August 19, 2020

Succession sowing

Get the most out of your garden with this time-tested technique.

Shannie McCabe
August 19, 2020

Have you ever found yourself with a mid-summer garden full of burned-out green beans, bolted lettuces and zucchini the size of baseball bats and thought, “Gee, is my garden season already over?”

If so, I would like to introduce you to the joys of succession sowing!

There are many crops that can be sowed several times throughout the season in order to ensure a longer harvest window. With some attention to your local climate, an understanding of your plants’ life cycle and a calendar, you can devise your own personalized succession sowing plan and enjoy a much longer seasonal bounty.

Understanding your location

In practice, the specifics of succession sowing depend heavily on your growing region. Some areas enjoy a long, steady, mild spring; other places seem to jump from the dead of winter directly into the heat of summer. This will affect  

A great way to figure out what your location will allow is by finding your state‘s month-by-month planting chart. This can usually be found by contacting your local county extension office or master gardeners organization. Alternatively, a quick internet search will likely turn up similar information from a nearby university. Often, these are even broken down by county or region, and will give you a realistic picture of what will likely work for you.

Making plant/variety choices

All vegetable and fruit plants have a harvest window — the period of time in the plant's life during which it can be harvested for use. Some plants have a brief harvest window, while other plants tend to offer a long period of harvestability. You can figure this out by checking the days to maturity designation in the seeds’ description. Make a list of all of the crops that you plan to grow for the season, determine their harvest window, then match this to your expectations. How often and how much would you like to harvest for eating or preserving?

Tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, melons, watermelon, onion family members like garlic, onion and leek, and greens like swiss chard only need to be planted once. They will have a long harvest period, or have limitations in succession sowing.

Crops like carrots, turnips, beets and basil can often be planted as often as every 3-4 weeks, depending on climate. Greens like lettuce, arugula and Asian greens, as well as green beans and summer radish, can be sown every 2-3 weeks. Squash, corn and peas can be sown twice a season.

Make your plan and start sowing

There are two ways to approach the planning phase. If you’re the organized type, mark your calendar with projected sowing dates — keeping harvest window and eating habits in mind. More of a leisure gardener? Simply walk the garden, pulling bolted lettuce, turning the soil lightly and planting something more heat-loving in its place.

This is why it’s handy to keep a chart around — you’ll know what you can plant in a pinch when a precious piece of garden real estate becomes available!

Employing succession techniques means more veggies and less waste, so give it a try!

Have you tried succession sowing? Got a story you’d like to share? We’d love to continue the conversation.


Shannie McCabe

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