Succession planting is a way of planting food crops so that you have food to harvest over a longer period of time. There are different methods, but most focus on the times you start your plants and where you put them in your garden. Here are four succession planting methods arranged from less to more advanced.
- Plant two different crops over a season or a season and a half, one after the other, in the same spot in your garden. Some crops have a short growing season. For example, peas, which are a cool weather crop, can be grown in the spring. Start your peas inside early, then transplant them outside for a late spring harvest. After you harvest a spring crop like peas, pull up the plants from the roots and use the spot you freed up to plant a warm season crop like eggplant or tomatoes.
Good Options for Multi-Crop Succession Plantings
|Cool Season Crop||Warm Season Crop|
|Arugula, beets, bok choi, broccoli, carrots, green onions, lettuce, peas, radishes, spinach, turnips||Basil, cilantro, corn, dill, eggplant, melons, summer squash, tomatoes, zucchini|
- Plant early-, mid-, and late-season varieties of the same crop to keep your harvest of that food going all season long. As you’re choosing seed packets and plant starts, look on the back of the packets or plant info cards for the time in the season they are best planted A. Also, check the “days to maturity/harvest,” B which is the number of days it will take from the time you plant the seed/start to the time the food is ready for harvesting. Look for a range in time between the types you select.
Good Options for Single-Crop Succession Plantings
|Plants with types that have different maturity dates|
|Broccoli Brussels Sprouts Cabbage Carrots|
|Cauliflower Celery Collards Corn|
|Eggplant Green Beans Kale Melon|
|Peas Summer squash Tomatoes|
- Plant two different crops close together (companion planting) to get a staggered harvest of the two and increase your garden space. This method works well when you’ve started seedlings indoors in early spring or use plant starts. Once the plants are strong enough and all danger of frost is gone, you can transplant them into your outside garden. After your transplant has had time to grow into their new space, about two weeks to one month, plant the seeds of a cool weather crop next to them. Place the seeds where the shade of your plants can help keep the soil cool. Make sure, though, that you don’t plant the seeds too close to their companion plant, especially if it grows more slowly or if both crops will soon take up a lot of space. For example, kale plants can grow large and could overpower your new seedlings. If you plant seeds near a fully grown (mature) plant, then you will already know the shade it will cast.
- Stagger plantings of the same crop to be able to harvest it over a longer time period. For example, two weeks after planting your first batch of carrot seeds, plant another batch. Two weeks later, plant another batch. Continue throughout the season. Think about it this way: If you plant all your carrot seeds at one time, you will have only a few short weeks of a lot of carrots to harvest. If you space out your plantings, you’ll have fresh carrots all season long. Radishes and lettuce are other plants you can stagger.
Extra tips for year-round success:
- Plan ahead to make sure you have enough seed to get you from spring and into fall. A teaspoon of seed can produce lots of food. One way to extend a seed packet and grow more types of plants is to swap some of the seeds in your packets with other gardeners. Or, you can save some of the seeds for your garden next year. Some seeds last several years; others, like onions, are better fresh for good germination (plant sprouting). If you have older seeds, you can try using them as microgreens (http://foodhero.org/microgreens).
- Create a planting timeline. In early spring, start your first batch of seeds indoors, like peas. Once you transplant those seedlings outdoors in mid-spring, begin seeding your second batch indoors to get ready to take the garden spot next, such as squash and cucumber in May or June. They should be ready to transplant outside as soon as your spring crops start to make less food at which point it is okay to pull the plant out of the ground even if a few vegetables are still growing on it (overall you will grow more food this way). Once you transplant your second batch outside, seed your fall plants, such as kale and chard, indoors.
- As you plant again and again in the same soil keep that soil healthy and full of nutrients. Try adding compost to the soil between plantings or cover with leaves or leaf mulch over the winter.
- Start seeds that like cooler temperatures during the summer by cooling the soil before planting them. The easiest way to do this is to fully soak the planting area with water a few days before planting, and then cover it (try a board, light-colored tarp, or cardboard). Lift the cover to plant the seeds, water again, and then replace the board on top of the newly planted seeds. Check daily for germination and remove the cover when you see the first signs of green.
Plant two different crops close together (companion planting) to get a staggered harvest of the two, increase your garden space and help keep plants healthy.
Good Companion Planting Examples*