Succession Planting

Succession planting is a super way to maximize the amount of food you can grow in your garden. The succession planting or “interval planting” (as it is sometimes called) method can truly increase the amount of food you grow and harvest.

While spring is when most get the “gardening bug” and is typically the time to get a garden started, you can plant ANYTIME. Spring is just the beginning.

By continuing to plant, you continue to harvest. You cannot eat two twelve foot rows of lettuce in two weeks (can you?) and how often does your family eat cabbage? If ALL your cabbage is mature and ready to harvest at the same time, what will you do with all of it? Okay, cabbage is easy (sauerkraut, right?) Okay, better example, broccoli. Yes, you could freeze it. But if you eat it at least once a week, then how efficient would it be to have one head of broccoli mature and ready for harvest, once a week? Now your talking sustainable. Now your talking efficient! Now your talking productive!

What Is Succession Planting?

There are many ways to use succession planting in your vegetable garden, but there are generally two main schools of thought on it.

Each method works well for increasing the amount of vegetables you can grow in a year, and maximizing the space you have available for growing vegetables.

Succession Planting in Intervals

One method of succession planting is planting some vegetables at different intervals at a time.

This works well for most cool-weather crops, or crops that are ready to harvest in a short period of time, such as:

  • Lettuces
  • Spinach
  • Radishes
  • Carrots
  • Peas
  • Bok Choi
  • Radicchio
  • Arugula
  • Swiss Chard

Let’s say you are planting Romaine lettuce in your food garden and you want to plant it in intervals.

You sow a few of your lettuce seeds in the vegetable garden as soon as it’s time to plant them in your area.

You then wait two weeks and sow a few more of the lettuce seeds. Wait another two weeks and sow a few more of the lettuce seeds.

Continue this until you have all your lettuce sowed that you planned on growing.

By planting at two week intervals you will have a steady harvest of Romaine lettuce every two weeks. If you planted all the lettuce seeds at once they would mature and be ready to harvest all at once.

Planting at intervals spreads the harvest out much longer, keeping something growing in your garden continuously. It spreads out the harvest so you will not have too many harvested vegetables wasting away in your fridge.

Ever had so much food in your fridge/on your counter/in buckets in the garage that you didn’t know what to do with it all?

Interval planting will help lighten that load!

Of course, this method works well for just about every vegetable, and can be used for vegetables that take longer to grow, like squash, cucumbers, onions, and tomatoes, if you have a long growing season.

Fill a Gap Succession Planting

Another method of succession planting is what I like to call “Fill a Gap” Planting. This planting method works really well for keeping your vegetable garden growing all the time.

You can easily keep planting, growing, and harvesting throughout the growing season in your area.

Remember the lettuce example?

In the interval planting method you sowed seeds and harvested the lettuce at different intervals.

With the Fill a Gap method you plant all the lettuces in the garden bed at once, like most of us do normally. If you have room for sixteen lettuce plants, you plant all sixteen at the same time.

You check the seed packet for your particular lettuce and it says the lettuce should be ready to harvest 45 – 55 days after the seeds germinate.

Now you know the lettuce should be ready to harvest in around a month and a half to two months after the seeds germinate.

After the 45 – 55 days, your lettuce is ready to harvest. You now have an empty space for planting another vegetable.

Now that the lettuces are harvested plant spinach, radishes, bok choi, or arugula in that space left.

In other words, if you planted the lettuces in the middle of March they will be ready to harvest around the first week of May.

Once the lettuce is harvested in the first week of May, plant your summer squash, bush beans, or tomatoes in that location vacated by the harvested lettuce.

Here’s a great trick to the Fill a Gap Planting method:

Four to Five weeks before it is time to harvest your first crop of vegetables, start new seedlings of your next batch of vegetables in seed starting trays.

When it’s time to harvest your first crop, the new vegetable seedlings will be ready to transplant, and as you harvest that first crop you can immediately transplant the new crop in its place.

This ensures you have a constant stream of vegetables growing in your garden!

Helpful Resources for Succession Planting

There are some great websites that give awesome information and ideas on succession planting, here are a few:

Johnny’s Selected Seeds – Johnny’s Selected Seeds has a great schedule for succession planting if you live in the north.
Some of the ideas can be implemented for gardeners in any region of the country. Check out the
Succession Planting Guide from Johnny’s.

Virginia Cooperative Extension – The Virginia Cooperative Extension gives a great article on intensive growing methods, including succession planting. You can read the article here.

Planning is critical for getting your succession planting figured out just right. The
GrowVeg Garden Planner has built-in features for succession planting that make organizing it all a breeze.

You can see how easy and efficient it is by watching the video on the succession planting features below.

You can sign up for a 30-day free trial of GrowVeg and see how easy and fun it is to organize your succession planting.

Maximize Your Vegetable Garden with Succession Planting

There are many, many different ways you can use succession planting in your vegetable garden to get more fresh produce in less space.

I hope these ideas will help spur your creativity and cause you to use more succession planting in your garden. It’s a great way to extend your season and
get the most out of your garden space!