It’s the middle of summer and there’s a subtle shift underway as we move from the feverish pace of growth earlier on to a more settled sense of maturity – and productivity! In fact, with the harvests now coming thick and fast, some very obvious gaps are starting to appear. The perfect opportunity for the next phase of vegetables: the succession crops!
What is A Succession Crop?
A succession crop is one that immediately follows on from another. With a little planning you can use succession planting to minimise the time that ground is left bare, boosting overall yields and keeping your soil in better health too.
Some classic examples of succession cropping include maincrop carrots following on from spring salads, onions lifted in time for planting kale, and dwarf beans going in after harvesting potatoes.
Quick Salad Crops
Many summer salads make excellent succession crops. Quick growers like radish, lettuce and spring onion can be sown direct into recently cleared ground. Or sow into plug trays so the earlier crop has time to finish growing while the second crop starts off – a handy technique if you live somewhere with shorter growing seasons.
You can keep sowing winter-hardy salads well into late summer in many areas, and with a little protection they should continue to give leaves on and off throughout the coldest months.
Succession Stars of Late Summer
There are plenty of vegetables that sown now should still give plenty to pick before the end of the season. Dwarf beans are an excellent choice to sneak in wherever gaps appear, for instance after garlic, especially if they’ve been sown earlier and grown on in pots or plugs.
Fennel is another fantastic late-summer vegetable – sow it direct or start it off away from the vegetable beds to plant out as young plants, about a foot (30cm) apart in both directions.
Maincrop Roots for an Autumn Harvest
Summer is the time to direct-sow carrots for autumn and winter eating. Choose a maincrop variety that will produce good-sized roots by the end of the season and that stores well.
The same goes for beetroot, which sown now are far less likely to bolt (flower prematurely). Sow direct, or in clusters of two to three seeds per plug. They can then be planted out, without thinning, and will grow on as clusters of roots to lift in one go or harvest one at a time, leaving the smallest roots in each cluster to grow on.
Hardy Winter Brassicas
I love my greens, and you can’t get any greener – or healthier – than good old kale! Sow kale into plug trays about a month before you’ll be ready to plant. Kale is a hungry crop, so it’s worth adding some garden compost to help feed the soil before transplanting your kale seedlings about 16 inches (40cm) apart.
Another brassica I’m trying out for the first time this year is this broccoli raab or rapini – a sort of quick-growing, miniature broccoli that should be ready to enjoy just two months from sowing.
Plan Your Succession Crops
Anticipating gaps can be tricky, but our Garden Planner can help. Start by specifying the months each crop will be in the ground by double-clicking each plant and setting its In-Ground dates. Work through the crops on your plan, and once you’re done view your plan month-by-month to see where those gaps appear. Then filter the selection of vegetables to view only crops that are suitable for autumn planting.
(The image above shows our new Garden Planner, due for release later this year, but you can find the same features in the current version too.)
There are just a few ideas for you, but I’d love to know what you’re sowing and growing from the second half of summer. Don’t keep me guessing – drop me a comment below and tell me!