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A Beginner's Guide to Successional Sowing


Successional sowing is a specific strategy or series of strategies that organic gardeners often use to make the most of all the space and time available to them in their gardens.


What is Succession Sowing?

Succession sowing can take several different forms. But the idea is always generally the same. It is all about making sure that you are making the most of space and time available to you in your garden. 

No matter what type of succession planting you are implementing, the goal is to make sure you avoid areas of bare soil as much as possible, and make the most of every inch of space, and every second of the growing season by sowing in staged phases, rather than all at once.


Types of Succession Sowing

When we succession sow, we might:

  • Sow multiple batches of seeds of the same crop and variety over a number of weeks or months. For example, we might sow small numbers of radish seeds every couple of weeks, so we can harvest small quantities over a longer period, and not end up with a glut. 
  • Sow seeds in succession of different varieties of the same crop, taking advantage of different properties and time-to-harvest ranges for specific cultivars. For example, we might sow first early, second early and maincrop peas for staggered harvests.
  • Sow multiple crops at the same time for overlapping growing. For example, we might sow quick growing lettuce between slower growing cabbage crops, so that the lettuce takes up the space, but is harvested before it is required by the cabbage crops. 
  • Sow different crops in space vacated by plants we harvest through the year. For example, we might replace summer crops like tomatoes with a cool season crop like Vicia faba (broad beans/ Fava beans), or replace summer beans with cool season cabbage family plants,  to grow year-round in our gardens. Through careful planning, we can make sure that when one crop comes to an end, there will be some other crop or a green manure to replace it right away.


Tips For Successful Succession Planting

Succession planting is a simple concept. But it is one that can quickly become quite complicated as you think about how to implement it. The first and most important thing is to have a good plan in place. 

Be sure to think about:

  • The climate and conditions where you live. 
  • The crops and varieties you would like to sow and grow. 
  • The needs, root form and growth habit of those plants. 
  • The expected time-to-harvest for those plants. 
  • How this might vary depending on when, where and in what conditions they are sown and grow. 
  • How plants interact with their neighbours (and how we can take advantage of beneficial interactions through combining the idea of succession sowing with the idea of companion planting. 
  • How to combine succession sowing with crop rotation (which is a good idea for certain key crop families). 

If you think about the above, you can begin to work out a successional sowing plan for your own annual vegetable garden.



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