I am excited to share a post today from guest blogger Mackenzie Kupher. Mackenzie is a recent college graduate that studied both zoology and horticulture. In addition to gardening, Mackenzie writes content and blogs for the Avant Garden Decor website. I love young gardeners and I love supporting them. Their excitement is contagious and they always make me look at things in a new way. Enjoy!
Gardening in Succession and Companion Planting
Have you ever wondered how you can keep garden fresh vegetables on the table throughout the whole planting season? It will take much more work and planning than your typical vegetable garden, but the benefits that come along make the extra effort worth it.
The technique is called succession planting, and its overall goal is to maintain a steady income of vegetables with multiple easy to handle harvests. Reaping a single harvest limits your garden’s potential, and will either not accumulate enough food to last, or will produce too much to handle all at once. Knowing what to grow, when to start growing them, and when to pull out the plants that aren’t producing any more are all part of the strategy you will need to consider heading into the planting season.
Time of year
In order to get the most from your succession planting you will need to start as early in the spring as the weather allows, and let it go as late into the fall as it permits. For a fall Texas garden, see this post on Fava beans. You can figure out when the best time to begin by checking when the last frost date for your area is. After that date, your growing season can begin.
Keep in mind that not all plants will thrive in the early spring, so consider some that benefit from the cooler temperatures and less time in the sun, such as lettuce, snow peas, kale, collards, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, rutabagas, beets, carrots, leeks, endive and cabbage. Plan these for early spring and late fall planting times, and maintain the warmer weather vegetables, like tomatoes, corn and squash during the heat of the summer months.
You will need to be familiar with the timing of your plant’s production rate. Does that plant produce only once in its lifetime like a carrot, or does it continuously produce over time like a tomato plant? Does it reach maturity quickly like a radish, or does it take longer to see progress like an onion? If you are aware of these facts you can gauge when to uproot a spent plant and if you’ll have enough time in the season to plant something else in its place. When planning out the garden, leave some leeway for growing times, as weather and soil quality will play a large part in the punctuality of your plants.
Select the vegetables you want to harvest all season long. You will want to plan out when you need to plant your second or third row of this vegetable, keeping in mind growing time, and production time. For example, if you are growing radishes, they will mature between 20-30 days, and each plant will yield a single harvest. So, if you want to continuously have fresh radishes every week, you will need to plant four rows of radishes, each row a week apart. Once row one has been harvested, apply compost and plant new radishes immediately, this way when row four is harvested, row one will be ready again the following week, right on schedule. This gets slightly more complicated with plants that produce for a longer period of time such as tomatoes and peas. The concept is still the same though; you just need to plant fewer rows less frequently.
Something to keep in mind as you are laying out your garden, there are plants you can place close to others to gain benefits. Certain plants will repel specific bugs, while others can provide shade for less heat tolerable plants.
In some cases, plants can even give off nutrients that another plant requires to thrive. Sometimes, just growing close to another plant simply makes it taste better in the end. Companion planting has so many applications – see this infographic to apply it to your garden in addition to succession planting.
The combination of succession gardening with companion planting requires more planning and attention, but it also helps you yield better results which makes this a step above traditional gardening. If you have a small gardening space, a single harvest will not be enough to maintain a season’s worth of food. On the other hand, if you have a large garden spot, a single harvest will produce too much food and will probably go bad before you can eat it. Succession planting keeps your whole garden producing all season long, without leaving meaningless empty space. With a little hard work and planning, you can get more out of your garden than you ever thought you could.