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Succession planting and interplanting

By Carolyn Singer

Special to The Union

Only a week ago, cold weather made me wonder if my customary planting time of the third week in May for tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers had been too early this year. A hot spell had warmed the soil the third weekend in May, and the plants I had been nurturing in 2-gallon containers in my cold frame were more than ready to go into the ground. I felt ready.



I began the planting right after the hot weekend. However, as soon as the plants were in my good garden soil, the weather shifted back to winter. Now, cool cloudy conditions are perfect for transplanting, but nighttime temperatures in the low forties are just a bit too close to freezing! I covered everything with Tufbell (Agribon is an alternative). This helped protect the veggies from the cold winds, too. All the plants look great.

By June, the vegetables needing all season to grow and produce should be in the warming soil. Many vegetables need a long season of growth to come into production of a substantial harvest. The first year I gardened in the foothills, I planted July 4th weekend and had a terrific harvest, but an earlier planting of tomatoes, eggplants and peppers will produce more.




Also in June, the garlic planted last fall is ready for harvest. In my garden, this area will then be planted to bush beans (my third sowing) which should be ready for eating and freezing in late summer. In larger gardens, a crop of garlic may be followed by a cover crop with bell beans to enrich the soil. In either situation, legumes play an essential role as a succession crop that will add nitrogen to the soil.

Use succession crops as a method of managing the timing and quantity of harvest too. For example, beans planted after the garlic is harvested will mature in late summer and early fall. The growth and harvest may be better in the slightly cooler temperatures and shorter days. Carrots seeded in mid-July and early August, where my peas are now growing, will yield a winter crop.

Seeding very small areas of lettuce every two weeks makes good sense to enjoy a continuing harvest through the season. In spring and early summer I seed ‘Red Cross’ (Johnny’s Selected Seed), and in midsummer, I switch to the more heat-tolerant red and green cos or romaine lettuce. Late summer and early fall sowings are again of ‘Red Cross’ or another butterhead. And the final sowing in October is oakleaf lettuce for my winter harvest.

Interplanting is usually done by planting or seeding two different crops close together at the same time. The crops must be compatible, and attention given to spacing to allow adequate light. In my garden, eggplants are interplanted with bush beans. Spacing between egglants is about 20 inches. Each plant has a small wire cage to provide support. Adjacent to, but outside, the cage I plant one or two bush beans to provide an early crop. When the beans slow production, I pull them down and incorporate them into the straw mulch.

Tomatoes are interplanted with climbing Nasturtiums which will appreciate the summer shade and produce edible flowers for salads. Dill is interplanted with chard and peas, providing light shade for both. Pole beans are interplanted with the tomatillos in one large cage.

And so my garden is a beautiful and bountiful medley of flowers and vegetables, and every year all the crops seem to do quite well. I just have to remember year to year what grew where so that I don’t repeat the pattern. Some day I may have to take notes!

Carolyn Singer has gardened in the foothills since 1977. She is the author of two books of deer-resistant plants: “Deer in My Garden, Vol. 1: Perennials & Subshrubs” and ” Vol. 2: Groundcovers & Edgers.” Gardening questions may be sent to csinger@stardustweb.net.


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