Succession planting can help you maximize your garden space

By Connie Mehmel
WSU Chelan/Douglas County Master Gardener
May 6, 2022

image of succession planting of lettuce.
This is an example of succession plantings of lettuce in a raised bed. Plants in front were planted in the fall and started growing again in the spring. Space between the rows will be planted with seeds or seedlings.
Provided photo/Connie Mehmel

Connie Mehmel
Connie Mehmel – WSU Extension Chelan/Douglas County Master Gardener – Provided photo

Succession planting is a way to make the most of your garden space, growing two or more crops from the same area. It requires planning and careful timing but you may find it worth the effort, particularly if your space is limited and you love your home grown produce.

There are two strategies you can use when planning for succession.

The first strategy is to plant an early maturing cool-weather crop followed by a later-maturing warm-weather crop. For example, you could start by planting peas in late April. While you wait for the peas to mature, start your pepper seeds indoors. Your peas will be ready to harvest in late June, and by now your pepper plants will be large enough to transplant into the space where peas were growing. Your peppers will be ready to harvest in late August. Now you can plant kale in that space and it will be ready to eat in mid-October. As a cool weather crop, kale can survive the winter and give you a spring harvest as well.

The second strategy is to plant small quantities of the same crop every week or two. You can start leaf lettuce indoors in early April and plant the seedlings in the garden two weeks later. As they start to grow you can plant seeds between the rows. You can do this every week or two until summer heat arrives. Lettuce seeds germinate best when the soil temperature is about 75 degrees Fahrenheit. At hotter temperatures, germination slows, and at 85 degrees it stops altogether. If you want to have lettuce in the summer, you will need to start the seeds indoors where the temperatures are cooler. Be sure to give your seedlings shade once you put them in the garden. You can continue to plant lettuce through the fall. Plants can survive temperature as cold as 20 degrees Fahrenheit, so if you leave lettuce plants in your garden over winter you may be able to harvest some leaves from them in early spring.

If you love garden carrots, you can plant an early variety like Yaya at the beginning of May to harvest in mid-June, followed by a storage variety like Bolero to harvest in mid-September. You can follow these with kale or spinach for a late fall harvest.

Experiment and develop your own strategy for succession planting.

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