Succession planting is performed when a grower wishes to harvest a crop progressively throughout the year, it is then sensible to plant every week (or so) to keep up a continual supply.

The interval of which the crops are planted will change depending on the time of year because plant growth is affected by light, temperature, day length, etc.

Planting dates must be adjusted accordingly to keep a continual supply of the crop.

Why Is Succession Planting Important On A Market Farm?

A farmer must make succession plantings in order to achieve a consistent harvest from his/her farm.

I will reiterate: In order to achieve a steady income from your farm, you must consistently plant and harvest throughout the season.

How To Start Succession Planting

Before you even start to succession plant, you need to have an idea of what demand there is for a particular crop. Essentially, how much you think you can sell on a weekly basis.

Once you have an understanding of how much you can sell, then look at how much yield you need. After you perform this important analysis, you will know how much you can plant.

Sounds pretty straight forward, right? Weelll, it’s not quite so cut and dry. 

The complicated part is figuring out when you plant, and how the changing day lengths and temperature variations during the year affect when those crops will be ready.

Here’s the thing, if you’re planting by the date of maturity (DTM) found in the seed catalogs without taking into consideration the above-mentioned factors, you’re going to run into some trouble.


Here’s an example from Curtis Stones’ The Urban Farmer:

Background: He can sell 150 bunches of radishes per week between restaurants and farmer’s markets.

Based on his crop profile information, he needs two 25 ft beds each week to harvest this much successfully.

If he needs to have those radishes ready by May 1, he can look in the seed catalog and see that radishes have a DTM of around 30 days.

If this was actually true, he could plant radishes 30 days before May 1 and they would be ready.

It would also mean that he could plant every week for a continued harvest thereafter.

However, this is not true. Here’s why.

The further north or south you go from the equator, the more extreme day length changes from season to season.

If you keep track of your own crop information by recording planting and harvesting dates, after one season of farming you will have a much clearer idea of how varied day lengths in your area affect succession planting.

Getting back to Curtis’s radish example, he farms in downtown Kelowna, BC (zone 6B). If he were to direct seed radish in the field on April 1, his expected DTM is 41 days. If he were to plant again two weeks later on April 14, his DTM would now be 32 days. 

Day length gets exponentially longer during this phase of the year, and the temperatures are also rising, thus shortening the DTM for crops.

In his first year, Curtis made the mistake of planting every week during this early spring period and crops that were planted on April 1 and then again on April 8 ended up both being mature at the same time.

It’s a rookie mistake that we are all liable to make at least in the first years.

How does Curtis account for the time of year in his succession planting?

Curtis has learned to plant by crop development, not by a particular schedule. 

Instead of planting a crop like radishes on fixed days, he plants the next succession when the first one has reached a certain stage of growth.

For example, when he plants radishes on April 1, he won’t plant again until the first planting has emerged from the soil and sprouted two true leaves. Then, he knows that there is enough time to start the next crop so that they won’t mature at the same time. 

Once warmer weather begins and the day and nighttime temperatures stabilize, he then moves into a consistent weekly planting schedule.

At this point, he no longer plants by crop development. In the case of radishes, once the second week of May has passed, their DTM becomes more consistent.

Radishes, in particular, must be harvested fast in the summer months so he will plant small amounts of radishes at tighter intervals, where in early spring it is the opposite (planting large amounts at wider intervals).

Succession Planting For Greens

Greens like arugula, lettuce, mustard, and spinach can be cut multiple times as the same plant regenerates repeatedly two weeks or less after the first harvest of leaves.

This regeneration can greatly boost your yields because if you plant every week consistently you will have new greens becoming available at the same time as the second and third cuts from previous plantings.

This is a difficult process to figure out and can take a few seasons but once you understand it, you can use it to your advantage.

Let’s again use Curtis Stone’s succession planting strategy as an example using arugula.

When he plants one bed of arugula per week, it will yield 10 pounds.

If he plants May 4 and each week after, his first harvest will be May 28 for ten pounds, his next weeks’ harvest will be June 4 from a May 11 planting.

His third harvest in the sequence is June 11. This is the first cut from the May 18 planting as well as the second cut from the May 4 planting. This week he is harvesting 20 pounds because he’s cutting from two plantings.

This is how succession planting will start to overlap with previous plantings. 

The first succession occurs on June 11, where the first cut from May 18 and the second cut from May 4 overlap.

The second succession is on June 18.

Now on June 25, he reached a point where there are three crop successions being harvested at once, which would be 30 pounds of arugula.

This is the critical point where your production from these crops will be at its peak. From this point on you will be cropping from three plantings at once.

I have attempted to illustrate Curtis’s arugula succession plan to help clarify his strategy.

arugula succession plan

Bottom Line

As you can see, there are a lot of factors that need to be taken into account for successful succession planting.

It’s going to take time, a lot of trial and error, and record-keeping to develop a succession plan that is right for your farm and climate considerations.

However, despite all the best planning, the climate is never consistent. Unusual extremes of heat and cold can make planning difficult.

One way to offset unpredictable weather, as Eliot Coleman recommends, is to grow more than one variety of crop.

The varieties should be chosen for their slightly different performance under similar growing conditions. This will help ensure a more dependable harvest.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little intimidated by succession planting. I know it is necessary to do for successful market farming, there is just a lot of factors that affect how crops grow.

It is truly a trial and error game, so our first year is going to be the guinea pig year, so to speak. Our goal is to do our best knowing that we are probably going to make mistakes. That’s OK.

We will learn from our missteps and do better with our succession planting the next year.

As long as we continue to learn better methods that work for us, we will eventually develop a solid succession plan for our crops.

You can bet that we will be documenting the heck out of this process and will keep you informed as to what is or is not working for us, so stay tuned!

What is your experience with succession planting? Let us know in the comments below.

Stay Local,

Kathy & Jon

your friendly neighbourhood growers


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join Our Community!

Subscribe to our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates happening around our farm. For all the locals, you will be the first to know what veggies we will be offering each week and which markets we will be at.

You have successfully joined!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This