kitchen garden
Published January 9, 2024 by Nicole Burke

What Is Succession Planting? Your Quick Guide to Increase Garden Harvests

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what does successive sowing mean?

Succession Planting Just Means to Keep on Planting

If you plant all of your plants at the same time, they all mature at the same time and you end up with twenty heads of romaine lettuce that need eating, STAT! When I first started packing in the plants in my garden, I often ended up with too many leaves or root crops to handle at once. 

I learned pretty quick that it’s better to have the same type of plant in different stages of growth in the garden. This is why you should add a few plants to the space on a weekly or semi-weekly basis instead of all of your plants at once.

Succession planting, or successive sowing as it's also called by many gardeners, basically means to plant continuous rounds of seeds in the kitchen garden. I like to think of it as “never stop sowing”. The idea is to plant a row or two of seeds at the same time and then return in a couple weeks to sow more seeds nearby the originals. Instead of ending up with a bunch of the same crop at once, you can harvest from one plant and then come back for the next later.

Successive planting is a great way to ensure you get a lot of harvests for your efforts. You’re literally reaping what you sow… but over a longer period of time. 

succession sow lettuce seeds to spread out your harvests

The Best Types of Plants for Succession Planting

You can do succession sowing with almost anything that you plant from seed, but I typically don't do it with my larger plants (which often need the entire growing season to produce).

Fast-growing plants like leafy greens, root crops, annual herbs, and legumes are all great types of plants to keep on sowing. If you have a long warm season, cucumbers work too. 

Succession Planting Leafy Greens

You can begin successively sowing seeds in your salad garden before your last frost date. I plant my favorite lettuce seeds, Rocky Top salad mix, every two to three weeks. That way, I have plants that I can cut leaves from, plants that aren't quite ready for harvest yet, and seeds that are settling into the soil so that they can fill my salad bowl in about 30 days once the original plants are getting tired.

In addition to lettuce, you can succession sow arugula, mizuna, spinach, and even larger plants like cabbage. You probably can't eat more than a head or two of cabbage each week, right? So it makes sense to stagger your harvests so you can liesurely enjoy your cabbage in salads and stir fries.

succession plant leafy greens like lettuce for longer harvests

Succession Planting Root Crops

When my daughters were little, they pulled about 400 carrots out of the garden while I thought they were playing outside. I made carrot juice, carrot soufflé, carrot cake—anything I could think of over the next few weeks so that those carrots wouldn't go to waste.

Root crops like carrots, radishes, and beets are ideal for succession planting so that you can harvest only those that are ready, enjoy them in your kitchen without being overwhelmed with produce, and plant something new in the space that’s been cleared up.

Succession Planting Annual Herbs

Herbs like basil, cilantro, and dill are hardwired to go to seed as soon as the temperatures are no longer optimal for them. If you want to keep having fresh cilantro leaves for Taco Tuesday, you need to plant new cilantro plants by seed every other Tuesday or so. That way, you'll have fresh plants to harvest just as the older ones start producing seeds and losing their yummy flavor.

Succession Planting Legumes

Bush beans and peas are easy crops to succession plant to fill in any empty spots in your raised garden beds. These plants stay small and produce all their pods at once, unlike vining types. Plant more bush beans or peas 2 to 3 weeks after your first round so that you can harvest your first round 60 days after sowing the first seeds and the next set about 20 days after that.

succession plant beans for continuous harvests
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3 Tips for Easy Succession Planting in Your Kitchen Garden

It’s my goal to plant seeds in my raised kitchen garden beds every single week as soon as the weather permits, which is typically about three months before my last frost date. Start sowing as soon as your soil is workable, and then follow these tips to make succession planting work in your garden.

Tip #1: Succession Sowing Also Means Succession Removing

When you put in plants at different points throughout the growing season, you'll frequently have plants that are ready to be removed from the garden space. Perhaps these plants are bolting (going to seed), struggling, or just not producing well for you. 

If you’re having a hard time removing something, just imagine what you’ll be able to grow and harvest in that space instead. Think of your garden as a revolving door: plants are always coming in and going out. This is how you keep your garden productive and attractive.

The best way to remove plants is using the no-till method since pulling plants up, roots and all, risks upsetting the roots of neighboring plants. Use scissors or a pair of pruners to cut at the base of the plant you’re removing, just above the soil line. 

Tip #2: Fill Recently Cleared Spots with Seeds

As you clear out plants that are no longer producing, you'll create open spaces in your garden. And opens spaces are your sign that it’s time to add more seeds. We don’t want bare soil in our gardens. Bare soil = no good. It invites weeds and dries out faster. There's really no reason not to plant something there! Out with the old, and in with the new.

Let's say you have a row of Napa cabbages growing along the middle of your raised beds but it’s getting hot outside. Start pulling some of those cabbage heads before they bolt, and in the space left behind, begin sowing seeds for something like arugula or mizuna instead.

Remember, blank spaces are in invitation for you to plant more seeds.

Leaves, Roots & Fruit Teaches You the Step by Step to Grow as a Gardener

Do you dream of walking through your own kitchen garden with baskets full of delicious food you grew yourself?

Nicole Johnsey Burke—founder of Gardenary, Inc., and author of Kitchen Garden Revival—is your expert guide for growing your own fresh, organic food every day of the year, no matter where you grow. More than just providing the how-to, she gives you the know-how for a more practical and intuitive gardening system.

Tip #3: Check the Weather Forecast Before You Sow

Double check, before you plant another round of seeds, that you have enough time left in your growing season to get the harvest you want. Lettuce, for example, likes cooler weather. If I know that the weather is likely to hit 90 degrees within 60 days, I won’t sow more lettuce seeds because they won’t have enough time in the cooler temps to finish their growth cycle.

Before you sow, check out what growing temperatures your plant prefers and figure out how many days you've got left in that temperature range. If you're nearing a big weather shift, consider sowing seeds for your upcoming season instead.

Time to Go Succession Plant Your Garden

Succession planting might sound like something complicated, but it basically means never stop planting those seeds. As long as you've got the right amount of days left in the current season to let those seeds turn into mature plants that produce for you, then put those seeds in the soil.

Because here's the thing: Succession planting means succession harvesting. You're setting yourself up for weekly harvests of your favorite leaves, roots, and fruit. Imagine how motivated you'll be to step outside to your garden every single day if you know there will be something waiting for you to pick it or snip it for dinner.

Succession planting is really a fantastic thing to do in the kitchen garden to ensure that you fill your harvest basket every week. It also makes slowly transitioning from season to season super easy.

I hope this inspires you to keep on planting those seeds. I wish you so much success with successive planting and many harvests!

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