Growing a vegetable garden can be a challenge, especially if you’ve got limited resources. Succession planting can help gardeners make the best use of their garden space while helping manage time and keeping a steady, ongoing harvest. This key technique takes a little bit of planning to pull off, but there are a lot of benefits for the home gardener.
What is succession planting?
Succession planting is seeding crops at intervals in order to keep a steady harvest and to make the most of your growing space throughout the growing season. When the old crops are removed, new crops are grown in the space left behind by the old crop.
Succession planting can be done in a variety of ways:
Staggered plantings of the same crop can allow you to enjoy a continuous harvest over a long period. By sowing new seed every 7-14 days, you can have plants in the sprouting, maturing, and harvesting phases all at the same time.
Planting different crops in succession is another way to ensure a more bountiful harvest. For example, a quickly maturing cool-season crop might be followed by a warm-season crop. This allows the gardener to always grow something adapted to the current growing conditions for a perpetual harvest.
Catch cropping describes the practice of replacing the empty space left by harvested and removed plants with a new crop.
Intercropping allows for quickly maturing crops to be grown next to crops with a longer growing season. Different crops sharing the same space can benefit from each other in a variety of ways, so take care to make sure your crops will be good companions.
Succession Planting vs Crop Rotation
Succession planting isn’t the same as crop rotation. With crop rotation, gardeners change the types of plants they grow in a given space from year to year to prevent soil depletion, disease, and pest infestation. On the other hand, succession planting involves multiple crops within one growing season.
Why should I succession plant?
There are so many benefits to succession planting! Let’s look at a few:
- Prolongs the growing season
- Makes the most of a small space
- Continual harvest
- Improving yields
- Increase variety and diversity
- Weed suppression
- Monitoring soil fertility levels
- Prevention of impacted soil
- Allows for flexibility
What crops should I succession plant?
Succession planting is especially good for determinate crops, or crops that have one harvest and then are finished. Indeterminate vegetables will continue to produce after harvesting, so there’s no need to replace the plant until it stops producing.
Cool-season crops (kale, lettuce, peas) can be planted in the spring and followed up with a warm-season crop like tomatoes, cucumbers, or peppers. After those plants are finished, you might have a chance for one last round of cool season crops in that same space.
Succession planting really is a wonderful technique that helps you make the most of your garden space and time. It also allows the gardener more chances to grow, which is always a good thing! It can increase yields and prevent you from having dreaded “down times” when you have nothing to harvest.
If you want to give succession planting a try but feel overwhelmed, it’s okay to start slow. Choose one crop or space in your garden to experiment with and see what happens. We think you’ll love the results!
Written by Teresa Chandler
Want to learn more ways to make the most of your garden space? Read helpful articles in our Planter's Library.