Succession planting results in continuous harvest of the fresh and tender produce all season long.
To do this you must plant seeds continuously, which means having space to do that. You don’t need a large garden to do small-scale succession plantings, however. With a carefully managed garden space you can achieve success in succession!
Succession planting works best if you can plan it all out on paper, but don’t be afraid to experiment with the empty spaces in your existing garden. The shady spot beneath the tomatoes is great for late carrots or lettuce. Be creative!
Plan for success!
To set up a plan create 3 maps representing what your garden will look like in spring, midsummer, and in fall. This will help you to determine where empty spaces are throughout the season.
Calculate the following basic information into your map:
- The length of time each crop takes from seed to harvest (listed as number of days on most seed packets).
- The amounts you would like to be able to harvest in a 3 week period for each crop you are planting.
- How much space you can allot to each crop.
Extending short-season crops
Applies to tender greens that have a 60 day or less growing period. Lettuce, spinach, arugula, mustards, etc.
If you calculate it just right you can sow your first tender greens in April, eat them in June, and have more fresh tender greens all summer long. Plant every 2-3 weeks for continued harvest. You can sow most seeds through mid August if they are a 60 day variety or less. After August 15 you’ll be taking your chances as to whether or not the crop will have enough time to finish before frost, but I usually feel like its worth the risk!
If you’d like 2-3 heads of lettuce per week and have a 10’ x 3’ row for lettuce, plant just 2 x 3’ feet at a time, about 6-10 heads, every 3 weeks until the space is full. Lettuce takes about 60 days to grow to a full head depending on the variety.
Extending mid-season crops
Applies to crops that that have a 90 day or less growing period. Cucumbers, beans, peas, potatoes, radish, carrots, beets, turnips, broccoli, cabbage, etc.
Using the same idea as for tender greens and shorter crops, you can plant just 1/4 to 1/2 of your crop per week or two so that there will be a gap between ripening. Plant only as much as you will eat in a 2-3 week period at a time. Leave enough space in the row or bed so that every 2-3 weeks you can plant the same amount until the space is full. Be mindful of the number of days needed for the crop, usually these longer term crops need to planted by July in order to reach maturity in the Vermont climate. Harvests can be further extended by planting two or three different varieties at once.
When sowing carrots you could plant some Yaya carrots (55 day) and some Danver carrots (75 day) all at once, or in segments in succession.
Plant 1/2 of your row of beans every two weeks until the row or bed is full to extend the harvest of beans and to not be overwhelmed by beans all at once!
Extending full-season crops
Applies to those crops that have a 90 day or more growing period. These crops typically produce only one harvest at the end of their season such as corn, winter squash, and Brussels sprouts. Also applies to crops that like warmer weather, such as melons, peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant.
These crops can be planted in succession with skill, lucky weather, the right irrigation systems, and some help from greenhouses to get seeds going while there is still snow on the ground. If you want to try it, just follow the same planting schedule but keep in mind that the window of flexibility is smaller so you would plant more at each planting if you were planning to freeze the corn for instance.
You can try sharing spaces with all the quick cool weather crops like radish, arugula, beet greens, baby spinach, baby kale, mustard greens and cilantro. Cat rarely sets aside a long term space for these quick crops. In spring she just seeds them wherever there is space under, or next to, something that takes longer to grow like brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, or even corn. You can plant them in the space where warm crops will go later too, like tomatoes, melons, cukes, or squash.
Carrots & Radishes
Try seeding radishes right in with the earliest carrot planting. Scatters both seeds in to the row at the same time. The radishes sprout in 2-3 days, the carrots take at least 2 week to sprout. Radishes are quick to sprout and will mark your carrot row while you wait for the carrots. When the carrots come up it is time to thin your radishes to one per two inches. When you harvest your radishes, it will be time to thin the carrots to one per 2 inches and you’ll have a head start because of the new space created by removing the radishes.
Short & Tall Crops
After you plant your tomatoes in June, seed carrots between them. The two crops are good companions in the garden and can even share space if you trim the bottom leaves off of your tomato plants to give some light to the carrots. The carrots will be ready in late August or September depending on the variety you choose.
Vining Beans & Corn
Timing is everything with this duo. A long-season corn planted early is best. Be sure to choose an indeterminate (vine) bean with a short enough growth cycle to be able to mature before the autumn frost. I like to grow Black Dakota Popcorn with Rattlesnake Beans (a dry bean, like a pinto bean). I plant the corn in late May. When the corn is about shin-high I plant beans a few inches from the corn plant. At first the beans may need a lift but before long the beans will hang on tight and grow right up the corn stalks. Corn is a heavy feeder and beans fix nitrogen in the soil making this companionship truly beneficial.