Succession Planting/Second-Season Farming

Broccoli seedlings in planters on the front deck. These babies will be moved to the greenhouse when the weather turns.
Gardeners in the north may not have the climate conditions of our neighbors down south that allow them to essentially harvest vegetables year-round, but we can adopt a method known as “succession planting” to maximize our yield.

Succession planting is the rotation of crops and recycling of space; it allows gardeners to pull out spent vegetables and replant new ones, and it can increase total yields and improve the quality of vegetables.

Hardiness zones, ranging from 1 to 10 (lowest to highest temperatures), designate which plants are capable of thriving in a particular location. According to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, upstate New York is zones 3 to 6, meaning that plants should be grown that can withstand temperatures of -40 °F to -5 °F. Crops that can grow well under these conditions include arugula, broccoli, cilantro, kale, lettuce, peas, and spinach. Plant them in July or early August and they will be ready for harvest from September to November.

Eliot Coleman, gardening guru and author of The Winter Harvest Handbook, states, “If farmed intensively, a small area of land can be very productive. The key to increased productivity is to make better year-round use of every square foot.”

4 tips for successful succession planting:
  • Once plants start to wilt, pull them out and replant them using all of the available space. (Then compost the old plants!)
  • It’s important to keep the soil moist. If it dries out, the seeds may die and you will have to start over. As a general rule, seeds planted in the late summer should be sown twice as deep as in the spring. Installing shade nets or using natural trellises and tall plants can shade new plants from the sun.
  • Choose plants that thrive in cool temperatures, such as arugula, beets, broccoli, carrots, kale, lettuce, spinach, and all kinds of Asian greens. Pick varieties that are disease-resistant and mature quickly.
  • Because cooler temperatures and shorter days slow plant growth, add an extra 14 days to the days-to-maturity figure on the seed packet to find your summer planting date. When cold weather arrives, cover plants with garden fabric or use a cold frame to protect them.
At Better Farm, we've replanted lettuce, spinach, wheat grass, peas, and broccoli; while continuing our indoor aquaponics and hydroponics setups with tomatoes and salad greens. Stay tuned for more photos of our progress!

For a great guide on what to plant and when for your hardiness zone, click here.