The summer harvest season is in full swing. But while you're gathering up armloads of tomatoes, beans, zucchini, and more, be sure to leave time to keep on sowing seeds as well. Continuing to plant ensures that you'll be harvesting delicious, homegrown veggies throughout the summer and on into the fall. Succession planting is a great way to use your garden space productively.
Succession Planting Pointers
Succession planting is all about planning ahead and being able to take advantage of space as it opens up in the garden. As spring planted crops like peas, lettuce, and cole crops finish up, be ready to fill their places in the garden with another crop to continue the harvest. For example, you might follow peas with kale or spring lettuce with bush beans. Crops that mature quickly can be followed by more of the same, or something entirely different. Lettuce and other greens are often best planted multiple times in small amounts over the course of the growing season as they don't keep well. This way you have what you need for fresh eating and won't be overwhelmed with more than you can use at any one time.
Crops to Plant in Midsummer through Early Fall
Here are some suggestions for crops that can be grown from seed from midsummer on in many parts of the country. The most suitable crops and the specific planting times for your area will depend on where you're located. Gardeners in longer season areas with later frost dates will be able to continue planting later in the fall. Those in short-season climates will need to begin planting earlier for fall harvests, but will experience fewer problems with summer heat affecting crops that grow best in cooler weather. Many state Extension Service websites offer helpful, regionally appropriate planting information.
Arugula: Plants bolt quickly in the heat of summer, so make repeat sowings every two weeks until about a month before the fall frost date.
Bush Beans: Make repeat sowings every 2-3 weeks until 8-12 weeks before the first fall frost date.
Beets: In cool season areas, make repeat sowings every 2-3 weeks all summer long. In warmer areas, plant 8-10 weeks before fall frost for a late season crop.
Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower: These crops mature well in the cooler weather of fall. In many areas, there is still time to start plants from seed for fall harvest, about 12-14 weeks before your fall frost date. If you are in a short-season area, now is the time to be setting out started transplants.
Carrots: Carrots that mature in the cooler weather of fall will be sweet and mild. Sow carrots up until about 12 weeks before your fall frost date. In the warmest areas, you can grow them right through the winter months.
Herbs: Sow small amounts of seeds of dill and coriander/cilantro every couple of weeks to have a continued supply of young leaves for harvest.
Kale: Sow seeds for a fall crop of mature leaves 10- 12 weeks before your fall frost date. If you are growing kale as "baby" greens, you can sow seeds as late as a few weeks before frost.
Kohlrabi: For fall harvest, start seeds 10-12 weeks before your fall frost date.
Lettuce and other Salad Greens: Make small repeat sowings at 1-2 week intervals. In many areas, it may get too hot in summer for a good crop; use heat-resistant varieties and shade plants to increase the chances of a successful crop, or take a break from planting starting about a month before hot weather hits until late summer. Lettuce seeds germinate poorly in warm soil (above 60 degrees) so if you are starting plants in summer, cover beds with shade cloth after planting or start seeds indoors and transplant. Plant for fall harvest up until about 6 weeks before your fall frost date.
Peas: Plant 12 weeks before your fall frost date for a fall harvest. Peas grow well in the cooler fall weather, but can be damaged by frost, especially the developing pods. So try to time your fall pea sowing so plants mature a week or two before the fall frost date, and be prepared to cover plants if an early frost threatens. Keep the seed bed well watered at planting time to ensure good germination.
Radishes: Plant regular radishes starting in late summer up until about 6 weeks before your fall frost date. Larger winter radishes also make a good fall crop. Plant 8-10 weeks before your fall frost date.
Spinach: Sow seeds 6-8 weeks before the fall frost date. Gardeners in cool climates may be able to grow spinach through the summer. Look for bolt-resistant varieties and sow where plants will get some shade from taller plants in the garden.
Q: I'd like to try growing large white daikon radishes. How and when should I plant them?
A: These hefty winter radishes make a great fall crop. They grow well in cool weather and their flavor improves after light frost. Time your planting so that your radishes will mature around the date of your first fall frost. Daikons and other winter radishes take longer to mature than regular spring radishes, usually about 50-60 days. Make sure to loosen the soil deeply in the planting bed in preparation for these long root vegetables. It's common for the top portion of the root to protrude above the soil surface as it develops. Store radishes in the ground by mulching heavily before hard frosts to keep the ground from freezing; then dig roots as needed. Or dig and store in sand or sawdust at cool, but above freezing temperatures, such as in a root cellar. Enjoy daikon radishes raw; baked, boiled, or sauteed like carrots or beets; or pickled.