If there is one simple gardening method that can help feed your family consistently, its succession planting.
Succession planting is all about sowing the right amount of seed to have plants to feed your family for a specific period of time. As the growing season progresses, seed is planted again a few weeks later so that the harvest will be spread out accordingly.
We have all been there. We plant a huge area of lettuce, beans or corn all at once. And then of course, it matures all at the same time. Before you know it, you become overrun by more produce than you can possibly consume. The result – a large part of the crop goes to waste.
But by practicing the simple art of succession planting, you keep a constant, smaller, and more manageable crop coming on just when you need it, all summer long.
The best crops for succession planting are seed crops. Heirloom vegetables like tomatoes and peppers have all-season staying and production power. Since you already get a steady long-term supply from these plants, there is no need to put in a second crop. However, for crops like lettuce, beans, peas, and corn that have a short two to three-week “fresh” harvest time frame, succession planting is the perfect choice!
Of course, if your plan is to can and preserve to stock up for the whole year around, then planting one big crop all at once makes sense. It will allow for a big harvest to make quick work of freezing and canning.
But even in those situations, its a great idea to have a few smaller plantings spread out a few weeks a part. This will allow you to have fresh crops of those vegetables coming on through summer and fall for the dinner table. That means you get to keep those newly preserved foods for the cold winter months where nothing can be grown.
It also means you can continue eating super fresh foods right up till late fall. And we all know nothing can beat the taste of just-picked vegetables!
Let’s take a look great crops to plant for succession planting, and when and how much to plant for consistent harvests.
Great Crops For Succession Planting
Salad Crops – Lettuce / Kale / Spinach / Radish
Lettuce, kale and spinach are perfect for succession planting in the garden. The leafy salad crops are great for the first few cuttings, then quickly begin to taste bitter. To keep a steady supply, sow seeds every 10 to 14 days to have an “always fresh” salad coming from your garden.
We use raised beds for our crops, and plant the sections in thirds. By the time the third section is coming up, the first one has entirely finished. That section can then be replanted for a late summer or early fall crop.
Radishes are perfect for this too. They can be ready in as little as 28 days. Simply determine how many your family eats in a three-week period, and plant accordingly every 21 days or so. See : Salad Crops
When it comes to green beans, we plant an early crop, and then 45 days later, we plant a second crop. After the first crop is done by mid-summer, the second crop is ready the time late summer or early fall hits. You can have several picking of a single green bean crop spread out over several weeks to a month. With that in mind, usually two plantings per year will do the trick. If you will be freezing or canning, use the first picking of each planting to preserve. They are by far the most tender, and will preserve wonderfully.
Peas / Sugar Snap Peas
Much like green beans, peas can be planted in the early spring, and then again in mid to late summer. Peas and sugar snap peas actually grow better in the cooler temps of early spring and early fall. So planting an early and late season crop is the perfect way to go!
Nothing can match the taste of fresh sweet corn, so succession planting is the answer to keep pickings at their sweetest! Plant a new crop of sweet corn every 14 to 21 days after the first planting. Figure out what you and your family will eat over a two to three-week harvest period, and then sow new seed accordingly.
Remember with sweet corn, it is best to plant in blocks of rows to help with pollination. Single rows will not pollinate as well, so you are much better to plant a block 4 to 6 stalks long, by 4 to 6 stocks wide. See: Planting Sweet Corn
So try your hand at succession planting this year and keep that fresh food coming all summer!
Happy Gardening! – Jim and Mary. If you would like to receive our DIY, Gardening and Recipe articles each week, you can sign up to follow the blog via email in the right hand column above, “Like” us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter. This article may contain affiliate links.