Are you looking for a way to maximize your harvest without increasing your garden size? If space is a concern, succession planting is a strategy to consider. Start planning now and avoid running out of radishes, carrots or any other crop mid-season.
What is succession planting?
Succession planting can follow a few different protocols. One model uses repeated plantings of determinate vegetables. Determinate crops are those that produce one harvest in a season. The remainder of the plant will not produce additional fruits/vegetables and can be composted. As an example of this type of succession planting, you could plant a crop of radishes week 1 and then additional plantings of radishes at regular intervals weekly or every other week depending on your needs. This ensures a steady supply of radishes throughout the season.
Succession planting can also be done with entirely different crops. This could entail planting a crop of leafy greens in the early spring followed by a planting of zucchini after your lettuce harvest. The goal with this model is to maximize space in the garden.
A third option is to plant the same vegetable of different varieties based on their temperature tolerances. For example, plant early season tomatoes, followed by mid and late season varieties. By planting these in succession you can have fresh tomatoes throughout the growing period.
Succession planting isn’t limited to vegetables. Flowers can be grown this way too. Some annual flowers will become ragged and spent after blooming for a couple months. By seeding a new crop partway through the season, you can have a fresh supply of flowers to get you to your first frost date. This is a common method for growing such flowers as zinnias in the cut flower market.
Tips and Tricks
Knowing your first and last frost dates can help determine when and how long to follow a succession planting schedule. The seed packets give information such as days to harvest which you can use to figure out when your first and last crops should be planted to avoid being damaged by the frost. You should also consider the quantity of produce you will need. If you typically use 3 bunches of lettuce a week, your succession planting should reflect that.
As the weather changes throughout the growing season, the plant varieties may need to change as well. Identify early, mid and late season varieties and time their plantings accordingly. This information can be found in seed catalogs.
Ready to get started?
Experimenting with new techniques is a great way to grow as a gardener. To give succession planting a try choose a cool season veggie with a quick turnaround time from seed to harvest, such as lettuce. Follow planting guidelines for your zone. Upon harvest, seed a later season crop such as peppers in the same location. Depending on your harvest date and first frost date you may be able to squeeze in one more planting in the early fall. Choose another veggie that tolerates cool temperatures such as spinach.
Planning is an important task for a successful garden. If you don’t already have a garden calendar, it may be time to start one. Put together a plan for how you can use succession planting to maximize your harvest from the upcoming growing season.
Cynthia Domenghini is an instructor and coordinator for K-State’s horticultural therapy online certificate program.