DOUBLE Your Harvest with Succession Planting

For years I revelled in the joy of harvesting a beautiful crop that I had started and nurtured from seed. From delicious heads of broccoli to spicy arugula, and everything in between! But after harvesting these crops, I found that I was left with an unsightly and unproductive empty space in the garden - until I discovered Succession Planting. Now, that empty space is immediately planted with a succession crop and before I know it I'm harvesting again!
So in this post I'm going to walk you through step-by-step how to plant a succession crop and get begin doubling your harvest!

What is Succession Planting in the garden?

Succession Planting is the gardening technique of starting a new crop in the same space where a crop was recently harvested. This practice allows for a constantly full and productive garden with new crops coming into maturity at all points of the season and late into the Fall.

The key to success is to carefully plan your succession crop - specifically its timing. You'll want to make sure that you're starting new seeds so that they mature just as the old plants are starting to decline. It might sound like a bit of planning, but in doing so you will be able to enjoy a never-ending supply of fresh produce!
picture of cabbage seeds
With a little bit of planning, cabbage can be started by seed in the early-Summer as a succession crop and result in a beautiful Fall harvest!

Why is succession planting important?

There are five reasons why you'll love Succession Planting!
1. Double Harvest: By planting new crops as soon as you have harvested previous ones, you are ensuring the entire garden is always planted and producing fresh produce!
2. Extending the Season: Rather than focusing all your seed starting at the beginning of the gardening season, succession planting will have you starting new seeds in the middle of summer - which will reach maturity in the Fall for a much longer growing season!
succession planting seedlings
Did you know that you can start a succession crop in seed cells in the middle of the summer? By doing so, you are able to start your succession crop while plants in the garden reach maturity. Once they're harvested, you can simply transplant in your succession crop and you're already weeks ahead!

3. Improved Flavour: As temperatures drop leading into the Fall, many plants (such as Beets, Kale, and Carrots) will begin to turn starches into sugars to serve as a natural anti-freeze. In doing so, the vegetable ends up developing a sweeter and more robust flavour - so don't be afraid to let your succession crop grow well into the Fall!
4. Less Bolting: Many crops, such as Broccoli, Cabbage, and Cauliflower are susceptible to bolting (also known as going to flower/seed) in the peak of summer. This occurs as a result of the hot summer temperatures. However, when grown as a succession crop they hit maturity leading into the cooler Fall temperatures - decreasing the likelihood of the plants bolting!
picture of broccoli bolting
A beautiful crop of broccoli was primed for harvest until an early-Summer heat wave hit and the plant bolted. If grown as a Succession Crop, the likelihood of this happening is much lower as the plant reaches maturity as the cooler Fall temperatures arrive - resulting in beautiful heads of broccoli!

5. Second Chance: And my personal favorite, it provides a perfect window to take a second (or third!) attempt at any plants that didn't grow as well as you hoped. Simply observe what may have gone wrong in your initial crop and incorporate those learnings into your succession crop. Best case scenario - you end up with a beautiful succession crop. Worst case scenario - you simply have more learnings and are closer than ever to mastering that specific plant!

What crops are best for succession planting?

Nearly every crop can be planted as a succession crop, but for planning purposes, we want to categorize them as either Fast Crops or Long Crops. Here are ten of the best of each:
fast crops vs long crops for succession planting
Approaching Succession Planting by splitting crops into Fast Crops and Long Crops will allow you to plan your garden in a way that is constantly producing and growing well into the Fall!

The 10 Best Fast Succession Crops 

  1. Arugula: A few great varieties include Astro, Winter Blend, and Esmee
  2. Beans: A few great varieties include Gold Rush, Royal Burgundy, and Ferrari!
  3. Beets: A few great varieties include Avalanche, Detroit Supreme, and Beet blend
  4. Turnips: A few great varieties include Purple Top, Silky Sweet, and Hakurei
  5. Bok Choy: A few great varieties include Dwarf White, Jade Spring, and Mei Qing Choi
  6. Kale: A few great varieties include Winterbor, Lacinato, and Red Russian Kale
  7. Lettuce: A few great varieties include Red Salad Bowl, Dillon Organic, and Buttercrunch
  8. Peas: A few great varieties include Super Sugar Snap, Bolero, and Oregon Giant.
  9. Radishes: A few great varieties include French Breakfast, Amethyst, and Black Spanish Round.
  10. Spinach: A few great varieties include Olympia, Seaside, and Giant Winter Organic

The 10 Best Long Succession Crops 

  1. Broccoli: A few great varieties include Aspabroc Broccolini, Calabrese, and Green Magic
  2. Cauliflower: A few great varieties include Mardi Organic, Trevi, and Shasta.  
  3. Potatoes: A few great varieties include French Fingerling, Yukon Gold, and Warba. 
  4. Carrots: A few great varieties include Little Fingers, Scarlet Nantes, and Neptune.
  5. Parsnips: A few great varieties include White Spear, White Satin Coated, Tender and True Organic
  6. Winter Squash: A few great varieties include Table Queen, Mashed Potato, and Shokichi Mini Kabocha
  7. Cabbage: A few great varieties include Red Scarvita, China Express, and Integro Coated Organic.  
  8. Zucchini: A few great varieties include Black Beauty Organic, Raven, and Goldy Organic.   
  9. Kale: See the examples in the section above for our favorite Kale crops! 
  10. Onions: A few great varieties include Walla Walla, Kelsae, and Patterson seeds. 
The key difference between our Fast Crops and Long Crops are that we will be direct sowing the Fast Crops into the garden while we will start the Long Crops in Seed Cells and then transplant them into the garden (we'll go into greater detail on this below!)
succession planted seedling in seed cell
By starting your Longer Crops in Seed Cells, you are able to get an overlap in your season that essentially extends your growing season by 14-28 days!

What supplies do I need for Succession Planting?

To get serious about succession planting, there are only a few supplies that you'll want to have on hand:
  • Seeds: Of course we'll need some seeds on hand if we want to be starting a succession crop! Be sure to check our seed supplies to make sure you have the crops you're most excited to try as a succession crop! seeds for succession planting
  • Seed Cells: We will start our Long Crops in seed cells so that they can begin germinating and growing while other vegetables finish their growing cycle in the garden. Once harvested, we'll transplant the Long Crop from its seed cell to the garden.
  • Worm Casting Seedling MixBecause we'll be starting our Long Crops in Seed Cells, we will want to have some Worm Casting Seedling Mix readily available to start them in. And for our Fast Crops we can use this same Worm Casting Seedling Mix to amend the soil that was just harvested. This will help replenish both nutrients and microbes.worm casting seedling mix for succession planting
  • Worm CastingsFor our Fast Crops, we will cover them with Worm Castings to improve the germination rates and ensure the seeds have nutrients and microbes available to them immediately. We recently ran some experiments on this and saw amazing results!
  • Organic FertilizerAs our succession crop begins to grow, we'll want to ensure it has all the nutrients for its big growth spurt. Having an organic fertilizer on hand, such as our 4-4-4 Superfood, will ensure your plant babies have everything they need to thrive! organic fertilizer
  • Hori Hori KnifeHaving a Hori Hori Knife on hand makes succession planting a breeze. From harvesting the original crop, to amending the soil, to spacing out the succession crop - you'll be using it every step of the way!

succession planting supplies

Worm Castings, Organic Fertilizer, and a Hori Hori Knife will help make succession planting a breeze! 

When do I start my Succession Crop?

For the Fast Crops, you can direct sow them into the garden every 2-3 weeks following these simple steps:  
  1. Add Worm Casting Seedling Mix: Spread 2 litres of Worm Casting Seedling Mix per square foot. Gently massage it into the top 1" of soil. 
  2. Spacing: Make 1cm divets at the correct spacing intervals for the type of plant that you are starting (i.e. 8 per square foot for Beets, 4 per square foot for Arugula. Every vegetable is outlined in the guide above).
  3. Add Seeds: Place 3 seeds into each divet. place three seeds per divet
  4. Add Worm Castings: Cover each divet with 1cm of Worm Castings to help with germination. Water thoroughly to begin the germination process.
  5. Thinning & Fertilizing: After 14 days, thin the seedlings to one per divet by pinching the main stem of any extra seedlings. Once thinned, apply 2x tablespoons per square foot of an organic fertlizer (such as our 4-4-4 Superfood).

succession crop of radishes

Before you know it, you'll have a succession crop well on its way to your next harvest! 

For the Long Crops, you will need to be a little bit more measured with your timing to ensure they have enough growing days before winter:

  1. First Frost: Google the name of your city and the words first frost (i.e. Squamish First Frost) to determine the end of your growing season. Add this into the Succession Planting Guide (available for download above). image of the first frost date for squamish
  2. Days to Harvest: Using the Days to Harvest Infographic (also in the Succession Planting Guide, available for download above), determine the number of days your crop will need to grow (i.e. Broccoli = 100 days to harvest). broccoli days to harvest
  3. Days Remaining: Now simply google the number of days to harvest and the first frost date (i.e. 100 days until October 10th) to determine what day you need to start your seeds on in order to have a long enough growing window for the plant to reach harvest. (i.e. Saturday, July 2nd for Broccoli)number of days required to grow broccoli
  4. Fill Seed Cell with Worm Casting Seedling Mix: Use 3" Seed Cells and fill them to the top with worm casting seedling mix. Tap the bottom of the seed cell on the ground to gently compact the seedling mix, creating about 1cm of space from the top of the seedling mix and the top of the seed cell.
  5. Add seeds & water: Place 5 seeds on the top of the seedling mix in each seed cell (i.e. 5 beet seeds per seed cell). Once the seeds are placed, add 2x turkey basters of water to create a moist environment for the seeds to germinate.add seeds
  6. Cover with Worm Casting Seedling Mix: Cover the seeds with about 1cm of worm castings seedling mix so that it is in line with the top of the seed cell. Add a third turkey baste of water to begin the germination process.
  7. Water Every 2-3 days: Place the back of your hand on the top of the seedling mix every 1-2 days. If you don't feel any moisture, add the next 1x turkey baste of water to ensure the seeds are always in a moist and warm (+70F/21C) environment for germination.
  8. Transplant: 14-21 days after starting the seeds, transplant the seedlings into your garden. Refer to our Garden Planning Guide for spacing and then dig your transplant holes accordingly. Add 1 handful of worm castings and 1 tablespoon of 2-6-4 Rooted Food to the transplant hole. Transplant the seedling into the transplant hole. Backfill with the surrounding soil. Add an additional 1-2 handfuls of worm castings and 1-2 tablespoons of 2-8-4 Rooted Food per square foot as a top dressing to the garden space you just planted into.

transplant seedlings

After 14-21 days, you'll have a beautiful set of seedlings ready to be transplanted into the garden beds as a succession crop! 

So there you have it – everything you need to know about extending your growing season! Just remember to plan ahead, order your supplies early, and get ready for an abundance of fresh produce this year!