t all ready to harvest at the same time.
Learn to read seed packets carefully to plan what herbs and vegetables will work well for succession planting. Vegetables and herbs that germinate quickly and don’t need as much time to mature are ideal for sowing seeds a week apart. Always mark sowings carefully with the date of planting and type of vegetable or herb.
The following vegetables like cool weather. Consider starting these from seed in pots or buying plants to grow near the end of summer in place of vegetables that may have been near completion of their harvest. These vegetables can withstand light frost, which will allow them to have a longer growing season.
Caring for Your Soil
Between plantings, the soil will need a boost since it’s being used for two different vegetables. Pull out the first planting and compost what can’t be harvested. Clear the soil of any weeds or debris, then add compost or a light fertilizer. If you are using a raised bed or a container, you’ll want to refresh the space with new topsoil. Once you’ve nurtured the soil a bit, it will be ready for the second planting.
Succession planting is another way to extend your growing season and the variety of vegetables and herbs in your garden. Once you experiment with staggering your sowings, or changing a crop midseason, you’ll develop a strategy that will work well in your garden.
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