I personally think succession planting is the single best tool in getting a large yield out of a smaller space. I "only" have 2 4x16ft raised garden beds and I make the most of out of my space with a companion planting and succession planting on a repeat cycle from early Spring - late Fall.
What exactly is succession gardening? According to wikipedia there are four different approaches:
Two or more crops in succession: On the same field where one crop has just been harvested, another is planted. The duration of the growing season, the environment, and the choice of crop are important variables. A crop that prefers the chilly spring months can be followed by a crop that prefers the summer heat.
Same crop, successive plantings: Several smaller plantings are made at timed intervals, rather than all at once. The plants mature at staggered dates, establishing a continuous harvest over an extended period. Lettuce and other salad greens are common crops for this approach. Within a small garden or home garden, this method is useful in circumventing the initial large yield from the crop and rather providing a steady, smaller yield that may be consumed in its entirety. This is also known as relay planting.
Two or more crops simultaneously: Non-competing crops, often with different maturity dates, are planted together in various patterns. Intercropping is one pattern approach; companion planting is a related, complementary practice. This method is also known as Interplanting: The practice of growing two types of plants in the same space. Interplanting requires a certain amount of preplanning and knowledge of the maturity dates of different types of vegetables. It has been noted that successful interplanting and intensive gardening is done in raised beds within the planting areas. Planting two or more non-competing crops may raise issues with soil-borne diseases and insects that only affect one type of plant. Depending on how close the interplanting varieties are, crop failure is a possibility.
Same crop, different maturity dates: Several varieties are selected, with different maturity dates: early, main season, late. Planted at the same time, the varieties mature one after the other over the season.
Of course you can do a combination of those "approaches" to make it work for your growing space and cycle! I know that is what I do to ensure I have a fresh supply of basil, beets, and even zinnias on our kitchen table all season long.
For example, I might not have as many carrots to harvest at one sitting but because I replant a new little row of them in my garden every few weeks it gives me a enough for a few little side dishes every other week or so and that is all my little family needs. I also partner up my carrots with a variety of different veggies throughout the season because they assist each other. Carrots don't like the intense heat so in August when I start planting the fall crops I plant them under the tomato plants. The tomato trees shade them and as I mulch around the tomatoes it provides extra nutrients to the carrots as well. When the tomatoes are ready to come out I simply cut them at the base and leave the roots in tack. As the cooler days approach the carrots will now benefit from the warmth of the sun but they don't really mind the cold...I plan to have a few carrots to pull even after the snow! And this same rule applies to beets, turnips, radish...any of those root veggies.
I've been doing succession planting for many years now and to be honest I don't know why I never applied the rule to many of my herbs or flowers but I changed that around a bit this year and I really loved the process. I learned a lot and here were some of my key takeaways:
The approach doesn't benefit me in the medicinal garden much.
I prefer a larger yield to process all at one time for my medicinal remedies and teas. Although side note if you are growing some herbs from seed that are challenging, planting them every few weeks until they really take off due to finding the right growing temperatures/timing of the season is a sure way to figure out what conditions do best for them to grow!
Worked best for culinary herbs. I LOOOVED that I had a fresh batch, dill, sage, lemongrass, and rosemary throughout the whole season to use to can as well as in the kitchen and of course I have a ton that I dried and put away for winter. My favortie way of preserving all my herbs this year was compound butter! OMG Yum!!! There will be a whole blog on this to come. Maybe I should note that obviously as you cut your herbs they will grow back but in my raised garden bed with limited space they seem to end up getting lost in the veggies as they grow and they end up getting too much shade. Typically this causes them to stop growing so shifting the herbs as the garden grows really helped ensure I had my all favorites every time I went to the garden.
Our flying friends loved it! I might have seen more pollinators this year than the last few. I've always planted sunflowers a few different times of year for my bird friends but the hummingbirds LOOOVED on those bright colored zinnias all summer long and I felt bad that I had never done that for them before. This also gave me a fun variety of colors as I rotated them as I planted them every few weeks.
Root veggies in early spring/fall on repeat in the perfect quantity. In the past I've planted a toooon of root veggies and canned them or whatnot but there is nothing better than a handful of fresh ones EVERY week (minus about a 6 - 8 weeks in the intense heat). I prefer a few to work with every week as I meal prep the family meals...when I end up with more than we need I put that away. Typically just putting away one or two pints at a time....but those pints still seem to add up to a whole row or two in the pantry by the end of the growing season!
Leafy Greens seem to work out well with this concept as well. They too don't really like the heat of the summer so they could benefit from being in the shade of some of you summer crops. Also, I don't know about you all but my family as a whole doesn't really eat a ton of salad so I don't require much for our household. Now kale and spinach? We can freeze or dry those to make some yummy winter sides and snacks.
Ensures you will be successful Every season is different and no two years of gardening are the same so planting your crops every few weeks is going to ensure you find that sweet spot of when they will really flourish to their greatest potential. Also means if you have some rough weather or a little pest problem you will have time to redeem yourself and try again. If you are growing in a new area to you this will give you the knowledge you need to learn best practices for next year.
I would say I really don't know how to garden without succession planting and the results make sense for our household. I hope I shined some light on the topic for you and it helps you in your gardens. Happy Gardening Friends! I know for many the season is ending but I've still got a month or two of growing planned for my little backyard victory garden. I'd love to hear your feed back and your own succession planting success stories!