#018 TCF: Succession Planting 101

Photo by Markus Spiske

For the past 5 years, I've had a modest sized raised bed garden. And every year I'd anxiously wait for the huge plant and herb sale at the WNC Farmer's Market. It's truly amazing!

Next weekend, is Asheville Herb Fest (not that kind of herb!😂) and it's an herbalist dream. So many medicinal and culinary herbs from the areas most revered herbalist and farmers. 

I'd load up my car with my little wagon and list of herbs. Within 5 minutes of being there, I'd completely forgotten about my shopping list and am randomly purchasing any and every exotic plant and herb I see. I mean, who doesn't want an herbal tea garden!  BTW, high probability this happens again. 


But that wasn't my mistake.


My mistake was that I was buying plants that were all relatively the same size and age. We'd plant everything in one weekend.  A couple of weeks later, we'd have more food than we could possibly eat and then it was over. 

It never occurred to me to succession plant to extend the harvest of my crops! This year is different. I have an actual plan, not just a shopping list. 


Succession planting is simply the technique of staggering your plants so that different crops are ready for harvest throughout the season, rather than ripening all at once.


It involves delaying the planting dates of similar crops so that when one harvest is exhausted, a new harvest is waiting to take its place. 

For example, instead of purchasing 3 tomato plants that are roughly the same size. I'll purchase 3 that are in different stages of growth so that they ripen at different times. Because I was hitting 1 plant sale to get everything, all the plants were at a similar stage of growth.


This is so painfully obvious but it never occurred to me. 


I'm also using the square foot garden method which makes it really easy to succession plant. I love this garden app by Old Farmer's Almanac. You can set it square foot gardening and it'll calculate exactly how many plants to plant per square foot. 


Here's a snap shot of our tiered vegetable garden. 2 rows approximately 40 feet by 4 feet. I'm using landscape fabric to break it into 4x4 sections so it's easier to manage. 



Here's my succession planner spreadsheet for our greens. Depending on the plant, I'll add more seeds every 1, 2, 3 or 4 weeks to extend the harvest. I have a spreadsheet for our greens, vegetables, herbs and flowers. Happy to share it if you like. Just let me know!


I mentioned last week, I bought this adorable Square Foot Garden grid to make sowing super easy. My plan is to basically start one of the tiers and sow with greens and veggies and then a couple of weeks later start the other tier. And I'll rotate around as the season progresses. 

What I'm sure of is, I'll have lots of failures and lessons learned.  Next year's plan will likely look very different than this years. But that's so much of the fun of it! 

You don't need a big space for this. Succession planting really maximizes small gardens and even container gardens. Would love to hear what your planting. And if you don't have a plan it's never to late to start!

Hope this is helpful and inspires you to get your hands dirty!