I’m a big proponent of making sure your garden gives for as long as it can. Maintaining a garden can take work, so I want to make sure I’m getting the most out of it. Succession planting is a technique that allows you to maximize your harvest throughout the growing season.  Succession planting involves sowing seeds or planting seedlings in sequence to ensure you have a steady harvest of your favorite veggies and herbs. 

You Can Grow More, For Longer with Succession Planting

The gardening industry, particularly in the midwest, has us growing Memorial Day through Labor Day. But, I really believe we can grow so much more than that if we choose the right cool season varieties and take the proper measures to protect the plants. 

My eyes were opened to succession planting years ago, when I used to sell at a local farmers market. When I became a vendor at a farmers market, I realized that in order to provide enough varieties and quantity for shoppers, I needed to change up my gardening game. Gone was the hobby garden – I started growing commercially. When I made the switch, I realized that I could take the same techniques and utilize them in a home garden.

1. Plant with the Seasons

Different plant varieties prefer different growing temperatures. If you research your cool and warm seasons using frost dates, you can map out a timeline of which plant varieties to plant at different times in the season. My garden to table guidebook has  a whole section with information on succession planting, frost dates, cool and warm seasons, plus tools like a calendar to keep track of your progress! 

2. Plan Your Garden Spacing

I never leave a bare space in my garden. Instead, I focus on intensive planting and pair that with my succession planting schedule. Need an example? This spring I planted fennel, which I know will be ready to harvest in July. I planted it in my raised beds in an X shape, and placed longer-growing/warm season plants around, knowing that when I pull out the fennel in July, my zinnia will then fill that space. Choosing the location of plants is crucial to succession planting.

3. Feed Your Plants

If you’re harvesting plants and then replacing them with another variety, definitely add some fresh compost to your bed! Remember, the plants are using the nutrients in the soil to grow – so we need to make sure there are plenty of nutrients available.

4. Read the Seed Packets

Study your seed packets, specifically to see how many days until harvest for the variety you are planting. That will help you map out your calendar to plan for the next crops. Some great crops for warm-season succession planting from seed include: beans, cucumbers, basil, and dill. Your seed packets will also tell you how much sun each plant likes – if something likes the shade, be strategic and look for planting spots with shade provided by bigger plants in your garden (squash, cucumber, etc).

5. Succession Planting Tomatoes

Because tomatoes take so long to come to maturity, it is challenging to succession plant. However, if you mix indeterminate and determinate varieties of tomato, they will come to maturity at different times which will still elongate your harvest season.

Succession planting definitely has a little bit of a learning curve, but you can start out slow. Each garden is different, but the more you practice, the better you get at it. I’ve found that my intuition has grown in the garden through succession planting, and I bet yours will too. Soon, succession planting will be second nature to you!

Let’s all work on growing together, maximizing our harvests, and eating out of our gardens for as long as we can: start succession planting today.