Succession planting for a non-stop harvest

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As the last tomato seedlings are tucked into the garden in late spring, many gardeners turn off their grow lights for the season. Not me! In fact, my grow lights are left on throughout summer to ensure a non-stop supply of high quality seedlings for succession planting.

Succession planting is a simple technique that allows gardeners to enjoy the longest possible harvest. As early crops are picked, the empty beds are then re-seeded or planted with fresh seedlings. With the exception of root crops, I prefer to use seedlings over seeds when succession planting. In summer the hot, often dry weather, plus the increase in insect pests, can make direct seeding difficult. As well, the seed of many crops won’t germinate when the temperature reaches a certain point – for example, the germination rate of lettuce nosedives at 27 C (80 F). Therefore, relying on my trusty grow lights to nurture my seedlings until they’re ready for transplanting just makes sense.

I’m also a year round veggie gardener, with many vegetables planted in mid to late summer. At that point, it’s impossible to find fresh broccoli, kohlrabi or lettuce seedlings at my local garden centres, so I need to grow my own if I want to enjoy a cold season harvest.

Last thought: Remember to enrich your soil with some compost or aged manure between successive crops to keep production high.

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8 Responses to Succession planting for a non-stop harvest

  1. Cindi says:

    When and what will you be planting under your lights this summer besides lettuce and broccoli? My broccoli was harvested this week and I just started broccoli seeds last week. I started all my broccoli seeds in late March. Should I have started seeds in two week intervals so I would have a longer harvest time? Love your posts.

    • Niki Jabbour says:

      Great question! I just seeded my cabbages yesterday and hope to seed a flat of broccoli and additional greens today. These will go under the grow lights now and be moved to the garden in about 4 weeks (usually around Aug 1st). Hope that helps!! – Niki

  2. Adriana says:

    Hi Nikki!
    I’m a HUGE fan. A total beginner gardener, my husband eventually got tired of me just planting at random and bought me your book (year round veggie gardener) as a Christmas present, since then, I’ve been hooked!!
    This is my first garden, and my “spring” garden was dismal….
    I want to give cauliflower another try for the fall harvest, and my last attempt at cauliflower sprouted well, but after I transplanted, it never made a head! We ate the leaves, so wasn’t a total waste, but I’d like to try for the fall.

    Should I start seeding (indoors under a light) around mid June? and then transplant in August?

    I seem to have one issue with starting my seedlings (of many different kinds of veggies!), they germinate well, grow well for maybe a few weeks-and then get stunted and stop growing. Is it my mix? Visually, they are never “big” enough to transplant at that point, so not sure what I’m doing incorrect.

    Thanks for any input!!

    • Niki Jabbour says:

      Hey Adriana.. thank you so much for your kind words!! 🙂 I’m sorry your spring gardens haven’t worked out – don’t be discouraged.. I’m battling groundhogs this year and it’s very frustrating! Cauliflower is one of the hardest veggies to grow. It’s one of my faves, but again, it’s a challenge.. mother nature has to co-operate and all must go well for it to produce it’s lovely curd. But yes, try again! Start your seeds now (I have some under my lights) and put them in the garden in about 4 weeks. You should have a bumper crop in Sept. Cauliflower seedlings don’t like to be pot-bound, so don’t leave them in their pots/cell packs for too long. Keep me posted!! 🙂 Niki

  3. Adriana says:

    Hi Niki,
    Thanks for the reply!!! I will start my cauliflower asap. Do I leave them in the seed starting mix until I transplant in 4 weeks? or should I move them into potting soil before hand?

    Can I pick your brain about my garlic patch as well? I started one last fall (thanks to you!!!). We love garlic, and I wanted to give it a try!! It’s a very small patch (I planted ~23 cloves) and about 19 actually sprouted this spring. Just recently, 2 of them had their entire leaves turn brown, and I read somewhere that by that time it’s too late. So I dug them up, and yes, they seem to be rotten? There doesn’t seem to be a sheath covering them. Does that mean I picked them too early? Should I have left them in the ground? What about the rest of my patch? I’m a little nervous about when to harvest them, it’s Music garlic and I’m in zone 5b (Montreal).
    Any input would be appreciated!!!

    • Niki Jabbour says:

      Well there are some rots/fungal issues that can affect garlic.. as well, sometimes a few bulbs just don’t overwinter well and they can rot. So, at this point, it’s hard to say what happened, but it’s good that it only affected two plants. Each leaf will be a layer / sheath around the bulb.. that’s why we harvest when half the leaves are brown; to ensure a good papery covering on the bulbs. So glad you grew garlic – you’ll love it! We save about 1/3 of our harvest to replant and then eat the rest. Music is a great variety, the most common. And it should do well for you in Montreal. I would suggest mulching them after you plant them in Oct. I put a 2 to 3 inch layer of shredded leaves or straw over the bed after planting.

      Hope that helps!! 🙂 – Niki

  4. Adriana says:

    Here’s the rest of the garlic patch… they look good…?

    • Niki Jabbour says:

      They look on track for harvest in about a week or so.. when about half the leaves brown, they can be lifted (not pulled) with a garden fork. You can then cure them so they store longer.. but we like to eat a few bulbs fresh too – put cleaned bulbs on the bbq with other foods and let them roast.. squeeze the roasted cloves on fresh baguette! So yummy!! – Niki

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