Succession Planting: What It Is and How to Use It in Your Garden

Succession Planting: What It Is and How to Use It in Your Garden

By Michael Jenkins

Getting the most out of vegetable gardens is the goal for many of us, and there are a number of different paths to the top of that gardening mountain. One of the most effective approaches to increasing vegetable production in a home garden is succession planting. Succession planting makes use of a systematic means of starting new plants in a timed sequence so that production runs all season long rather than a big harvest coming all at once. So how can you make succession planting work in your own garden? Let’s dig in and learn a bit more about this gardening practice and its many benefits.

Types of Succession Planting

We’ve talked about what succession planting is, but how does it work in practice? There are a few different approaches to strategic garden planting that can be considered succession planting, so let’s list a few of them here as a starting point:

  • Staggered Plantings: This is probably the easiest way to implement a succession planting approach in a home garden, so it’s very popular among gardeners of all stripes. The basic idea is that you start batches of the same plant a few weeks apart so they mature and produce at different times. This staggered roll-out approach to veggie gardening means that some batch of your plants produces throughout their growing season, allowing you to harvest for longer.

  • Relay Planting is a variation on staggered planting that relies on planting different plants in same space, planting one as the first finishes its growing season. A classic example is planting peas first, as they enjoy the cooler spring weather, and then planting beans in their place after the season for peas has ended. It helps to use plants like peas and beans that like similar soil conditions as they’ll be occupying the same space in succession.

  • Inter-cropping or Companion Planting: This is a more complex approach to succession plantings, as it does require some understanding of how different vegetable plants interact with each other. The idea is that you plant different crops in the same space, such that they mature at different times and provide a longer vegetable season. The classic example of this is the Three Sisters system, pioneered by Native American/First Nations farmers before Europeans arrived in the Americas. When done correctly, companion planting helps all the plants involved thrive while providing veggies all season long.

  • It’s a bit more difficult to come up with a succinct and snappy name for this next approach to succession planting, so we’ll call it the Same Crop Different Dates method for now. Different varietals of the same vegetable plant—tomatoes, peppers, melons, and the like—will grow at different rates and start to produce at different times. By planting a mix of varietals in the same space and carefully keeping track of what blooms when, you can stagger you growing season and not have hundreds of fresh tomatoes (or other veggies) all at once.

Succession Planting for All Seasons

Looking back at what we’ve written, we have focused on warm-weather crops in this blog. Never fear—succession planting can work for your cool weather plants and winter gardens just as well as it does in summer. All it takes is a bit of research and some planning and you can find an approach to succession gardening that works for you. This is a great tool for folks working with smaller spaces—patio and container gardeners, listen up!—as it helps maximize output and gives you a wider variety of plants to enjoy throughout the season. A succession planting approach can also benefit landscaping or ornamental gardens, as it allows different flowers to bloom and creates visual interest all year long.

We hope this blog get you started on succession planting if you’re not using it already. If you are, drop us a line and let us know how it’s going. Gardzen is all about community and we love to hear from you!

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