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Succession Planting Vegetables

By Lynn Byczynski

Having high-quality vegetables for the longest possible season is a particularly challenging aspect of market gardening. You can stretch the harvest for each vegetable by planting several cultivars with different maturity dates or by planting the same cultivars repeatedly. In both cases, you have to consider:

  • The earliest date you can plant when cold weather limits you in spring.
  • The latest date you can plant and still get a crop to harvest before cold arrives in fall.
  • The date beyond which you won’t get good quality because of heat, rain, insects, or other negative pressures.
  • The days to maturity for each crop.
  • The length of the harvest period for each variety.

Geoclime / Microclime

The above factors vary widely across regions. In coastal California, for example, growers can plant broccoli every 10 days from the middle of April until the first of September, and harvest it every week from June through October. In the Southwest, in comparison, growers may get only one planting of broccoli to harvest before it gets too hot. In the South, growers may succession plant basil every three weeks from April through September, whereas growers in the North may get only one or two plantings of heat-loving basil.

Methods Add Complexity to Your Calculations

Using season extension structures such as hoophouses and Quick Hoops™ tunnels complicates the calculations even further. A single crop such as lettuce may be planted several times in a hoophouse, then several times in the field, then again in the hoophouse.

Growth Habit, Cultivation & Harvest Methods

The type of plant also affects decisions about succession planting. Pole beans will produce over a much longer period than bush beans. Cut-and-come-again salad mix can be harvested several times, unlike the single harvest you get from head lettuce. Indeterminate tomatoes keep producing on the same vines until they are stopped by cold or disease. Some growers plant tomatoes once a season whereas others make several successions to ensure highest yield.

Market Demands

Market demand also plays into succession planting. People might want lettuce every week of the year if it were available, but the demand for kale and kohlrabi might drop off considerably once tomatoes and basil are ready.

Timing Intervals

Every grower, then, has to figure out succession planting based on this abundance of factors and how they apply locally. Still, for beginners, there are some guidelines about how often you might want to plant IF weather did not limit seed starting or harvest:

Every 10 days to 2 weeks: arugula, beans, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, corn, green onions, greens, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, muskmelons, radishes. Every three weeks: basil, cabbage, carrots, salad mix, spinach. Every 30 days: cucumbers, summer squash, tomatoes.

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Lynn Byczynski is the editor of Growing for Market and the publisher of The Hoophouse Handbook.

Articles by

the author:
Lynn Byczynski was growing organic vegetables and cut flowers for market when she decided to create a magazine that would help market gardeners nationwide share experiences and information. Her first issue of Growing for Market appeared in January 1992 and it has been published continuously since then. GFM is renowned in the market gardening world for realistic articles that give growers practical, how-to information about growing and selling produce and flowers. Lynn is now partnering with Johnny's to provide similarly useful information for the website and other publications.

Lynn, her husband Dan Nagengast, and their two children have grown vegetables and cut flowers since 1988, selling through a CSA, at farmers markets, to chefs, grocery stores, and florists. They currently grow cut flowers and hoophouse tomatoes on about 2 acres of their 20-acre farm near Lawrence, Kansas.

Lynn is also the author of several books about market farming:
The Flower Farmer: An Organic Grower's Guide to Raising and Selling Cut Flowers; The Hoophouse Handbook; Market Farming Success

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