What Is Succession Planting Technique? How Does it Differ From Other UK Gardening Techniques? How Can I Succession Plant? This Articles Explains How.

Let’s start by define succession planting. Succession planting is a technique where you sow or plant a series of different crops in the same bed (or container) over the growing season. This maximises your yield and land usage.

To really maximise space it is best to module or pot raise pallets and plant them when large enough. That means they are in the ground for a few fewer weeks and you can grow more on each bed over the year.

How Many Crops A Year Can Succession Planting Achieve?

Farmers tend to get one crop per fields each year. Two at most. And if it is a cereal crop tha means one harvest a year.

Growing beetroot in modules for the biointendsice garden practising the succession planting technique
Growing beetroot in modules

Gardeners tend to be a bit more intensive and get more crops in each plot each year. So we might grow early potatoes and follow them with leeks. Or a crop of peas followed by carrots. The number of variations on two crops per beds each year is huge.

Where it gets really interesting though is where we grow many more crops per plot each year. Three crops isn’t too hard, provided one of them is a fast growing “catch crop”. So you might go for leeks harvested in January – March, then a quick lettuce crop and then follow them with a brassica. That gives you three crops but some will have been started or finished in the previous or subsequent years.

But what about growing under glass, in a greenhouse? Commercial y all my greenhouses harvested on crop of lettuce in March/early April, then we went for toms, cues, peppers or similar to harvest early September. the we grew a lettuce crop to harvest before Christmas. So three crops in a single year with no problems.

But if I decided to grow a really fast growing crop, such as radish, I could get a dozen or more crops a year by repeat sowing within hours of harvesting a crop. I’ll post more details on that in another article.

What Can Be Succession Sown, Planted & Grown By Season?

Here’s a list of crops, by season, suitable for succession planting in the UK and some examples of annual successions. Naturally your location, microclimate, soil type, growing method and other factors will influence what can be planted.

Because of the above I’ve been careful not to designate specific dates, or even months, but have used terms such as early crops, mid season crops etc. We all need to use the lists bearing the many variables in mind. However, the basic concepts have worked for me for many years.

Crops for Outdoor Succession Planting in the UK

Early successional crops (planted in spring)

What to Sow in September, November & December, Peas for succession planting
What to Sow in September, November & December, Peas
  • Broad beans (fava beans)
  • Peas (mange tout, shelling, pea shoots)
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce (loose leaf, romaine, Cos, iceberg, crisp, butterhead)
  • Radishes including mooli
  • Turnips
  • Carrots (early varieties)
  • Beetroot (early varieties)
  • Lettuce
  • Celery
  • Potatoes

Mid-season crops (planted after harvesting early crops)

  • French beans (bush or climbing green beans)
  • Runner beans
  • Courgettes (summer squash)
  • Sweetcorn
  • Calabrese (broccoli)
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Leeks
  • Spinach (perpetual varieties)
  • Beetroot (later varieties)
  • Swiss chard
  • Lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Kale

Late season crops (planted after harvesting mid-season crops)

Examples of Annual Successions

Bear in mid your location etc. will vary this but here are some possibilities.

Example 1: Spring to Summer

  • Early spring: Sow broad beans, peas, and spinach.
  • Mid-spring (after harvesting some spinach): Plant lettuce amongst the remaining spinach for a mixed salad harvest.
  • Late spring/early summer (after harvesting broad beans and peas): Plant French beans or courgettes in the cleared space.

Example 2: Summer to Autumn

  • Early summer: Sow salad greens like rocket, coriander or mizuna directly into beds where early crops like lettuce or spinach have finished.
  • Mid-summer (after harvesting early salad greens): Plant calabrese or Brussels sprouts for a later harvest. Alternatively try oriental greens or mustard greens for a late season harvest.
  • Late summer/early autumn Sow peas or mooli, plant garlic or lettuce to be finished under cloches or fleece.

Example 3: Late Summer to Winter

  • Late summer (after harvesting summer crops): Plant kale, cavolo nero, or mizuna for a winter harvest. These cold-tolerant crops will thrive in cooler weather.
  • Autumn (sow in modules or trays for transplanting later): Start spinach varieties suitable for overwintering indoors for planting out in a sheltered spot in late autumn or early winter.

The above is just an example and will not suit everyone. But once you know your location, what works and what doesn’t, it is possible to get a succession that suits you.

Another Succession Planting Method

I use another method in some of my smaller beds. Each week I sow a few module trays of various varieties. It might be 5-06 lettuce, da few modules of multisided salad onions or beetroot etc. Then as I harvest and find a gap in a bed I plant a module to fill the space. Most weeks I don’t use every plant I’ve grown for replacements, but I can either compost them or give them to neighbours. Nothing is really wasted. This techniques ensures I have full beds of produce at all times.

One of the great advantages of this method is that you not only get more crops per plant you also get few weeds as they are crowded out by the fast growing veg plants in your beds.

Succession Planting Conclusions

By planning your successions and choosing appropriate crops for your location and the season, you can extend your harvest season and get the most out of your vegetable patch throughout the UK growing year. Remember to consider factors like sunlight availability and maturity times when planning your successions.

If you are really good at this technique you can extend the season even further by starting the season with hot beds. This will extend the season by 6-8 weeks and means you will get at least one more crop per unit area every year.

Are you up for biointensive succession planting veg growing?

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