Succession planting my way to a continuous harvest

If I start something (and especially if I get really passionate about it) you can expect that I will get quite ambitious with it, regardless of my know-how! Gardening is a perfect example of this. I may be a novice (it’s only my second year), but I am determined not to let a single square inch of my garden go unused throughout the entire growing season!

There’s nothing special about what I’m doing in the slightest. Most gardening books talk about succession planting, and how to follow up your spring crop with a summer crop, or a summer crop with a hardy fall crop, and then follow up your fall crop with an overwinter cover crop. It makes perfect sense, if you desire to use your garden to feed your family and want to use it to it’s greatest potential.

Back in the winter, I noted that “A wise gardener anticipates June in January” (author unknown). Now that summer is in full swing, I am starting to plan ahead for fall planting. I’m beginning to notice that with gardening, if you want to really make full use of your garden, you must constantly be at least one season ahead in your planning.

Here are some photos of the garden drawings that I’ve been making for each season, filled with my scribblings and scrawlings of what to place where (and then scratched out and changed again). They’re a bit messy, but they give you the basic idea.

Spring-2008

This is basically what my garden actually looks like now, minus a few very minor changes. I’ve just recently pulled up the remainder of my radishes and turnips, and my peas and lettuce will come up soon as well, which brings us to…

Summer-2008

As you can see, my summer plan has been modified many times, and is in fact still being changed ever so slightly. I will draw up a more final (read: tidy) copy of what I did to put in my gardening notebook, so that I will have a proper record of it. You can see, though, how I am filling the spaces that open up with new veggies that will grow into the fall.

And lastly, this is what I have so far for the fall.

Fall-2008

I haven’t quite decided yet what I can do when my tomatoes and peppers finish (that’s the empty center bed), which probably won’t be until sometime in September, so there aren’t many options left at that point. Likely it will end up being radishes, lettuce, spinach, etc. as they grow quite quickly and the greens can tolerate the cold when it comes. I’ve already planned for turnips, beets, snow and shelling peas, carrots, and of course, my squash will be lingering on the vine. I’ve got garlic and buckwheat planned to go through the winter. Any other ideas?

Perhaps this will encourage those of you who haven’t managed to really get a garden going yet and fear that it is too late. Take heart- I will be replanting over half of my garden within the next two months as crops finish, so it is definitely not too late to plant something this year!

I’ll have to get a new garden picture up as well. It is starting to take off with more steady heat and sun (well, except for yesterday and today). The tomato plants are so much bigger and flowering now, the zucchini is a mean, green vegetable making machine, the cucumbers are starting to form, the sunflowers are nearing the top of the fence, and the winter squash vines are threatening to overtake the entire yard. It’s a beautiful thing.

How are your gardens going? Do you use succession planting? Do you have a particular system for doing it, or do you just fill up spots as they open up? What are your plans for late summer and fall?

About Stephanie Langford

Stephanie Langford has a passion for sharing ideas and information for homemakers who want to make healthy changes in their homes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke and with simple meal planning. She is the creator of Keeper of the Home.

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Comments

  1. Mamma_Cluck says:

    Very helpful folks!!! Glad I found ya!
    I used to garden every year– but never got around to successive plantings…
    due to my poor health, and re-arranging things on the property, I haven’t had a garden/Greenhouse in 2 years.
    I am late in getting started this year– especially with such unseasonably warm weather for Michigan… but we have 5 3×12′ beds and 2 2×20′ “beds” in the greenhouse– but there is no cover on the greenhouse till fall (a tornado sucked it off a year ago.)
    We plan on warm season veggies (Tomato’s, peppers, cukes) in the greenhouse (in ground) so we can leave em growing this fall with a cover on the greenhouse– then when it gets too cool, pull em up and plant cabbage, Broccoli and greens to grow over the winter. In the outside garden beds, we plan to grow the bush-squash, pole beans, Sweet corn, onions & snow peas… . and do potato’s in Bins….

    Is there something I am forgetting, or should “re-think”?????
    Ya think it is too late to do this if our 1st Frost is October 1st???

  2. Your post made me smile. Almost every time I go on your blog, I think “wow, does she ever think like me” its sort of scary, actually. :) Its also my second year gardening. I made notes last year and have lots this year, to learn from. My diagrams look like yours!

    I just did a bunch of sucession planting in my garden. Since we have a cool and short season I put in some more lettuce. I’ve been doing that all along- as one thing goes, I think of what is next that can go in that spot. I also planted things around the plants. I mean, when my cucumber and other vines were small, I planted spinach, lettuce and radishes all around them. I just finished harvesting them, which is when my vines are taking over the spot those things were in. Also, I did the same with some other plants like the tomaotes. When they were small, I grew a few early crops in between them. They were harvested before the tomatoes got big. Its a great way to use that space that most people leave because the vines will eventually take up the room. But not for a while, you can still get a short crop out of it!

    I saw a row garden today with so much “wasted” space. Huge spaces between rows, etc. I have 4 foot wide strips so I never walk on my soil. I can reach all around it. Sort of an adaptation on the square foot method. Only its in the ground, not raised beds. That, along with succession planting, lets me get a lot of stuff out of a smaller space.

    The other way I do succession planting is by leaving some spots open, to plant later. Like in May, I started, but didn’t plant up all the dirt. Then 2 weeks later, I did a bit more, then 2 weeks later, a bit more…etc. this works well with certain things but not others. It works well for the shorter season crops. Like lettuce, spinach, radishes, onions (for tops only), etc. That way it doesn’t come on all at once, either, since who can eat that much in one day. I have enough for 2 big salads a day, but not so much its going to bolt before I can eat it. Because it has been so cool, I started eating lettuce the end of June and still have lots to come. Its not bolting since its so cool out. I’ve also heard of people using shade cloth to extend the harvest, and I want to look into cold frames more to extend it the other way, too. Lots of fun!

  3. We are pushing it to get three distinct seasons here in upper zone 7. If I overlap stuff well, I can get three crops from each of my square feet (we do Square Foot Gardening, a book and method by Mel Bartholomew.)

    This is my second year and it’s been very sucessful so far, so much so that I am going to double my space for next year. I am only working one large conatiner and an 8ft by 2ft row by my back door right now. I know I can double it without too much more effort.

    I’ve already harvested this year: carrots, onions, radishes, tons of spinach (is there ever enough?), lettuce, beets, and herbs.

    Growing right now: onions, scallions, 6 varieties of tomatoes (all but one are heirloom and I’ve trellised them), and 8 different herbs.

    I plan to plant still: peas, carrots, radishes, lettuce, spinach, turnips, and beets.

    We get a CSA share from a local farm where we get mostly cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, zuchinni, squash in the fall, corn, etc. so I try not to plant those unless I know for sure I’ll be able to use them…I hate for something to go to waste or to do work for nothing. In the future I’d like to get some land and plant all of our own goods. Someday :)

  4. steph…LOVE it….great job. i’m staring to think through what this next season for our garden in az will look like. i just received my heirloom seeds…i think i’ve got wayyyy to much….

    great job! lylah

  5. This is my very first garden, so I kept it small (potatoes and onions to start with) to make sure I’d have success. (um… make sure I’d take care of it…) I had never heard of succession planting until today :-), but I was so excited when I pulled up my beautiful potatoes (I can do it!) that I planted some tomatoes and peppers. So I guess I’ve gone from clueless to succession planting in one short summer — that is encouraging! If any of you master gardners have a chance, would you please stop by my very new blog and check out my Mulch Pit Mystery? I’m dying to know what it is. Thank you!

  6. We just planted heirloom wax bush beans yesterday, hoping for a fall harvest. Lettuce is going to seed at the moment, and we plan to plant more near the end of summer, and possibly some other greens. Chives are flourishing. Tomatoes are starting to get little green fruit on them, and pumpkins are sprouting beautifully (also a fall harvest). We’re container planting at our apartment, so we don’t have much room (or pots!). :) We’re hoping for as much of a “year ’round” harvest as we can get, too.

    Blessings,
    Michele

  7. I am a novice gardener too and have heard of succession planting but assumed I cannot do that here because of the short growing season. I am from the Maritimes and we only get our veggies in the middle of June and may get something to harvest at the beginning of Sept. Do you mean you have veggies by June and start new stuff then for harvesting in Fall. If so wow! you are lucky. For winter I plan to plant Winter rye and till it under for spring. This is a great source of nutrients for the preparation of the spring (or summer in our neck of the woods) planting. Also that is a large garden for starting out, good for you. It is quite addicting though. Do you have a pressure canner to preserve all of the harvest?

  8. I’m pretty much just filling space when it opens. And filling it with lettuce. :-) It’s been my first year with a garden so I’m really just getting my feet wet and figuring out what I like and don’t like. Next year will be way different.

  9. Jennifer says:

    Unfortunately, we have not done a garden in a couple of years. In the last garden we had, we grew: tomatoes, okra, pole beans, squash, and cucumbers. We also tried some cabbage and brussel sprouts, but they did not make it.

    My comment is a little off topic here, but I thought I would ask you anyway in hopes you may have some information on this, or maybe some of your other readers. I plan on purchasing heirloom seeds from now on. In the past, I did not have the knowledge I do now, and therefore I purchased from Burpee. I would like to know how long seeds last. For instance, if I purchase seeds now, how can I store them, or will they even last to be planted next year?

Trackbacks

  1. [...] seeds are on my "to-buy" list season after season, especially if I plant them twice a year (spring and fall). Carrots, radishes, peas, beets, and lettuce go a whole lot faster. Even in my [...]

  2. [...] realize that some of the vegetables I was growing, like snap peas, lettuce, and spinach can be planted and harvested again in the fall, extending your gardening [...]

  3. [...] rest of the space is unplanted as of yet, because I intend to use it for a fall crop. The remaining space gets good partial-sun and should be ideal for growing greens (spinach, [...]

  4. [...] would be to draw yourself a garden layout plan. You can see some examples of mine from last year in this post on succession planting. I haven't yet made mine for this year, although it is in the works. This is a very helpful tool to [...]