Succession Planting

Reader Contribution by Cindy Conner
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Summer is well under way and hopefully your garden beds are all full. Some crops will have been harvested and the space is empty until you fill it again. If you worked out your garden plan and made a garden map back in the winter, you will have an easier time filling those spots. You should already have anticipated when each crop would be finished and what would go in next. The seeds would have been included in your seed order and are ready to plant. Not everyone is as up on their garden planning as they would like, and even if you do have a great plan, things have a way of changing. Some of you are new at gardening and are just now learning as you go. You need to consider what comes next in the succession of crops through your beds. Rarely do you plant at just one time and then weed and harvest for the rest of the season.

Succession planting can mean planting one crop after another as the garden bed becomes open. It could also refer to a certain crop planted multiple times during the season for a continual harvest. In that case the next plantings would be in different areas, since the first planting is still in the ground. The trick is, knowing what to plant that will guarantee a harvest before the season comes to a close. The forms in my video Develop a Sustainable Vegetable Garden Plan help you calculate your plant and harvest times. You need to know the days to maturity for what you are planting and the length of harvest. I know that I have a two week harvest period, picking every few days for the snap beans that I plant. Summer squash and cucumbers might be four weeks. Potatoes are harvested all at one time. With the cooler nights, once September gets here, the plants slow down, so allow an extra couple weeks to the time if the harvest extends into then. Count back that number of days from your first frost date to see if you can fit in the new planting of a warm weather crop. Cool season crops, such as the cabbage family are another story, and can survive the frost to extend your eating season. Root crops, such as carrots and beets, brought to maturity by the time of the last expected frost, can be in the garden through winter and harvested as needed.

Growing transplants in a coldframe is a great help with succession planting. Transplanting allows the garden bed to be full for a longer period. Transplants can fill the space fast, plus, transplants are already bigger than any weeds that may sprout. I refer to my coldframes as solar powered plant starters and keep things coming and going from them all year. You have to be careful, however, to plant those new plants at the right time. Those seedlings could easily get away from you and become too large. Timing is everything. If you aren’t sure if you will have the time to transplant, maybe seeding directly in the garden bed is better for you, especially for the large seeded crops like squashes and beans, which germinate quickly.    

This information for established gardens is also useful for someone starting a new garden in mid-season to know what to plant. It is also pretty handy if your established garden is devastated by a storm and you have to start over. A storm came through our area yesterday. In selective areas the wind, rain and hail beat the plants until there was nothing left. That happened to our daughter’s garden. There is still much she can replant. The harvest will be delayed, however, she will still get a harvest. Many years ago I heard about taking suckers from tomato plants and putting them in the ground to grow more plants. That was interesting, but I never tried it. I am going to try it now. My tomatoes are looking great. I’ll make some more from these plants for our daughter and keep some here for me to study. I have heard of market growers extending the season of their tomatoes by setting out plants around July 4. No doubt they were using determinate varieties that yield over a shorter period of time.

We still have so much more of the growing season left. Good luck keeping your gardens and your tables full.