Succession Planting — Be An Expert

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Succession planting means growing different crops in the same space one right after the other in the same season or planting the same crop in different parts of the garden in succession at different times. Succession planting results in a succession of harvests–a long continuous harvest season.

Succession crop
A new crop is started when the harvest of another crop is completed; this is succession planting.

Succession cropping will help you get the most out of your vegetable garden.

Two succession cropping strategies

  • Plant a portion of a specific crop a little bit at a time; for example, plant a row of beans today and a second row three weeks from now. This will allow for a staggered succession of harvests.
  • Plant a crop today and after harvesting the crop, plant a second crop in the same place for a second harvest. For example, plant beets in the cool spring and follow with a crop of peppers during the warm summer.

Two succession planting examples

  • A row of carrots is planted in early spring: after the carrots are harvested in early summer, the vacated row is re-planted with snap beans for harvest in early fall. The two crops are grown on the same ground,
  • A planting bed is divided into three sections: the first sowing of radishes is planted in the first section; in 10 days, the second section is planted with radishes; in another 10 days, the third section is planted with radishes. Successive sowings of the same crop are made in different locations at 10-day intervals.
succession crops
Harvested cool-weather leafy crops make way for the planting of warm-season fruiting crops, tomatoes, and peppers.

Succession planting planning

Succession planting will allow you to plant several times throughout the growing season for a continuous supply of fresh vegetables.

When planning your succession cropping keep the following in mind:

  • The number of weeks of growing season in your garden. The length of the growing season is the number of weeks between the last frost in spring and the first frost in autumn. The local cooperative extension office can tell you the length of the growing season in your location or you can ask an experienced gardener at a nearby garden center.
  • The number of weeks each crop you wish to grow requires to germinate, grow, and reach harvestable size. The chart below will help you make these calculations. Note the number of weeks a particular crop require in the garden can vary by variety–for example, some varieties of corn require more days to reach harvest than others.
  • Days to maturity and date of the expected harvest. Each plant requires so many days from sowing to reach harvest. The days to maturity for a crop and a succession crop must fit comfortably into your growing season–the total number of frost-free days or growing days for each crop. (Or you must plan to protect your crops from killing cold weather.) Be sure to plant warm-season crops so that they will come to harvest in warm weather.
  • Nutrient requirements. Crops from the same family are best not planted in succession; they have the same nutrient requirements and will leave the soil lacking in specific nutrients if planted one after the other. Allow for crop rotation or be sure to work well-aged compost or manure into the soil before sowing the second crop. Crops from the same family also will be susceptible to the same pests and

Succession cropping planning formula

The number of days to harvest for crop #1 + the number of days to harvest for crop #2 = the total number of days in the garden. You can add crop #3 as long as the total continues to be less than the number of days in the growing season.

One more note, growing seasons can be extended on either end by a few weeks with the use of season extenders: cloches, plastic tunnels, and cold frames. Season extenders keep the growing temperatures right for crops.

Crop successions that can fill the same garden space for 7 to 8 months

• Cabbage→ Green Onions→ Spinach

• Carrot→ Beets→ Peppers

• Lettuce → Peas → Turnips

• Radish → Corn → Winter Squash

• Snap Beans → Broccoli

• Kale → Cucumbers

• Melons → Pumpkins → Beets

• Broad Beans → Cauliflower

• Potatoes → Broccoli

• Spinach → Sweet Potatoes

• Asparagus → Summer Squash

• Green Onions → Garlic

• Corn → Rutabagas

• Chard → Melons → Endive

Suggested succession planner

Use the following chart to help plan your garden successions. Note the harvest period can extend over several weeks, for example, baby carrots are harvested well before mature carrots, and the number of weeks to maturity can vary by crop variety.

VegetableWeeks to maturityWeeks in extended harvest periodPossible number of successions in 8 monthsPlants per person each planting
 Asparagus seed: 4 yrs root: 1 yr 8 1 5
Artichoke perennial 8 1 1
Arugula 6 2-4 4 5
Beans, snap 8 6-10 2 15
Beans, shell 8-9 6-10 1-2 20
Beans, dried 9+ 2 1 20
Beets 8-9 3-6 4 15
Broccoli 8-9 6 2 5
Brussels sprouts 11-13 6-10 1 2
Cabbage 9-16 4 2 2-3
Carrots 9-11 9-11 3 50
Cauliflower 8-12 2 2 1
Celery 12-16 11 2 5
Chard, Swiss 7-8 6-20 2 3
Chinese cabbage 7-12 4 3-4 5
Collards 12 8-16 2 5
Corn salad (mâche) 8-11 1-2 8 10
Corn, sweet 9-13 1 3 10-15
Cucumber 7-10 8 2 3
Eggplant 10-11 10 1 3
Escarole-endive 6-7 6 3 6
Florence fennel 9-13 6 3 10
Garlic 17-44 4 2 1-3
Horseradish 26 12-15 1 1
Kale 8-9 6-15 2 5
Kohlrabi 7-8 2 2 6
Leeks 19 6-15 1 10-25
Lettuce, leaf 6-12 3-6 4 8
Melons 12-17 6-10 1 3
Mustard greens 5-6 6-12 3 5
New Zealand spinach 10 6-12 1 3
Okra 7-8 6-12 1 5
Onions, bulb 14-17 6 1 20
Onions, bunching 8-17 6-12 1 20
Parsnips 15 6-15 1 12
Peas (snap and shell) 8-11 4-8 2 30-50
Peanuts 14-21 2-3 1 5-10
Peppers (sweet) 9-12 8-12 1 3
Potatoes (Irish) 9-17 2-3 2 5
Pumpkins 14-16 4-6 1 1
Radicchio 12 5 1 10
Radish 3-9 1-2 8 12
Rutabaga 13 3-6 1 5
Salsify 17 6-15 1 12
Scallions 17-26 10-12 2 20-25
Shallots 9-17 4-6 2 3
Spinach 6-7 3-6 4 10
Squash, summer 7-10 6-12 2 1-2
Squash, winter 11-17 2-4 1 2
Sunchoke 17 8-16 1 4
Sunflower 10-11 2 1 2
Sweet potatoes 13-34 4-8 1 5
Tomatillos 17 6-15 1 1-2
Tomatoes 8-13 6-15 1 3
Turnips 5-10 2-4 2 3-5
Turnip greens 5 2-6 4 2-3
Watermelon 10-13 6-10 1 1
Zucchini 7-9 6-12 2 1
Lettuce planted in two successions three weeks apart

Step-by-step succession crop planning

  1. Make a list of the crops you want to grow.
  2. Know the number of days in the growing season, the approximate number of days between the last expected frost in spring, and the first expected frost in fall. This is the growing season. Ask: is summer long enough to grow the crop you have in mind? Is it long enough to grow a second crop in the same spot or a third crop?
  3. Know the number of days to harvest each crop you plan to grow: the time in the garden for long-staying main crops and for quick-maturing early crops or late crops.
  4. Decide if the growing season will be extended in spring or autumn by the use of protection: cloches, floating row covers, plastic tunnels, or cold frames. Season-extension devices add days to your growing season.
  5. Make a map or chart of the growing space or planting beds for the beginning, middle, and end of the growing season: what spaces will be vacant and when.
  6. Be flexible: soil and air temperatures, the weather, pests, diseases, and other unforeseen events may alter your plans.

To know the number of days to maturity of many vegetable varieties, look up each vegetable under its name in the Topics Index or check the How to Grow Archive for each plant.

Succession-cropping suggestions

Crop coming outSuccession crops to follow
Artichoke, globeGreen bean, pea
Broad bean, fava bean Autumn harvest cabbage, peas, kohlrabi, lettuce, New Zealand spinach
Bush green or snap beanMain lettuce, endive, summer and winter spinach, kohlrabi, parsley
Brussels sprouts, late spring cabbage, corn, squash, kale, cardoonPole green or snap bean (longer cropping season than a bush bean)
BeetBroad, bush or pole green or snap bean, kale, pepper, chicory
BroccoliCelery, leek, maincrop potato, corn, kohlrabi, tomato, sunchoke
Brussels sproutsEarly and second early potatoes, beet, celery, leek, mint, shallot, sunchoke
Cabbage (spring harvest)Radish, beet, kohlrabi, onion
 Cabbage (autumn harvest) Early potatoes, cucumber, radish, pepper, celeriac, chives, squash, sunflower
 Carrot Bush or pole beans, autumn harvest cabbage
 Cauliflower Pea, maincrop potato, summer spinach, rutabaga
 Celeriac Broad bean
 Celery Garlic, mint, onion, shallot, savory
 Chicory Broad bean, Brussels sprouts, carrot
 Chives Broad or green bean, spring harvest cabbage, endive, corn, lettuce
 Corn (sweet) Pea, summer, and winter spinach, broad bean, autumn harvest cabbage
 Cucumber Maincrop potato, onion, pea, autumn harvest cabbage, carrot
 Garlic Broad or green snap bean, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, autumn harvest cabbage
 Kale Broad bean, pepper, early potato, carrot, rhubarb, celeriac
 Kohlrabi Potato, celery, leek
 Leek Tomato, green bush or pole bean, cucumber
 Lentil Corn, cauliflower, corn salad, endive, kohlrabi, onion, radish
 Lettuce Potato, celery , leek
 New Zealand spinach Maincrop potatoes, corn, autumn harvest cabbage, Brussels sprouts
 Onion Spring harvest cabbage
 Parsnip Kale, broad bean, pepper, rhubarb, sunflower
 Pea Brussels sprouts, celery, spring harvest cabbage, autumn harvest cabbage, carrot, turnip, tomato, autumn harvest cauliflower, cucumber, squash, autumn-sown onions, winter spinach, leek
 Pepper Lettuce onion, radish, winter spinach
 Potato (early) Spring harvest cabbage, Brussels sprouts, strawberries, tomato
 Potato (second early) Kale, cabbage, savoy, pea
 Potato (maincrop) Sprouting broccoli, spring harvest cabbage
 Rutabaga Broad bean
 Spinach Celery, second early potato, onion, tomato
 Squash Tomato, spinach, parsley, kohlrabi, chervil, cauliflower
 Sunflower Cabbage, winter squash
 Tomato Onion, green bean, radish, lettuce, pea, beet, autumn harvest cabbage,
 Turnip Pea, green bean

Succession planting allows for a continuous, uninterrupted harvest. Succession planting is sometimes called relay cropping.

Succession crops
Rows of crops can be planted in succession for a continuous harvest.

Succession planting is not crop rotation

Succession planting is different than rotation cropping. Rotation cropping is the practice of not planting the same crop in the same place for at least three successive years. Crop rotation ensures that the same plants or plants from the same family will not deplete the same soil nutrients year after year.

Whenever possible, do not plant successive crops of the same botanical family on the same ground. For example, root vegetables such as carrots or radishes should follow vegetables grown for their leaves or seeds, for example, lettuce or beans. In a small garden, this may be difficult. If you do grow the same vegetable in the same spot for two or three successive years, you must make extra efforts to keep the ground fertile (add plenty of aged compost between plantings) and remove immediately plants that become diseased.

There are no rules for succession planting. Any vegetable that is removed from the garden early enough in the season can be followed by any other crop which will have time to mature.

More succession planting examples

  • Cool-season crops followed by warm-season crops: early beets and beet greens, early cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, kohlrabi, lettuce, green onions, peas, radishes, spinach, and turnips can be planted early–these crops are cool-weather crops. These crops can be followed by warm-weather crops such as beans, eggplant, melons, peppers, tomatoes, or squash.
  • Warm-season crops followed by more warm-season crops: Bush beans, eggplant, melons, peppers, tomatoes, or squash can be followed by second plantings of the same crops. This is easily done in regions where summers are very long and winters are mild. If your growing season is 220 days or more, follow harvested warm-season crops with a second planting of warm-season crops.
  • Warm-season crops followed by cool-season crops. Warm-season crops such as bush beans or peppers can be followed by a mid or late-summer planting of cool-weather crops that will mature in autumn. Beets, Chinese cabbage, collards, corn salad, endive, kale, leeks, lettuce, mustard, and Swiss chard are cool-season crops that can follow warm-season crops for late autumn and winter harvest.
Intercropping lettuce and onions
Quick-maturing lettuce is intercropped–interplanted– with slower-growing onions.

Intercropping–planting crops side-by-side

Another form of succession cropping is growing quick-to-harvest crops next to slow-to-harvest crops. This form of succession cropping is also called intercropping or interplanting. Intercropping is often used in small gardens with a limited amount of space. Intercropping works best when quick-maturing crops are planted between slower-maturing crops. Here are crops that fall into these categories:

  • Quick-to-harvest crops include radishes, leaf lettuce, green bunching onions, turnips, and mustard greens. These crops require 60 days or less from sowing to harvest.
  • Slow-to-harvest crops include tomatoes, corn, squash, cabbage, eggplant, and peppers. These crops require more than 60 days from sowing until harvest, often 90 days or more.

Catch cropping

Catch cropping is a term used for filling a space in the garden where a plant has been harvested. One plant comes out, a second plant goes in. Catch cropping can be a form of succession planting; no part of the garden is left vacant during the growing season.

The number of succession crops that can be grown in the garden in a growing season depends upon the days to maturity for each crop and the number of days in the growing season. In short-season regions, it is more realistic to aim for two successions of crops. In long-season regions, a gardener may plant three or four successions from spring to autumn.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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