If the reason you started gardening is to have an abundant supply of fresh vegetables, then succession planting should be a part of your program. Maybe it already is to some extent, but if you are like me there is always room to improve and bad habits to quit. Succession planting is a way to make efficient use of smaller spaces, keep a wide variety of crops in production, and extend the vegetable gardening season well beyond the “frost to frost” gardening calendar. A little bit of planning will send your production rate through the roof!
What is succession planting?
Succession planting is basically planting several rounds of the same crops, normally at intervals ranging from a couple of weeks to a month or more. A familiar crop for this type of treatment is radishes. Because they grow so fast and can go bad quickly, gardeners have adopted the practice of planting useable amounts in weekly or biweekly intervals in order to have high quality fresh radishes available for an extended period of time. The same practice didn’t make it to all crops, however, and there are plenty of people who plant bunches of beans to harvest and can in July, only to begin opening the cans in September.
Working and Eating Efficiently
The garden can be planned in a way that it provides a more consistent supply of the widest variety of fresh vegetables over a very long period of time by combining succession planting with the principles of crop rotation and a few season extension methods. Sounds maybe a bit complicated but it’s really not: Plant small, edible-size batches. Replant an unrelated crop as soon as the previous crop is harvested. As often as practical, start crops in seed trays several weeks before their predecessors are ready to harvest, or even plant right under the preceding crop to shorten the time between harvests. There are a few key bits of information you’ll need in order to begin successfully.
Use Information Wisely
Begin with specific crop information. What type of weather does it like? How big does the plant grow? How much produce, on average, per plant? What is the average time from seed to harvest? The answers to these questions will tell you how much you need to have in the garden at any given time, and how often you should plant in order to maintain that supply, when to begin planting and when the season ends. Next, a crop rotation plan will show exactly where each successive planting will go in the garden. It is helpful to map the garden at the beginning of the season, and show all crops that will cover each area with their dates of planting and harvest. This map is the succession planting plan that will guide you through the season.
Charting out your plants will help determine where in the garden your plants will reside. Here’s our plan for this year’s garden:
It looks complicated, but planning everything out before the season will help us keep on task. Our ultimate goal is to have fresh vegetables for as long as we can as well as preserving some of our harvest to share and stockpile for the winter. The chart will also give us “deadlines” to adhere to so we do not miss our planting window. If you want to chart your own vegetable list, here’s a copy of the Succession Chart spreadsheet. Let us know if you have any questions about succession planting in the comments. Happy Gardening!