September 6, 2017
Succession planting is something anyone can have a go at. The aim is to plant another crop of the same vegetable so that as the first one is consumed or succumbs to pests and disease another is ready to take its place. Radish is a simple example as it is a quick crop that germinates reliably. If you sowed enough radish in your garden or on the farm every 3-4 weeks you could have a continuous harvest throughout the year. This is because radish takes 3-4 weeks to grow. You just need to figure out how many radishes you want to harvest per week and plant that many each time. Other crops work the same way. So how do we do it on the farm? Here are some examples.
Spring is a busy time for planting zucchini, capsicum, cucumber, squash, pumpkins, eggplant, tomatoes, okra, basil, corn and beans. Many tomatoes, capsicums and eggplant will crop over an extended period of time so we do a big seeding of these in July or August and then another one in January for an Autumn harvest, as the first lot are succumbing to disease. It is the same with pumpkins. Two plantings in September and January will give two lots of pumpkins. This crop is ready all at once as it must be picked and then stored to cure and develop the flavours. However, by planting in two different seasons, Spring and Summer, we can space out the use of valuable farm real estate, of which pumpkins need a lot.
Other crops that don’t crop continuously over a long period of time and don’t store well need a bit more planning. Corn is a perfect example, with only one or two ears per plant. Once these are picked the plant is only good for mulch and so others must be ready to replace it if you want a continuous harvest. Again, figure out how many ears of corn you wish to harvest each week, look on the seed packet for the days to harvest of your corn variety and then plant that many seeds that often. It sounds more complicated than it is, but really succession planting is not just about maths but about organisation and discipline. If you don’t have your soil prepared and your seed ordered you will miss the window of opportunity to plant, and have a gap in your harvest. If this does happen you can always substitute in a quicker growing variety, or a different and faster crop of something else, to ensure a continuous supply of delicious veggies.
Don’t feel like you need to have a spreadsheet like mine above. It can be much simpler. But have a go. Choose one crop you really love and map out when you need to plant a new bed of it to replace the old one for a continuous harvest. Carrots are a fun one to try out and a great way to learn, as the result is obvious pretty quickly. You either have a carrot left to harvest or you don’t.
So, get out in the garden and try it out, or come down to the farm and have a look at my successions. You won’t regret it.
Yours in veg,