Make the most of your garden space and produce more vegetables—no matter how long your growing season—with this handy gardening method. If you’d love a steady supply of fresh vegetables, the tried-and-true farming practice of succession planting could fill the bill—and your healthy plate. The technique involves planting multiple crops “end to end” through the growing season. When the first crop is finished, a second crop takes its place, followed by a third, and so on.
1. Find Out Your Frost Dates
To practice succession planting, you must first understand gardening in your climate. Consult your local garden store or cooperative extension service to learn the average last spring frost and first fall frost dates in your area. The time between the last frost and first frost is your growing season. Note the dates and how long, in days, your growing season lasts to help you plan your succession planting time table.
2. Understand Growing Times
When making a list of the crops you would like to plant, keep in mind that every veggie takes a different amount of time to grow from seed to harvest, as indicated on the back of seed packets. You will see that different varieties of the same crop also differ in growing times, or “days to maturity.” Don’t worry, you won’t need to keep these dates in your head, because you’ll create a crop spreadsheet. Some crops, like beans, tomatoes, and squash, aren’t harvested all at once—and the days to maturity reflect the first harvest date.
3. Decide On A Crop Rotation
Each plant family has certain nutrient requirements and shares common pest problems. You can maximize nutrient efficiency and significantly reduce pest problems by planting different families in succession, in a given part of the garden. This is called crop rotation. For example, a good crop rotation that promotes plant and soil health is: cabbage family > bean family > nightshade family > onion family > carrot family > squash family > spinach family > miscellaneous greens, herbs, and/or small fruits.
4. Use Graph Paper And Spreadsheets For Planning
Sketch your garden plot on graph paper. Divide the plot into equal sections that represent the minimum amount of space you will need for your smallest crop. Later on, your plan may include one or more sections for a single crop, depending on its space needs. Assign each section a number. Create a garden map key spreadsheet. In column “A,” label each plot section number. Columns “B” and so on represent growing season weeks. Beginning with the first day of the growing season, each week gets its own column, labeled according to date (3/15-3/21, 3/22-3/28, etc.)
5. Plant Every Two To Three Weeks
With succession planting you only need to plant enough of a crop to use within two to three weeks, then after harvesting the first crop you plant something new. Because you plant and cultivate fewer plants at one time, you save garden space and labor. By planting every two to three weeks, instead of once for the entire season, you enjoy fruits and vegetables in their prime. Planting one big crop means you will likely harvest some of it too soon, some at peak, and the rest either too late or never.