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The Benefits of Succession Planting

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The Benefits of Succession Planting

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Succession planting comes in several forms, each of which increases the potential yield and extends the growing season for home gardeners. In some cases, the practice may save your season--especially if inclement weather, a late cold snap or another unforeseen incident affects one set of seeds or plants. These methods can be intricately planned, but do not require exact timing and precision to make them work well.

Replace a Crop

Planting a new crop as soon as a previous crop is harvested is one method of succession planting to increase yield. This can begin in early spring with plants that are able to withstand cooler weather. As those plants mature and the produce is gathered, gardeners can replace them with a warm weather crop selection. If the conditions permit, warm weather crops can be grown back to back. Gardeners can also choose to follow a summer garden with plantings tolerant of cool weather for fall harvest. Doing so has the potential to double or triple your output from the same space and expand the type and number of crops you can produce over the course of a year.

Add Over Time

Planting crops in sets over a span of weeks is another example of succession planting. Corn, radishes and lettuce are only a few of the crops you may consider using in this way. By planting a set amount of seed in intervals over the course of the season, you space out the development of produce. Instead of having all of your ears of corn mature around the same date, you will have a fresh supply ripening consistently for several weeks. This makes harvest and processing easier and allows you to enjoy fresh items over a longer period.

Interplanting

Interplanting is not considered succession planting per se, but works along similar lines. A good example is one given by the Ohio State University Extension master gardener program involving planting radishes in the same row and at the same time as carrot seeds. Radishes have an earlier maturity date and grow quickly enough to allow their harvest without disturbing the developing carrots. The benefit in this instance is that a single space does double duty. This can free up areas of the garden for other vegetable selections you otherwise may not have room to include. It can also save the gardener from having to prepare and maintain a larger space than necessary.

Considerations

When planting in an intensive manner, care must be taken to use proper crop rotation methods, as some plant families should not be included in the same space year after year. Examples include the nightshade family of tomato, potato, pepper and eggplant and the curcurbits--including squash, cucumbers and melons. As a general rule, members of the same plant family should be located in the same space only once every three years. You can, however, grow multiple crops in the same plot during the extended season created with succession planting. This gives gardeners extended use of the same space, which is good if you have portions of the garden that have advantages like more sun exposure or better drainage. Using crops that help fix nitrogen in the soil and replenish nutrients is also a recommendation if you plan to use a garden space repeatedly. Growing two different crops back to back allows you to immediately begin to rebuild the contents of the soil.

Keywords: crop rotation, succession planting, extended growing season

About this Author

Alice Moon is a freelance writer with more than 10 years' experience. She was chosen as a Smithsonian Institute intern, working for the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and has traveled throughout Asia. Moon holds a Bachelor of Science in political science from Ball State University.