Gardening Articles: Edibles :: Vegetables

Successful Succession

by Susan Littlefield

It's always exciting to get those first seeds planted in the ground. But don't put away your gardening gloves too soon! With many crops, you can keep on planting for a continued harvest of delicious, fresh vegetables. This is called succession planting and it's a great way to get the most out of your garden space -- plus continue the fun of sowing and growing!

Succession Strategies

There are several ways to go about succession planting. First, you can sow a small amount of seeds every few weeks for a continued harvest as long as the weather is suitable. This works great for extending the harvest of crops such as beans and salad greens.

You can plant early, mid-season, and late maturing varieties of one crop all at the same time. They will ripen in succession, providing you with a continued fresh harvest from one planting session. Try this with crops such as sweet corn and peas.

When a fast-maturing spring crop is harvested, follow it with a later-season crop, or follow a summer crop with a fall crop. The number of crops you can fit in depends on the length of your growing season and how quickly a crop matures. For example, spring spinach could be followed by tomatoes, which could be followed in turn by fall lettuce.

Interplanting is a good way to use your garden space efficiently and harvest the most in the least amount of space. Plant fast-maturing crops in among ones that mature more slowly. By the time the slower growers need the space, the fast growers will be harvested and gone. You can plant lettuce between your tomato plants or radishes in with your cabbages. You'll have harvested the lettuce and radishes by the time the tomatoes and cabbages need growing room.

Succession Planting Tips

Arugula: Begin sowing seeds as soon as soil is workable in the spring. Make repeat sowings every two weeks until about a month before the fall frost date. Plants will bolt quickly in the heat of summer.

Bush Beans: Make repeat sowings every 2-3 weeks until 60 days before the first fall frost.

Beets: Begin sowing 4 weeks before last spring frost; make repeat sowings every 2-3 weeks until mid-spring; sow all summer long in cool season areas.

Carrots: Make small repeat sowings from early spring through midsummer.

Corn: Repeat sowings 1-2 weeks apart until mid-June or early July in North; end of April in the Deep South. Or plant early, mid-season, and late varieties at the same time.

Kale: Sow the first seeds as soon as the soil is workable in the spring. Make two more spring plantings, at two week intervals. Sow seeds for a fall crop about two months before your fall frost date.

Kohlrabi: Sow seeds or set out transplants at 3 week intervals from mid to late spring. For fall harvest, start seeds 10-12 weeks before the fall frost date.

Lettuce and other Salad Greens: Make small repeat sowings at 1-2 week intervals until about a month before average day temps are in the eighties; can continue to plant longer if you use heat-resistant varieties and shade plants. Plant in succession again for fall harvest.

Peas: Plant early, mid-season, and late varieties all at the same time for a continued harvest. Or repeat sow at 10 day intervals as long as plants will mature before weather gets too hot. Can plant again in fall 6-8 weeks before fall frost date.

Radishes: Plant weekly, beginning as soon as ground can be worked. Switch to heat resistant varieties in summer.

Spinach: Sow seeds at 10-14 day intervals from early to late spring and again 6-8 weeks before the fall frost date. If you want to grow spinach through the summer, look for bolt-resistant varieties and sow where plants will get some shade from taller plants in the garden.

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