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Planning for a Bountiful Harvest: Succession Planting & Choosing Generous Crops

One of the best ways to get the most out of a small space is to utilize succession planting. The idea behind this practice is that you can ensure a continual harvest of various crops by timing your planting at various intervals. You will end up with multiple plantings of the same type of crop, but they will all come to maturity at different times.

A simple way of thinking about succession planting is that you’re spacing out your plantings over time, so that there is always something ready to harvest as the season continues. You can plan for this by thinking of how much of a certain kind of crop you would like to eat or harvest over a period of time. For example, if you would like to harvest one head of lettuce to eat each week, plus one to share with a neighbor, you can plan to plant two heads of lettuce each week over the course of the spring. Or, for example, knowing that the timing for harvesting a head of lettuce might be a window of 1-2 weeks once it is mature, you could plant four heads of lettuce every two weeks.

Here are a few recommendations for crops to try this technique with, and the timing you can try using for continuous harvest:

  • Lettuce: sow every 2-3 weeks starting in the spring
  • Radish and turnips: sow a section of seeds every 2-3 weeks
  • Carrots and beets: sow an area of seeds about 1 month apart in spring
  • Arugula, Mustards, Spinach and Pac Choi: sow seeds a few weeks to one month apart
  • Peas: sow 3-4 weeks apart, one in early spring and one in late spring, repeat in fall
  • Beans: sow 3-4 weeks apart, one in early summer and one in mid-late summer
  • Cilantro: sow seeds every two weeks throughout the spring

Additional ways to think about maximizing your harvest include:

  • Choosing vegetables and herbs that provide a continuous harvest over time during the season, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, peppers, kale, chard, collard greens, parsley and basil. You might think of these as particularly generous crops, since they will continue producing food over a longer period of time.
  • Planting multiple varieties of plants that mature at different times. For example, you could plant two different types of broccoli at the same time – one that matures at 50 days and one that matures at 75 days. 
  • Sowing seeds and planting starts at the same time. A fun option for the spring could be to sow some seed for lettuce or salad mix, while also transplanting some greens from starts. The transplants will likely be ready to harvest a couple of weeks ahead of the greens that you sow from seed.

One of the best ways to learn is to try, observe and take good notes. Then you can use your notes to make informed decisions next season!