What is Succession Planting in New England Zone 5?

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Succession planting a is great gardening strategy for the New England area as Zone 5

What is Succession Planting?

Succession planting is a method of gardening that yields a continuous harvest of fresh vegetables all growing season long. Essentially, you plant your vegetables in such a schedule so that each week you harvest exactly what you would eat so that no vegetables spoil and go to waste.

Succession gardening works best if you can plan it all out before starting. You must know each vegetable’s days to maturity so that you can properly plan how much to plant and at what time. Also, consider companion vegetables that can be grown together to further optimize space within your garden.

Many vegetables, especially cool season crops, only need half the growing season to reach harvest maturity, leaving plenty of time to start another vegetable crop that can be harvested by the end of the season.

4 Different Methods for Succession Planting

Succession planting is becoming more and more popular in backyard gardening communities, and for good reasons! Not only do you optimize the most out of your garden space, but you also have more control over timing your harvests so that you are not flooded with too many vegetables at once – risking some to spoil before you can eat them.

Successive planting allows for the vegetable plant to mature at offsetting times to spread out the harvesting

Same Vegetable, Offset Planting Times

Probably the easiest method of succession planting is to stagger the starting dates of when you plant seeds. You can take the same vegetable and begin planting the seeds in your garden at 2 or 4 week intervals.

With this method, rather than planting multiple rows of the same plant and getting a heavy yield all at once during harvest – leaving you scrambling to eat as much as possible and preserve any extra – you can plant one row in early spring and then plant more a couple of weeks later. This way as the first plants start to fade after harvest, you will have another bountiful yield in another couple of weeks.

Same Vegetable, Differing Maturity Rates

Another easy succession method is to look into different types of vegetables with varying maturity rates depending on the style planted. This allows you to plant harvests for late spring, late summer, and late fall. To do this, review seed packets for days to maturity and choose different types of the same vegetable with shorter and longer number of days.

For example, consider tomatoes. There are Sweet Million tomatoes that mature in 45 days, Early Girl tomatoes that mature in 55 days, and Celebrity tomatoes that mature in 70 days. You can plant all these types of tomatoes at the same time, but since they mature at different rates you will be harvesting all season long!

Other vegetables to consider for varying maturity rates are beans, corn, peas, squashes, and many others.

Harvest Spring Vegetable, Sow Different Vegetable

This method is effective for producing a bountiful harvest in every season but does take a lot of preplanning before starting.

First, you start off spring will a short-growing crop like beets, carrots, kale, lettuce, peas, and spinach. Once harvested in early summer you can pull the depleted plants and replant another later-season crop in their spot – like cucumber, corn, peppers, potatoes, and squashes.

Group Companion Vegetables in Same Spot

Lastly, the final method is planting a fast-growing spring crop like lettuce or kale with a slower-growing crop like beans or peppers. This is called intercropping and is a great method for tiny or limited spaces.

Essentially, the lettuce and peppers will grow next to each other during spring. During early summer you then harvest the lettuce, freeing up space and nutrients for the pepper plants that are still growing and getting larger in size.

This method will also require a bit of preplanning before starting out, make sure to review which vegetables are good companions and which vegetables are not compatible with each other.

Is Succession Gardening Worth the Effort?

I am always looking for ways to improve harvest yields and keep my backyard garden producing more for longer. Not only does this provide fresh vegetables for my family, but it also significantly reduces the grocery bill during the warm weather seasons!

I believe it is worth it. But truth be told, sometimes life gets too busy and I cannot keep up with pulling harvested plants to sow new ones – and that’s okay! Not everybody needs the best optimized and efficient garden. It’s okay if you harvest a vegetable plant and decide not to pull it, it’s perfectly fine to decide to let it grow a second harvest instead of pulling it for another vegetable plant.

Succession planting may involve a little more work than traditional gardening, but many don’t mind as gardening can be a fun hobby and once you see the rewards it’s hard to go back! What it takes in planning and additional labor to sow new vegetable plants, it makes up tenfold in abundant harvests.

Tips for Starting Succussion Planting

Example of successive gardening in New England

The New England gardener knows that our spring weather can be unpredictable and harsh for seedlings planted too early. As the Zone 5 growing season transitions from frosty spring mornings to warmer summer weather, the decision of what vegetables can be grown in the outdoor garden will change.

Here are some tips for maximizing succession planting and reaping a heavy harvest all growing season long.

  • Add compost or leaf mold to the vegetable beds between sowings to replenish the soil with nutrients. One potential problem of succession gardening is overtaxing soil for nutrients.
  • Composting in place could also be a consideration, leaving pulled plants to decompose directly in the garden bed. As long as they are not diseased, this is an efficient way to recycle soil nutrients.
  • Select quick maturing vegetable varieties so you can harvest quickly and grow more across the growing period!
  • When planting cool-season vegetables in spring, start the seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before transplanting them in the outdoor garden. This will give the seedlings time to develop and become more resilient to any morning frost that may occur.
  • Pull vegetables after their prime. Many vegetables will yield a harvest more than once, but, typically, the first harvest is the largest, and consecutive harvests afterward are smaller and smaller.
  • Try and consider which vegetable plants attract which pests, and separate similar attractant vegetables from each other. That way if you do encounter a pest problem, such as a slug infestation, you hopefully will not lose an entire harvest and can control it before it spreads to additional plants.