Growing Vegetables by Succession Planting and Square-Foot Gardening

Succession planting and square-foot gardening are two gardening methods that help you produce more vegetables no matter how long your growing season is. Succession planting extends the harvest season because you either stagger planting times for a single crop or plant a different crop after one is harvested. Square-foot gardening is an intensive gardening technique that makes efficient use of small garden spaces.

Succession planting

Farmers use succession planting to ensure a constant supply of vegetables to take to market; you can use it to produce a consistent supply of vegetables to take to your table.

Stagger planting times

Staggering planting times is a great way to spread out harvest time. For example, instead of gathering all of your corn at once, you can harvest it over a period of several weeks. To plant in succession, you simply make smaller plantings separated by 2 to 3 weeks instead of planting everything at one time. If you want to experiment with succession planting, use these steps:

  1. Figure out how much of a certain vegetable your family needs for a 2- to 3-week period and how much room it will take to grow it.

    A sample plan of succession plantings.
    A sample plan of succession plantings.
  2. Break your planting beds into three or four sections to grow your 2- to 3-week supply of the vegetable.

  3. At the start of the planting season, plant the first bed; wait about 2 weeks and plant the second bed, and then plant the third bed about 2 weeks later.

    When you finish harvesting the first bed, the second bed will be ready to harvest.

The length of your planting season determines how many successive plantings you can make. Depending on the weather, some of your later plantings may not yield well.

Share the space

Another way to use succession planting is to replace a crop that's finished producing with a new one in the same place. For example, after your harvest spinach in the spring, plant cucumbers for the summer. After the cukes are harvested, plant kale for the fall. With this method, you can grow a wider variety of vegetables in a small space. Just make sure you're planting a cool-season veggie for spring or fall and a warm-season veggie for summer.

The following table lists some good succession planting combinations to try. You can choose one veggie from each column to plant in succession.

Succession Planting for Different Seasons
Spring Summer Fall
Spinach Bush beans Kale
Mesclun greens Cucumber Lettuce
Peas Sweet corn Collards
Radish Eggplant Chinese cabbage

Square-foot gardening

Yet another way to ensure a constant harvest of vegetables is to plant using the square foot method. Select a 4-foot-by-4-foot section of your garden and divide it into 16 squares (each section is 1 square foot). Each square will have a different number of plants, depending on what you're growing:

  • 1 plant per square: Tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, corn, melon, squash

  • 4 plants per square: Lettuce, garlic, Swiss chard

  • 8 plants per square: Pole beans, peas, spinach

  • 16 plants per square: Beets, carrots, radishes, onions

By planting so few plants, you'll have many small harvests, and you can easily make more succession plantings and rotate plantings each year.

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