I know I’ve talked about this concept before, but I felt the need to blog about it again. Succession gardening is THE best way to maximize the yield of vegetables from you garden each year….especially if you have limited space.
Succession gardening is, in essence, the practice of timing your plantings of different varieties throughout the year to take advantage of available empty soil. You can really get 2 or 3 harvests of different crops from the same space if you time your plantings correctly.
The example that made me want to blog today is my bed of garlic for the year. I planted the entire 12 x 4 foot bed with cloves of Elephant and Russian Red garlic cloves in early October of 2012. The cloves grew into small plants in October and November and didn’t grow much more all winter long. By March, they had grown to about 10 inches tall and the tops were peeking out through the snows we had. We harvested the scapes, the flowering part of the plant, in early May and enjoyed many great dishes with them. In mid-June, I dug up the whole bed and had a HUGE harvest of garlic to last me all summer long with plenty to spare to plant this fall.
The very next day, I added some Garden Tone fertilizer, worked it into the soil, and planted 4 rows of Early Contender bush beans. Now it is mid-August and the bed is LOADED with bush beans. These beans will produce for about 6 weeks and then I’ll pull them out, add a few inches of compost, and plant spinach seedlings in October for harvest next spring. Doing this succession planting gives me a lot of produce from a single raised bed.
Other examples of succession gardening involve early spring crops such as lettuces, beets, radishes, and brassicas such as cauliflower, broccoli, kale, and kohlrabi. I planted all of these in early March this year. I harvest them in April and May, pulled them out in early June, and then planted Sweet Corn, Summer Squash, and Cucumbers in their places. Now that I’ve harvested the corn, and the squash and cucumber plants are on their last legs, I am planting fall brassicas, beets, more bush beans, and fall lettuces in their places as soon as those spaces become available.
My tomato beds are still cranking out fruit, but by the end of September, many of them will be spent. I’ll harvest the remaining green tomatoes for green tomato relish, green tomato pie filling, pickled green tomatoes, and of course fried green tomatoes. I’ll pull the plants, work in some compost and plant the garlic cloves I saved from this spring’s harvest or I’ll plant more spinach seedlings in the newly empty space.
Getting multiple harvests out of the same beds each year is the best return on your gardening investments. It takes some planning, some timing, and some extra work, but it is all worth it when you’re swimming in produce for 9 or 10 months a year.