How to use succession planting in a novel way

April 26, 2017

President for a day is many a kid's fantasy, and sadly, some adults' as well. Take Presidential Succession, or simply put, who becomes president next.

When President James K. Polk's term ended Sunday, March 4, 1849, the newly elected President Zachary Taylor refused to be sworn into office on Sunday.

So for one day the United States had no sworn-in president. Enter Missouri Sen. David Rice Atchison, who as president pro tempore, and therefore acting vice president, was, according to some, in fact the acting president.

Succession takes place in the garden in a much more informal way. When one crop is finished, you simply plant another to take its place. Succession planting means that your harvest is spread out over several weeks and your garden producing all season long without any gaps. It also means you aren't overwhelmed with too much produce at one time.

You can accomplish this in many ways. One way is to plant the same vegetable every few weeks so that throughout the season you get a continuous crop.

Vegetables such as bush beans tend to ripen all at once, and then stop producing. So by planting a row of bush beans every two or three weeks, you have a fresh crop constantly ripening. Seed packets and catalogs list the number of days from planting to harvest.

Sometimes you can't plant the same crop in the same spot. Garden peas like cool spring weather and will wither in the summer heat. So after the peas have come and gone, you can't plant more peas in June or they simply won't produce.

Instead you can use that same space to grow plants that don't need to go in the ground in early spring. Plants grown for their leaves can be used even when small, so are ideal for filling in bare spots in the garden.

Try sowing basil, dill, arugula, basil, cilantro, lettuce and salad greens, escarole or endive, and kale.

Quick-growing root crops such as radishes are ready to pick in just 35 days, so you can always use them as fillers.

You can use succession planting in a novel way by planting two different vegetables with two different harvest dates in the same spot in the garden.

Plant fast-growing radishes alongside slower-growing carrots, and the freshly sprouted radishes will mark the row while the carrots slowly germinate. You can harvest the radishes and leave the carrots to continue growing to maturity.

One of the easiest ways to succession plant is to just pick different varieties of the same crop and plant them all at once.

Sow seeds of early, mid-season and late varieties of beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and sweet corn for a staggered harvest. With warmer soil and air during the summer, many vegetables will grow faster than in early spring, so some of your late plantings will actually catch up and ripen along with the earlier crops.

If you are going to plant seeds throughout the summer you may want to buy the seeds early in the spring, as many stores run out or stop carrying garden seeds much past spring.

Many seeds will last for years if properly stored in a dark, cool spot with low humidity.

Because you are asking the soil to produce all year long, be sure to enrich the soil with added compost or rotted manure. A good slow-release organic fertilizer will help too.

Plan ahead and use succession planting in this year's garden. You will have far more vegetables than before, and the harvest will be more manageable spread over several weeks or months rather than all at once.

As for "Acting President" David Rice Atchison and his one day of the so-called presidency? Times were simpler then and he simply slept the day away.

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.

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