Succession Sowing and Cropping

Succession Sowing and Cropping

Following on from the celebrations of the succession to the throne of King Charles III it is possibly a timely reminder to think about succession crops and be prepared tp fill the gaps in the garden.

Fortunately for me the principles of succession cropping mean that we are looking at seeds that are good to sow as the season progresses. I am very late doing things in the garden this year so have missed sowing many early crops, however, being aware of later sowing times means I am still able to sow and harvest some vegetables over the summer and autumn. I have only just sown my first pea seeds. They are indoors because of previous issues with rodents. Once they are ready to go out I will aim to sow some more to give me a longer picking season.

When looking at the succession of crops and flowers in the cutting garden then there are a few ways that can produce a succession of crops and flowers.

  • Extend the growing season with cover eg greenhouse, polytunnel, cloches, fleece etc
  • Grow early and late varieties of crops eg potatoes, peas and broad beans, carrots, cauliflowers
  • Use follow on crops eg after potatoes are harvested plant leeks in the vacant ground
  • Sequential sowings, in short rows,  of the same variety that will extend the harvest period for that crop eg carrots, peas, spinach, salad crops, annual flowers for cutting.
  • Picking to ensure a succession for flowers and fruits eg runner beans, dwarf french beans.
  • Starting a crop inside ready for it to be interplanted with an earlier crop so the new crop is established to take over as the first one comes to an end. Eg early lettuce intersown with carrot rows.

The idea behind successional sowing and planting is to maximise the yields from an area. Succession planting also reduces the time that there are bare areas of ground reducing the number of weed which then gives less time spent dealing with the weeds. Weeding can be done by tidying the ground as the next crop is sown or transplanted.

Some crops are worth succession sowing such as carrots, radishes, spring onions, turnips, beetroot, heading lettuce. Choose varieties for summer cropping  rather than later sowing varieties that will produce an autumn/winter crop although you will want to sow these as the summer progresses.

Sowings are made every 2-3 weeks depending on the crop. These sowings may be affected by the weather so if the weather is changeable, later sowings may catch up with earlier sowings and you may still get them maturing at the same time. Hopefully this won’t be the case, but if you do, and like me have no space left in the deep freeze, then giving surplus to friends or a local foodbank will mean your hard work won’t go to waste.

Lettuce prefers cooler weather to germinate well, or they go to seed. Succession sowing may fill the gap if your lettuces go to seed in the heat. If it’s still too warm for lettuces then try sowing dwarf french beans instead which do better in the warmer weather.

Short maturity crops such as turnips, beetroot, radishes and spring onions can be sown between rows of slower growing crops such as parsnips or brassicas. 

Towards the end of the season it is worth keeping in mind the time it takes to go from sowing to harvest, especially for the more tender crops. It’s not worth sowing tender crops such as runner and french beans if they don’t have time to mature before the first frost. There is information online about sowing to maturity dates so check it out before you sow. There are always other crops you can try such as oriental vegetables like pac choi, mizuna and mustards which are better in the cooler weather of autumn.

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