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Why You Should Practice Succession Planting for Your Garden

Denver’s high-plain desert climate presents challenges for gardeners due to its short growing season and frost dates from mid-May to mid-September. However, smart gardeners utilize succession planting to extend their harvests.

This technique involves staggering crop plantings for a continuous yield, maximizing production and offering various benefits for gardeners: 

  • Maximizing Space: With limited growing seasons, succession planting allows gardeners to make the most of available space by efficiently rotating crops and interplanting, a technique that utilizes the space at the base of taller growing crops to plant shorter varieties, thus ensuring that beds are always productive.
  • Continuous Harvest: By staggering plantings, gardeners can enjoy a steady supply of fresh produce throughout the growing season, rather than a single, overwhelming harvest.
  • Soil Health: Succession planting can improve soil health by reducing the risk of nutrient depletion and minimizing soil erosion. Rotating crops also helps to break pest and disease cycles.
  • Season Extension: With careful planning and the use of season-extending techniques such as row covers and cold frames, gardeners can extend the growing season into the cooler months of fall and early spring.
Practical Succession Planting Tips:

Know Your Frost Dates: Familiarize yourself with the average last and first frost dates for your area to determine the optimal planting times for different crops.

Choose Quick-Maturing Varieties: Select varieties of vegetables and herbs that have shorter maturity times, allowing for rapid turnover and successive plantings.

Plan Your Planting Schedule: Create a planting schedule based on the specific requirements and maturity dates of each crop. Consider factors such as soil temperature, sunlight, and water availability.

Stagger Plantings: Plant new crops as soon as previous ones are harvested to ensure a continuous harvest. For example, after harvesting radishes in early summer, replant the space with quick-growing crops like lettuce or spinach.

Interplant Compatible Crops: Take advantage of companion planting by interplanting compatible crops that can thrive together and provide mutual benefits. For instance, plant lettuce between rows of tomatoes to maximize space and reduce competition.

Utilize Succession Planting Beds: Dedicate specific beds or sections of your garden to succession planting, allowing for efficient rotation and management of crops throughout the season.

Monitor Soil Health: Regularly assess soil fertility and health by conducting soil tests and amending as needed with compost, organic matter, and natural fertilizers.

Example Succession Planting Plan:

Consider this example succession planting plan for Denver’s Zone 6a:

  • Early Spring: Plant cool-season crops like peas, lettuce, radish and spinach as soon as soil can be worked.
  • Late Spring: Plant warm-season crops such as tomatoes, peppers, basil and cucumbers after the danger of frost has passed.
  • Early Summer: Replant harvested areas with quick-growing crops like beans and basil; towards the end of June, replant a few summer squash seeds and delta radishes.
  • Late Summer: Sow fall crops such as kale, carrots, and beets for harvest in the cooler months.
  • Early Fall: Extend the season with cold-tolerant crops like kale, arugula, and swiss chard.