From the Garden

The Secrets to Summer Succession Planting

By Megan Cain 3

Succession planting is a confusing topic for some gardeners. I definitely place it in the more advanced category of gardening practices. But it’s not actually that difficult and it’s definitely one of the keys to getting more food from your garden. That’s something we all want, right?

So, let’s break it down.

Succession planting, in simple terms, means using timing and spacing to maximize the amount of food coming out of your garden during the season. There are several different methods, but we’re going to cover the two easiest to start.

1.  No Empty Spaces

In the last few weeks, I pulled the arugula and salad mix out of my garden because they both went to seed. That opened up two spaces that were calling to be filled. Within a few days, I planted two rows of beets in the areas I had cleared out.

This month is the transition from spring to summer, which means some of your spring crops like lettuce, peas, bok choy and radish will either be bolting or getting harvested from the garden bed. When you end up with empty space in the garden – fill it!

It’s still early in the season, so there are plenty of seeds you can sow in the garden. I’m already thinking about what to plant in place of my peas and spinach. In the next month you can plant beans, beets, carrots, cilantro, cucumbers, dill, green onions, and summer squash by seed.

2.  Plant a Lesser Amount More Often

I like beets, but I don’t want to end up with a huge harvest all at once. Instead of planting a whole bed of seed in early spring, I usually plant just one row of beets in April and then come back and plant another row in May. If I have room, I might keep doing this every few weeks into mid-summer.

Each of those plantings will mature in about 60 days, which will provide me with a staggered harvest of beets. Unless you like to can or preserve, you probably don’t want a huge amount of one item all at one time.  I’d rather have more of a steady trickle of vegetables so it’s easier to incorporate them into daily meals.

Again, look at the list of vegetables above and pick a few things that you might want more of this season but would prefer harvesting at a slower pace. Plant a row this week, another one in two weeks, and then a third in a month.

Okay, let’s review your assignments for the next month:

If you have any empty spaces in the garden right now, fill them with seeds or plants.

When you clear out a spring crop, plant that space with a succession of something else.

If you have a lot of space at some point this season, don’t fill it up with one crop all at once. Consider staggering your plantings – every 2 weeks plant a new row of the same vegetable. 

Do you have other tips for succession planting and getting more out of your garden? Share them in the comments! 

Megan Cain is setting out to create a legion of gardening addicts who successfully and passionately grow their own food.Through her gardening education business, The Creative Vegetable Gardener, she helps people get more out of their gardens by first mastering the essentials and then indulging in the colorful details that make gardening not just a favorite pastime, but a lifestyle. Jump on her email list at www.creativevegetablegardener.com to get her best advice in the season you need it most.

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