Have you ever found yourself with a midsummer garden full of burned-out peas, bolted lettuces and zucchini the size of baseball bats and thought, “Gee, is my garden season already over?”
If so, let us introduce you to the joys of succession sowing!
Many crops can be sown 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 cycles, and a calendar, you can create a personalized succession sowing plan and enjoy a much longer growing season.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR LOCATION
The specifics of your succession sowing plan will depend on your growing region. Some areas enjoy a long, steady, mild spring transitioning to a warm summer; other places seem to jump from the dead of winter directly into the blazing heat of summer. Succession sowing can be practiced in any climate, from the far north to the deep south. The difference is what you choose to grow and when.
Your state’s month-by-month planting chart is a great way to figure out what to grow in your location. Your local county extension office or master gardeners organization can usually point you to this information. Alternatively, a quick internet search will 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. These calendars are designed to let you know which crops can be seeded or planted during each month in your area.
Consider making a garden journal with daily or weekly records of weather and plant behavior; this will help in future garden planning. You can also order the Clyde’s Garden Planner from the rareseeds.com website. This planner is a cheat sheet for knowing when to plant in your area!
MAKING PLANT/VARIETY CHOICES
All vegetable and fruit plants have a harvest window — the period of time in a plant’s life when it can be harvested for use. Some plants, like lettuce or spring radish, have a brief harvest window, while other plants tend to offer a long period of harvestability — think tomatoes and peppers!
You can figure this out by checking the days to maturity designation in the seeds’ description. At Baker Creek, we aim to include days to maturity in our descriptions. However, some plants have a wide range depending on climate and conditions. In that case, we will instead let you know in the description whether it is an early- or late-maturing variety or where it hails from. This information is aimed at helping you make a good educated guess on when the plant is likely to mature in your area.
As you plan, 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 culinary needs and 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 & 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!