The idea behind succession planting is to stagger the sowing of your crops to avoid the feast or famine scenario, that soften occurs in food gardens.
In other words, don’t just plant one crop in spring and think that it is all over. Instead of having a harvestable crop for just two or three weeks, succession planting allows you to harvest for a couple of months.
For most crops, start by planting a third of the crop, wait two to four weeks and plant a second crop, followed a month or so later by the final crop.
For the orderly gardener a practical way to succession plant is to set aside a bed, and plant one row, followed by the planting of successive rows at regular intervals. But if you are the kind of gardener that goes with the flow, you may prefer to plant in the gaps as veggies go over and are taken out. There are no hard and fast rules.
What to sow successively
According to Kirchhoffs’ Marlaen Straathof by December you could be onto your third planting of quick growing veggies like bush beans, beetroot, carrots, radishes, Swiss chard and spring onions.
Beetroot ‘Red and Gold’ (RAW seed) is a mix of Detroit Dark Red and Golden Detroit, which has a slightly honeyed taste and keeps it colour when cooked. Detroit Dark Red is sweet and best harvested young. Sow all year round, in full sun, spaced 10cm apart in rows 30cm apart. Ready for harvest within 50 to 60 days.
‘Purple Queen’ garden bean has bright purple pods and is an easy and prolific crop to grow. The pods turn green when cooked. Plant in a sunny, well composted bed and water regularly. Beans germinate better when two beans are sown together. Just thin out the weaker plant or transplant it. Another tip: The more often you pick the more beans the plants produce.
Baby carrots have always been irresistible and ‘ Little Finger’ is a miniature carrot that’s aptly named and sweet tasting, excellent for salads. Sow at 14-day intervals during spring and summer to ensure a constant crop. The small, sweet orange carrots are finger sized and ideal for nibbling.
The gaps between planting varies from crop to crop and the region. In some areas winter comes earlier, which reduces the growing time. For long fruiting crops like bush tomatoes, eggfruit or peppers it may only be possible to make two plantings. December is the best time to sow seed for the second planting.
Bush tomatoes are quicker to harvest than vining types, which makes them more suitable for succession planting. Tomato Roma VF (Kirchhoffs) grows well in large pots with a supporting frame.Tomato ‘Principe Borghese’ (RAW) is an Italian heirloom variety with small fruit that ripens within 80 to 100 days. Support the 1.2m plant with a trellis or cage.
Growing cherry tomatoes in pots will contain their growth and because the fruit is small it doesn’t get heavy. Plants can also be trimmed to keep them manageable. However, they still need support, and a good idea is to fit a trellis into or behind the pot.
Red Cherry Sweetie’ (Kirchhoffs) has super sweet fruit and plants are dependable growers even under adverse conditions, with a long fruiting season.
Eggplant ‘Oriental Fingerlings’ (RAW) have slender, finger shaped fruits in purple, green and white. The flesh is tender and not bitter and it produces prolifically with a harvest within 70 to 80 days from transplanting seedlings.
The most important rule of vegetable growing is to renew the soil with compost and organic fertiliser before planting a new crop.
Sowing in midsummer compared to spring, means getting plants going under much hotter conditions. It is essential to use some form of shade protection.
This can be a simple wooden frame to support a light covering of branches, thatching grass, sticks or shade cloth. The shade must not be too dense.
Make sure the frame is high enough for the air to circulate underneath it. It is better not to attach the branches or grass so that it can easily be taken off if the sun is replaced by days of grey, overcast weather.
Cut up transparent plastic shopping bags and open them up and use them to shade seedling trays. All you need is some sticks at each corner (pushed into the tray) and the plastic can be clipped onto the sticks with clothes pegs. Then it is easy to put on or take off.
Mulch is another way to protect the plants from the heat by keeping their roots cool. Use organic materials like pine needles, thatching grass, shredded newspapers, or eggshells (that will also keep snails away).
TEXT: Alice Coetzee