One of the biggest things people struggle with is being able to have something to harvest every day. They want to know the secret to avoiding the cycle of having nothing, then having abundance.
Generally people will see a lull early on at the start of the season, usually early spring or early autumn. They’ll clear the beds, top them up with fresh compost and manure, then start over. And for some regions that is the way it is due to the seasons, there are distinct hot and cold seasons. There's no cross over.
Here in the subtropics however, we have loads of crossover. And being in a frost free area we can grow a variety of things all year - even though summer is quite challenging.
By no means are we self-sufficient on the produce front, we still haven’t nailed it - we have fails all the time like everyone does - a failed crop, an unexpected pest or disease, a misplaced football or unsupervised chicken. Plus my kids eat their weight in fruit on a daily basis. But it’s been a long long time since I’ve bought fresh tomatoes, a head of lettuce, leafy greens or herbs of any kind.
Here are my tips to help you get a better handle on succession planting.
Audit what you eat
The first step is to figure out how much to grow is to take a look at what you’re buying week to week. Then figure out how much that is on a yearly basis. For example you may find over spring and summer you are eating a cucumber a week with your salad, so that’s approximately 24 cucumbers. You may find you go through 2 lettuce heads every week during that time.
If you’re not already eating locally and seasonally, now is the time to adjust the mindset.
What grows when and for how long
It’s one thing to know what you eat, the other part is knowing when you can plant it and how long it’s going to take to start producing. This is a life long learning process to be honest and it will take some time for you to get into the swing of things. I have various charts here on this website for those in Australia.
Knowing what you can plant and when is integral. Look at your list of produce and figure out the seasons they can grow in your region, research how long you should be expecting the harvest (we have that information on our seed packets).
If you’re not into hardcore planning, then when you free up some space you need to know what can go in next. It could be mid season, it could be end of the season. Some things grow quickly, some things take forever.
Knowing the yield of each plant
It’s one thing to say I want to plant 100 carrots, but it’s a bit more difficult to figure out how many plants you’ll need to get those 24 cucumbers (the answer is 3 if you’re wondering). Google is a great help here, just type in “how many *fruit/veggie* will one plant produce” - you’ll either get the result in numbers or weight. Once you finish the season, if you’re taking notice (and you should), you can make a call on whether it was too many or too little. From my tomato season this past winter, I wanted enough to bottle enough for the year. Turns out my picky kid’s favourite meal is tomato soup. So as you can imagine not many tomatoes ended up being canned, so next year I am tripling the amount.
It may be tempting to fill a bed with all the things, only to have a dozen lettuce all ready at once, if you don’t eat a dozen lettuce all at once, don’t plant them all at once. If you want to have succession planting down pat you need to leave space for the next round. Once you get in the swing of things, available space will just appear - because you’re not planting like a market gardener anymore. If you know you need 3 cucumber plants, maybe stagger them every 4 weeks instead of all at once. It’s simple mind shifts like that that will help you succession plant well.
If you need help practicing this you could take the approach of square foot gardening - and just top up small sections to replant instead of waiting for an entire bed to be finished.
Number one tip for succession planting
Succession planting may seem technical but it’s actually really simple and can be summed up like this.
If you want something to harvest every week, you need to be planting something every week.
If you're a Dirt Lover you can grab my Masterplan inside the portal which I have laid out planting plans and my yield goals.
I’d love to know how do you do your succession planting? Do you have any tips? Leave a comment below.