When you enter the world of gardening, most new gardeners aren’t well prepared for the reality of gardening. Most make a hypothesis where gardening is about throwing a few seeds in the ground and watching plants form.
Gardening is a fine art which requires knowledge and time to learn what works for your area and what doesn’t.
Truthfully, you could be a great gardener in one location and become a pupil when you move to a new area.
Which is why I want to spend some time discussing a familiar gardening term: succession planting.
If you’ve gardened for a while, you may be familiar with the term. But if you are new to gardening, it is a name which you need to understand and study, as it will ensure you get the most out of your garden year after year.
Here is what you need to know:
What is Succession Planting?
Succession planting is a fancy term which means; you’ll plant one crop right after another has finished. This action is also known as a second planting.
If you start your garden by planting lettuce and spinach, you know they will be finished before the heat of summer starts.
With this in mind, you start your tomato and pepper plants indoors to have seedlings to put in the ground, once the garden space is clear of the cold weather vegetables you harvested.
This would be an example of succession planting.
The Benefit and Purpose of Succession Planting
Succession planting has one primary benefit. It is to maximize the use of your garden's growing space. There was a time when people lived in urban or smaller areas and thought they could only grow a veggie garden one time per year because they didn’t have the room.
However, over time, people realized if you plan what you grow you’ll be able to produce much more than initially thought by being better organized with what you plant and when.
As you can tell, the benefit and purpose of succession planting are one in the same.
But it wouldn’t be fair only to tell you the benefit of succession planting. The most significant downfall to this method of cultivation is that the days of throwing seeds on the ground are over.
With this form of gardening, you must have a plan to have success.
However, it’s fair to say the days of gardening without a plan are over anyway. People have discovered multiple types of gardening such as:
Most people want to grow in the space they have and get the most out of it. Pulling it off takes planning. With this in mind, the downfall to succession planting is no different than other types of gardening which help you maximize your gardening space.
What You Should Consider with Succession Planting
There are a few items you’ll need to take into consideration before beginning the process of succession planting. They are:
1. Production Time
When you purchase a pack of seeds, it will usually specify how long the plant takes from the time of planting to reach a complete harvest. This is vital information because this will tell you whether it should be a part of the first round of planting or the second.
From there, it will let you know where in your succession plan this particular plant or variety should fit. Write this information down for each plant and variety you want in your garden for the year.
2. Amount of Space Required
Next, you need to consider the amount of space a plant needs. If you have the first round of plants which require a foot of space between plants but try to follow up with a plant which requires two feet of space between each plant, you aren’t going to have a successful planting on the second go round.
Again, this is vital information to allow you to create a successful plan and know when you plant your garden, ensuring each harvest has an equal shot of yielding a high amount.
3. Companion Planting
Finally, consider companion plants when planning your succession garden. If you can rotate crops in and out where they will be planted around other plants they thrive around; you are giving your harvest a boost.
But the most significant consideration is making sure you don’t rotate crops in and out of locations where they are planted near other plants which cause them to fail. There are certain plants who will compete for the same nutrients and draw the same pests. You need to do research to avoid these plants from being near each other.
Types of Succession Planting
There are different options for succession planting. It is important you know what your options are. Knowing your options will allow you to make informed decisions and try the variety of succession planting which works best for your garden and planting zone. Here are the types of succession planting:
1. Relay or Staggered Planting
Staggered or relay planting is when you plant a crop at different times. For instance, when you plant lettuce, if you plant it all at the same time you’ll have utterly too much lettuce coming in at one time.
However, you can grow lettuce where it shouldn’t go to waste by planting a few lettuce plants one week, waiting a couple of weeks, and planting more. You keep this trend going to have a consistent lettuce crop but not being overwhelmed by it all coming in at one time.
Some plants which work well with staggered planting are:
2. Planting with Buddies
I’ve already mentioned the importance of companion planting. However, this can be the method you choose for succession planting as well.
When you use companion planting as your guide, you can grow two crops in the same area. The first crop will be a fast-producing crop while the other one will be a slow producer. The first crop will be finished by the time the second crop is ready to pick up the pace.
3. Reap and Sow
In my planting zone, I’m able to plant green beans earlier in the year, which allows me to complete one harvest and plant the second harvest.
This is an option when planning your succession planting schedule. When one crop finishes, if you’d like more of it, you could plant a second planting of it.
4. Same Plant, Different Varieties
The final option you should consider when creating your succession planting schedule is planting one crop but different varieties.
What this will accomplish is some varieties will come in earlier and others later. This way it will free up room for another short-growing crop, and you’ll have the desired vegetable or fruit all season long.
Tips for Succession Planting
Now you’ve been given things to consider, the pros and cons, and types of succession planting let’s put it all together and get the journey started. Here’s how:
1. You Need a Schedule
You can’t practice succession planting without a planting schedule. Review everything mentioned above when creating this schedule.
You should introduce early crops first but know which longer crops will follow in behind them. Keep companion planting in mind during this process because you don’t want to plant a vegetable where it or a relative variety have been planted in the past four years (for crop rotation purposes.)
If you don’t keep this in mind, you could draw pests or disease to your plants.
You should revisit the vital information mentioned above about how long it takes a plant to reach harvest. You can mark out approximate harvest dates and second planting dates to piece the puzzle together.
2. Pay Attention to Variety
Next, you need to consider what your purpose for your garden is when creating your succession planting schedule. If you are planning on canning most of your garden, plant varieties which have one large harvest.
This way, you can preserve your garden and move on to planting the next plant to go in its place.
However, if you want to eat fresh from your garden all season, consider varieties which are more long-term. This will have an impact on your succession planting schedule which is why you need to process things all the way through in advance.
3. Double Mint Twins
Finally, consider planting two different varieties of the same plant together. This goes along with the companion planting mentioned above.
However, my onions won’t come in until months later. This will give my strawberries time to die back and let onions have the center stage. I’m able to get double the harvest out of two raised beds.
Well, you now know the in’s and out’s of succession planting. Truthfully, when I’m planning out my garden, my head hurts a little each year because of all of the things I have to consider since I do succession plant.
But it is worth it because I’m able to get an abundant harvest without doubling the garden space I’d have to keep up with otherwise.
However, I want to hear from you. What are your thoughts on succession planting? What has your experience been with it? Do you have any tips or tricks to make the planning process a little easier on someone new?
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