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Desert Gardening

Succession Planting in Arizona

W

hether you're growing flowers or want to enjoy year-round fresh produce, succession planting is the best way to ensure there's always plenty to go around. Here's more about what succession planting is and how you can use it to your advantage in your Arizona garden. 

   

What is Succession Planting?

Succession planting is a term that refers to a gardening style that puts new crops in the ground straight after harvesting or getting the next crop started before the first has matured. 

Lettuce provides an excellent example of how you can use succession planting. Plant your first lettuce a couple of weeks before the first frost date. After two weeks, you plant your second crop, and then another lot two weeks after that. You are effectively extending the growing season and improving the productive capacity of your garden. 

You can also start your second crops as seedlings indoors, and by the time your first crop is ready for harvesting, your seedlings are ready to be transplanted in their place. 


Succession Planting Benefits

The most significant advantage of succession planting is that your garden is always productive. There is never a time where the soil is laying bare, which also helps to prevent weeds from sprouting. 

If you live in an urban environment and thought you could never have a large enough garden to make growing your own food worthwhile, then the idea of succession planting should go a long way in changing your mind. 

Even relatively small spaces can produce a lot of produce when the garden is designed and managed well and the ground is always filled with productive crops. 


Things to Consider with Succession Planting

Every garden needs careful planning if it's going to be successful. Intelligent garden design is critical, but succession planting also requires careful timing of your crops. Before you start diving into succession planting, consider the following points, and you will get more out of your garden.  


Gardening Space

All plants have space requirements, so your available area for gardening will impact what you can grow and how much. You will also need to consider the succession crops that will replace each current harvest. 

For instance, it wouldn't be practical to follow the first round of plants that need a foot between them, with a variety that requires a spacing of two feet because that will limit your garden's production capacity. Plan your succession crops by dividing up your garden into areas so that each section supports crops with similar growing requirements. 


What You Like and How Much You Use

Every family is different and considering what everyone enjoys in the household will help you determine how much of each crop you should grow. 


Consider Microclimates

Managing microclimates plays a vital role in succession planting in Arizona. When you plan out your garden, you will need to ensure that the plant varieties that follow each successive harvest can handle the climate conditions. For instance, salad greens like loose-leaf lettuce, arugula, and endive will bolt if they get too much sun. It wouldn't do to follow them with a crop of okra or tomatoes, which thrive in full sun. 


Grow Time

The amount of time a plant takes to mature will be listed on the packet. Knowing how long it takes to get from seed to harvest is necessary for planning your succession crops. 

It also helps you to know which plants should make up your first crop and which ones will be your follow up. Some plants will be fast growers, while others will take their time. This information is critical because you don't want to have plants in the ground that will cause your next crop to struggle as the growing season concludes.  


Different Types of Succession Planting

There are various strategies to accomplish succession planting. You don't have to stick with just one but can mix and match how and when you plant your crops. Experimentation will help you discover what works best so you can get the most out of your garden. 


Companion Planting

Certain plant varieties will work well together when planted close to each other, while others will compete for the same nutrients. The winner usually takes all, while the loser fails dismally. 

When you are swapping crops in and out, be mindful of which plants you place close to each other. 

Companion planting can improve soil conditions because some plants add vital nutrients to the soil to benefit the surrounding plants. For example, peas and beans fix nitrogen into the ground, which can help subsequent crops get off to a good start. Parsley and lemon balm are popular choices for adding beneficial chemicals to the earth to stimulate growth in nearby crops. 

You can read more about companion planting here


Staggered Planting

Staggered planting is a form of succession planting where you will plant your first crop and then a second before the first has reached maturity. For instance, if your family uses a lot of lettuce, instead of growing and harvesting all your lettuce at once, you could stagger your planting. 

During the first few weeks, while you wait for the first crop to mature, you could start the next batch by growing seedlings indoors. Once the first crop is established, you will have healthy seedlings ready to go into the ground. 

With careful planning, succession planting can be used to extend the growing season. Start the first crop as seedlings a couple of weeks before the season has kicked in. Seedlings you start for the second crop will also have time to reach maturity before end of the season. 

Staggered planting is an excellent way to improve productivity. You always have something growing in your garden and can effectively add a few extra weeks to the growing season by starting seedlings indoors or in a greenhouse. 

Some great choices to consider for staggered succession planting include:

  • Spinach
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Radishes
  • Corn
  • Peas
  • Lettuce
  • Beans


Plant Different Varieties of the Same Plant

Different varieties of the same plant can help a great deal with succession planting. Tomatoes are a great example because there are tons of options, and some are faster growing than others. You can use the traits of each type to your advantage when planning out your crops. 

A fast grower like the celebrity tomato fruits in around 70 days, while the Arkansas traveler tomato will take around 90 days. Planting the fast grower followed by the slow grower a couple of weeks later will extend the amount of time you have fresh tomatoes available. 


More Succession Planting Tips

Succession planting can feel overwhelming at first, so the most important thing is to start with what you know and work your way up from there. 


What Do You Enjoy the Most?

Maybe your family enjoys potatoes, so you are already successfully growing them but can never seem to produce enough. Starting with a plant you are familiar with is an excellent place to begin your succession gardening adventure. 


Know Your First and Last Frost Dates

One of the most critical things to know is your frost dates. Determine when your last frost date in the spring and your first frost date in the fall are. Once you know these dates, you can start planning out your planting schedule. This interactive frost date guide will tell you everything you need to know. Simply type in your ZIP code to find out the first and last frost dates for your area. 


Best Times to Use Successional Gardening

The first and last frost dates are great starting points, but these dates aren't set in stone. If you can, keep your starting dates to around spring into early summer and then late summer into early fall. 

Doing this should help you avoid the hottest parts of summer and build your confidence and experience with a few successful crops. The temperatures during the peak of summer in Arizona can make gardening challenging even for experienced gardeners. 


Best Crops for Succession Planting

Not all vegetables are suitable for succession planting, so here are the crops you should focus on to get the most production capacity out of your garden:

  • Salad crops like lettuce and chard
  • Root vegetables 
  • Fast maturing vegetables like legumes


Plants that Don't Do Well with Succession Planting

Some crops are not particularly suited for succession planting, such as garlic and onion, for instance. These are long storing vegetables, so the need for spreading out the growing season is negligible. The growing season is also limited, so you don't really have time to grow more than one crop. 

In general, plants that can stay in the ground during a long growing season will also give you plenty of stock without the need for succession planting. 


Get Started with Succession Planting

Succession planting is an excellent strategy to ensure your garden is always providing you and your family with fresh vegetables or beautiful flowers all year long. Use the tips and resources above to get started in experiencing the benefits of succession planting this season. 




References:

[1] https://garden.org/apps/frost-dates/Chandler%2C+Arizona/

[2] https://www.plantmaps.com/interactive-arizona-first-frost-date-map.php

[3] https://morningchores.com/succession-planting/

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGCQ8_SngiA

[5] https://summerwindsnursery.com/blog-az/succession-planting

[6] http://www.tomatodirt.com/tomatoes-for-hot-dry-climates.html