WHAT IS SUCCESSION PLANTING?
The term succession planting is a commonly heard in the vegetable gardening world, but what does it mean? Basically, succession planting is a method for planting vegetable seeds or seedlings so you have a continuous supply of vegetables throughout the season and grow the most produce possible in your garden space.
What are the benefits of succession planting?
As mentioned, succession planting maximizes productivity by extending your harvest. It can be used to both grow more of one crop or more variety of vegetables, often times in a smaller area. Also, because you are carefully utilizing all of your growing area, it reduces weeds (oh yeah!) because soil is rarely left uncovered for any length of time.
Succession planting methods?
1. Plant one type of vegetable and immediately after harvest fill the spot with another crop. The most common way of utilizing this method is with cool season and warm season crops. Examples of cool season crops are peas, lettuce and broccoli. So here in Zone 6, these crops will be sowed into the garden in March and/or April and harvested in May/June. Some warm season crops are cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes. As an example, once the peas are harvested, succession planting will suggest you plant cucumbers in that same spot which will then be harvested in August.
2. Plant a small amount of one crop every few weeks. This works well with crops that mature pretty quickly like carrots, radishes, lettuce and turnip. This method is great for having a steady stream of one crop and avoiding having too many of one vegetable at a time because honestly, how many carrots can you eat in one week?
3. Plant the same vegetable, but several different varieties that are ready for harvest at different times. For example, different types of tomatoes mature anywhere from 65 to 100 days. Thus, you will want to plant maybe a 65 day, a 80 day and a 100 day variety so you are stretching the time when your tomatoes ripen. The days to harvest are easily found on the seed packet or seedling tag.
How to be successful at succession planting?
Obviously, the most important way to be successful at succession planting is to plan. Make a calendar of when and what you are going to plant and stick to it. However, I find that when beginner gardeners hear this, they want to run for the hills. How do you plan when you really don't know what you are doing or have no experience in the process? The planning is simply overwhelming and quite frankly, can be burdensome. Thus, in that case, I suggest you start small. Do just one or two things. Maybe this year you try one cool season crop like peas and then when those are harvested you can plant a warm season crop such as zucchini in its place. Or perhaps, pick one crop like carrots or lettuce to sow a row of seeds every other Saturday.
As my goal is to help people recognize that the little steps matter, don't feel like you need to do it all. When gardening becomes too much of a burden, no one will want to do it. I have been vegetable gardening for many years and I myself often feel overwhelmed by succession planting. It takes planning and discipline. However, perfection is not what you should strive for. Just growing a few more vegetables in your backyard will be a positive step towards the healing of our Earth. Maybe just give one strategy a try and see where it goes and by all means, try to enjoy the process.