Depending on the space you are working with and the primary use of your garden, succession planting or staggering your crop can be a great way to make the best use of your space and extend your growing season. Ultimately, you are at the mercy of Mother Nature; but with some of these tips you can be eating or canning your freshly picked, nutrient filled food through the summer and into the fall.
With most vegetables, you want to space out your planting of uniform crops by about 2-4 weeks. This will allow a continuous harvest of a sort. Typically, the initial harvest is going to be the largest, yielding a weightier crop at first and tapering down as the summer months continue. Rather than dedicating all of your space to an initial “go big or go home” mentality, many of us green thumbs prefer the succession method to keep the harvest coming through the warm summer months and beyond. With cucumbers, depending on your locale, you can harvest most varieties all the way until fall, with multiple plantings throughout the warm months. On a side note, essential fiber and vitamin A are lost when removing the skin from the cukes; remember your plants are going to absorb a lot of the nutrients in the soil, so using organic fertilizer or compost between plantings becomes a necessity to replace the nutrients lost.
This next technique, relay cropping, can be amended to support the planting and harvest of various species. For example, your snow or snap pea growing season is usually short and early. While a staggered planting approach may not be plausible for this certain veggie, you can replant the same row, or pot with a less frost resistant or a warmer germinating seed like pumpkin. This makes use of your row, pot or plot while the sunshine and warmth are abundant. Remember, Halloween pumpkins take at least 100 days to full mature; so late May to July is prime time for this festive squash to be firm and ready for carving, or pie recipes in the fall. This keeps your harvest useful for Halloween or Thanksgiving pies.
Another way to maximize space and take advantage of the full growing season is simply planting vegetables that can share the same space, also known as inter-cropping or inter-planting. Multiple approaches to this have been used for generations to keep a fruitful and healthy balance between space and yield. Inter cropping primarily works on an opposite attract policy. For example, a shallow rooting vegetable (lettuce) can be planted with a deep rooted vegetable (carrot). Another example would be in a warmer climate taller veggie (corn, tomatoes, pole beans) shading and cooling a more heat sensitive lettuce.
Lastly, a strategic approach commonly associated with inter-cropping is sowing both short and fast harvest crops together, (such as spinach and Brussels sprouts.) A good amount of planning and documentation can help avoid mix-ups and give you more of a visual. I always try and keep a diagram as well. Many sprouts are not distinguishable until they are more mature. Experiment! It’s always helpful in figuring out what works best for your particular variables, and will help you decide what grows in your garden. Whether planting in your urban garden, your commercial farm, or anywhere in between, succession planting and inter cropping and staggering is a great way to maximize your yield of your edible garden!
About the Author:
My connection to gardening is simple. I love to eat, cook, and the satisfaction of making a dish with something from my own garden. The feeling that is second to none! I also strongly believe that genetically modified food is an epidemic that is not effectively addressed by government, so I have decided to speak out. Gardening, for me, is becoming a necessity for true healthy living. I live in Phoenix, AZ with my lovely fiancée and enjoy all types of music, outdoor activities, and traveling.