Successive Planting is a gardening strategy to maximize your vegetable yields in a manageable way. Look at it this way, gardening does not have to be similar to a Costco run when you have to buy 5lbs of green beans or 10 heads of cabbage at a time. If you plant your garden all at once, this may be the result as your entire row of veggies matures at the same time. The problem with fresh produce is its short shelf life. Successive planting maximizes your harvest and provides you with fresh veggies throughout the entire growing season.
Veggies that are quick growers typically work the best and can be beneficial for those short on space or who live in areas with a shorter growing season.
There are 5 types of gardening that all fall under the successive gardening umbrella: harvest and sow, staggering planting, companion planting, grouping plants with different maturity dates, and cut and come again.
1. Harvest and Sow
This successive planting strategy focuses on making sure your garden is producing at its maximum potential. Plant your early spring vegetables and harvest as usual. Once their peak production has passed, pull these vegetables. Rework the soil, add some fertilizer or compost, and plant your summer vegetables.
When using this successive planting strategy, be mindful of the maturity dates of your vegetables. Make sure your vegetables will mature before the summer ends to make sure you have the best possible harvests.
For Example, start the spring season with lettuce, spinach, or kale. Transition to beans, cucumbers, or peppers, and finally circle back to a cool weather crop such as broccoli or lettuce, spinach, or kale (just not the same vegetable as your springtime planting).
2. Staggering Planting, Aka relay planting
Staggering planting is exactly how it sounds. Instead of planting one long row of say peas, lettuce, or beans, only plant 1/3 or 1/2 of the row. Then depending on the veggie you are planting, plant another 1/3 row 7-21 days later. Repeat the last 1/3 7-21 days following the second planting. Use this nifty chart to help direct how to stagger the vegetables you are planting, in 7, 14, 21, 30 day intervals.
I would highly recommend this Successive planting method as it is simple and gives you consistent production throughout the entire growing season.
Solid choices for this type of successive planting include lettuce, spinach, bush beans, peas, collards, carrots, radishes, beets, chard, and turnips.
3. Companion Planting
Companion planting is a gardening technique that involves planting two or more plant species close to each other to benefit one or both plants.
Consider pairing deep and shallow-rooted plants together such as lettuce or spinach comingled with carrots or radishes.
The idea behind this planting strategy is the plants will not compete for nutrients as their root systems are at different depths. This is beneficial for those tight on space and you can grow several plants in the same space without overwhelming the available nutrients.
Tall and shade plants also pair nicely together. The most famous example of this is the “Three Sisters” of corn, beans, and winter squash. Corn is planted first, once established about 6-8 inches tall, beans and then squash are planted around them. Beans, likely many legumes are nitrogen-fixing plants that help replenish the nutrient in the soil. The corn provides support for the vining beans to grow. The Squash can spread on ground level helping to suppress weeds and keeping the soil moist (similar to mulching).
A couple of additional examples are:
Tomatoes and basil: Basil can improve the flavor of tomatoes as well as a pest repellent, while the tomato plants return the favor and also has been shown to repel basil pests.
Cabbage and dill: Dill attracts beneficial insects such as wasps, which can help control cabbage worms and other pests that can damage the cabbage plant. Dill can enhance the flavor of the cabbage
Marigolds and many different vegetables, including tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers: Marigolds have been shown to repel harmful pests such as nematodes, which damage the roots of vegetable plants, and attract beneficial insects such as ladybugs and lacewings
4. Different vegetables with different maturity dates
This strategy picks several different varieties of the same plant. Examples of this would be picking bush bean varieties such as Contender (maturity of 40-55 days) and Blue Lake 274 (maturity of 54-61). Bush beans tend to mature faster than Pole Beans, so this could be considered as well.
There are numerous different varieties for each vegetable, which allows for finding a combination to stagger the maturity dates. Use a quick Google search or reference the seed packet labeling to find the best combination for the specific vegetable you want to grow.
5. Cut and Come Again
This may be the easiest and most straightforward way to successive harvests. Many leafy vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, kale, and celery can be harvested multiple times during the growing season by cutting the outside larger leaves and leaving the inner small leaves. Allows these to grow and mature and repeat, again leaving the small leaves for the next harvest. You can continue this pattern for the growing season as the plant continues to produce new small leaves.
Asparagus, chives, and scallions can be snipped off as they grow upwards. Snip them at ground level and they will continue to send up new stalks.
Tips For Successive Planting:
Invest in A Garden Planner
Be Organized!! This type of planting does require some planning as many of these techniques require multiple planting or grouping of certain plants. A great way to keep track of what you planted, when you planted, and when each planting will reach maturity is to keep a garden planner.
Several free gardening apps can be downloaded to help organize your planting. Plug in your dimensions, click the vegetable you are planting and away you go.
A great app to consider is the Online Kitchen Garden planner from Gardeners.com as this app uses clear and easy-to-use formats. The app has lots of useful information on how to plant the seeds, the recommended spacing, how often to plant a new crop, and when to harvest.
For those looking for old-school paper planners, there are also many options available. They can be extensive such as The Garden Journal, Planner, and Log Book, which clocks in at 250 pages, full of tips and illustrations, to the more basic Hardcover Honey Bees Notebook which contains 160 blank grid paper pages.
Rotate Your Vegetables
Avoid planting the same vegetables in the same spots even in the same growing season or year after year. This can drain the soil of nutrients and lead to decrease production. Divide your garden into sections and create an alternating pattern to simplify this process. Add this to your garden journal so you can remember where and when you plant your vegetables.
Make sure you have enough seeds
This may seem obvious but don’t make this rookie mistake. If you are staggering your plantings, you don’t just need seeds for the first plantings but every successive planting.
Fresh seeds typically have the best germination. You can plant seeds from last year with confidence if you store them correctly, seeds that are several years old can have germination rates lower than 50%.
Planting cool weather plants in summer
Plants such as lettuce, spinach, and peas are known as cool-weather plants. They germinate best in cool soil. When successive planting these veggies in the heat of summer consider planting the seeds twice as deep where it is a bit cooler.
Another strategy is to soak the soil where you plan on sowing your seeds. Cover the row with a wide board, 4-6in should suffice, for a couple of days. Then plant your seeds and thoroughly water again and once again cover with the board. Check daily, looking for germination, and remove the board as soon as you see new sprouts.
When successive planting you are pushing your garden to maximize the production. Between and with each planting work the soil and add a slow-release fertilizer or side dress with organic compost.
Avid seed starters can start your first round of veggies indoors. This will maximize your growing season even more as you can start while the weather isn’t quite amendable for outdoor plantings.
Cool-weather plants require frequent watering to keep the soil cool and prevent them from drying out in the hot summers.
When using the cut and come again strategy, water deeply after harvesting to encourage the growth of the immature leaves.
When staggering planting, water with each harvest and planting.
Successive planting can extend your growing season beyond the traditional planting times for your region and maximize the space available in your garden. As we talked about, there are several different strategies for successive gardening, pick the best for your garden situation. Use the tips discussed and you will be well on your way to having a steady supply of fresh vegetables throughout the growing season.