We come from the earth, we return to the earth, and in between we garden.Rachel Brathen
We put some finishing touches on the new front garden design on the weekend and I must confess I am beyond excited!
I’m a big planner. I love to knowing exactly what I need to do next.
I’m like Hannibal from the A Team…
Without a plan, my mind turns to idle chatter and I very quickly go off in all directions chasing all the shiny things.
Or, all the weird and wonderful seeds in the catalogues, without having a real idea of where I am going to put everything and when.
I end up making a big mess.
So I have learned, for the sake of my own sanity, to be well prepared with a planting plan.
If you haven’t already signed up for my free monthly Garden Planner, please do so as soon as you finish this article! It is so useful, keeping your own records will ensure you create the most valuable resource for yourself over time.
I already practice organic gardening, but this year, I am planning to apply stock-free permaculture principals.
This means that I will not be using any stock animal based wastes in my
I will still be using worm castings, worm wee, comfrey juice and compost.
I will also be using polyculture, companion planting and no-till strategies to ensure my front garden thrives.
But I am going to need to be pretty organised with my succession and companion planting too, to ensure my new beds thrive and the soil remains alive and healthy.
As I shared last week, I will be planting perennial herbs around the new garden beds, so the succession planting I am describing here is in regard to my seasonal edible planting.
My Boom and Bust Planting Cycle
My earliest failings in planting an edible garden focused on the plants and not at all on maintaining the life of the soil. I planted in a cycle of boom and bust, that looked much like this…
I treated my garden like some Silicon Valley start up. Surprise! It’s not a sustainable way to cultivate.
What is Succession Planting?
Succession planning ensures that what one plant takes nutritionally from the soil, the next planting replaces. My boom and bust cycle is broken by a continuous cycle of plants with the aim of keeping the soil alive and the plants thriving all year round.
Succession planting elevates your dirt to soil, and the happy product of the process is a constant crop. I’ll be working with the cycles of the plants and the seasons, rather than pitching a resistance fit with Nature. (Never a good idea, Nature always has her way and I rightfully end up looking like a crazed lunatic.)
It works on a crop rotation basis, and while it may appear to be for the health of the plants, it is essential to remember that your soil is alive too.
The best seed planted in tired, undernourished soil will not thrive to its full potential.
I would pour over and study garden books and apps that would prescribe planting crops in strict summer, autumn, winter, spring rotation grids for my
But, as I examined a few weeks ago, my climate doesn’t behave that way.
Then I found a much simpler system to plan my succession planting with a simple diagram, which I have recreated below.
This succession strategy is much more adaptable to my climate!
If you have a new garden bed, you can start anywhere on this cycle. In fact if you have more than 5 beds you will likely have fruits, roots, legumes, fallow and leaves all going at the same time. The important thing is, follow the order of the rotation.
Fruiting crops include tomatoes, eggplants, corn, artichokes, capsicum, chillis, cucumber, luffa, pumpkins, melons, okra, zucchini, squash, sunflowers and tomatillos and you get the idea.
Some of these fruiting crops like cucumber, squash,
Fruit harvests are followed by root crops.
Root crops include carrots, beetroot, celeriac, garlic, onion, potato, sweet potato, radish, Jerusalem artichokes, daikon and parsnip.
The potatoes, beetroot, celeriac, grow best in the cool winter
When your root crops are finished, plant legumes in their place.
Legumes are nitrogen converting plants. Legumes include peas, beans, cowpeas, peanuts, fenugreek, lentils, chickpeas, clover, carob and indigo.
Most of the peas and beans are best grown in the cooler months in my area, but I know I can rely on the cowpeas and peanuts to get me through the hottest summer.
When your legume crops are finished, you can prepare the space for fallow, or plant with a leaf crop.
This can be a fallow period when the soil is given a chance to rest and recover with a good application of compost and mulch. I am not feeding the plants per se, I am focused on feeding the soil.
I have an enforced fallow in the height of our hot
I have learned an important lesson. Fallow is not the same as
But, if it is the middle of my rainy winter-spring, and still cool, you can bet I’m going to go from legumes, straight to leaf and skip the fallow period.
Follow fallow season with a leaf crop.
Leaves are nitrogen-hungry plants, like spinach, lettuces, celery, fennel,
My heat tolerant leaf crops include malabar spinach, but even that is not indestructible. If a leaf crop is in line for succession planting during the peak of summer, I am inclined to go fallow and wait.
Follow your leaf crop with fruits.
Each cycle also typically brings its own unique crowd of pests, bacteria and virus risks, which is why companion planting is also an important part of the
Plus, I have not even touched on the benefits of no-till gardening when using
So stay tuned, the fact is a little effort and planning at the beginning of the design process will make execution much
How about you? Do you use succession planting in your veggie garden, or have you found it all a bit too complicated?
I would love to hear whats happening in your garden, please leave a message below.