What could be more delicious than a continuous supply of fresh garden grown vegetables from spring through to late fall? Cathy Christie discusses how to maximize both food and seed production in this week’s Ask a Master Gardener presentation. 

Lettuce in succession. Image credit: Gardeningsolution.ifas.ufl.edu

What is Succession Planting?

Are you a gardener who plants everything at the end of May and thinks “That’s it for planting this year”? If you do …. you miss having nice salad greens, spinach and kale after your initial crops have become bitter and gone to flower. Succession planting is a garden practice that stretches your harvest season and maximizes your use of garden space. It’s not too late to start!

Ken Kogut, Master Gardener, St. Lawrence County Cornell Cooperative Extension. 

Succession planting is an intensive gardening practice that makes the most of space by sequentially selecting and planting vegetables suited to the season. Early cool season crops, such as lettuce and peas, can be replaced by a heat loving choice, such as peppers, and then perhaps by another planting of lettuce or spinach when the cooler days of fall arrive. 

It might also involve sowing smaller amounts of your favourites at intervals throughout the season to ensure continuous veggies all summer long.

And of course, Cathy reminds us to allow a few of your favourite open pollinated varieties to go to seed, collecting them for a supply to plant and share in subsequent years. 

Bolting lettuce (seed).

Benefits

  • maximizes use of your garden plot for food and seed production
  • harvest a variety of foods over a longer period of time
  • deter pests, since an affected crop can easily be replaced with another

Planning – What to Plant and When

There are various resources that provide guidance on how frequently to plant for a continuous harvest of particular vegetables.  Cathy suggests the following chart from as one source:

On the other hand if you choose to plant different kinds of vegetables in succession, these options may assist with planning :

Image credit: Finegardening.com

Transplants vs Seeds

Many experienced gardeners will have additional seedlings ready to transplant once their first crop has been harvested.  This provides a head start over sowing seeds, but does require a bit of advance planning!  It is not too late to start seeds indoors now and transplant later in the season for a fall crop. Of course, you can also throw seeds in the ground and still enjoy the bounty!

Planting peas. Image credit: Anna Sadura Healey

Soil Health

All plants take up nutrients from the soil in order to grow. Some vegetables are “heavy feeders” (e.g. tomatoes), while others are less so.  Furthermore, different types of plants take up different amounts of each nutrient.  Growing vegetables, and particularly intensively growing successive crops in one season, will eventually deplete the soil.  Nutrients can be replaced by simply adding organic matter such as compost. Since each crop has different nutrient needs, it is also helpful to practice crop rotation when possible (this has the added benefit of reducing pest problems).

Additional Resources

For further reading, check out our previous blog, Succession Planting for Fall

Ken Kogut:  A Succession Planting Calendar for St. Lawrence County  (just east of Kingston across the border)