Succession gardening gives gardeners a second harvest, often more flavorful than the first, said University of Missouri Extension horticulture specialist David Trinklein.
Succession gardening simply means that as one crop is harvested and removed from the garden, a second is planted in the area vacated.
Gardeners are able to reap top rewards from valuable garden spots with a second crop. The process is relatively simple and holds the prospect of paying big dividends, according to Trinklein.
August is best time to start this process, Trinklein said. Unfortunately, as temperatures soar in late summer, interest in gardening plummets for many.
For those gardeners willing to brave the elements, a number of steps should be taken when practicing succession gardening.
First, pull spent plants and clean the garden bed of debris and weeds. This will help with insect and disease management. Disease management tends to be a bigger problem in fall gardens than in the spring.
For additional insect control, some gardeners use floating row cover to keep insects from being able to get to plants, Trinklein said. Row cover is a translucent and breathable polyester fabric. It is relatively inexpensive and available at most garden centers.
Next, work the soil lightly and add a general purpose, garden fertilizer such as 5-10-5 or 12-12-12. If the soil has been productive, the application of additional fertilizer might not be necessary.
The garden is now ready to be planted.
Some local greenhouses carry fall vegetable plants but many do not. So you might need to start plants from seed in many cases. Choose varieties based upon days-to-maturity date. Look for vegetables that can withstand a light frost of about 26 degrees.
Consider lettuce, spinach, beet and other cool-season vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, collards and kale. Remember, however, the greater the tolerance of a plant for cooler weather, the less affinity for heat, Trinklein said. Therefore, timing is extremely important.
Other choices include frost-tender plants that mature quickly. Green beans, summer squash and bush cucumber are examples of the latter.
Trinklein suggested these techniques:
• Plan a schedule. Review frost dates for your area. Read information on the back of seed packets or plant care tags for days-to-maturity information.
• Choose the right crops. As the season advances and weather becomes cooler, crops tend to take longer to mature than during the summer. Choose disease-resistant varieties that mature quickly or crops that are frost hardy.
• Sow seeds deeper in the summer and keep garden soils moist. The sun’s late summer heat dries out soil quickly. Lettuce is an exception and should not be covered.
• Water tender seedlings frequently until they become established.
• For frost protection in the fall, the aforementioned floating row cover can help to extend the growing season by several weeks.
• Scout often for insects and diseases. If present, practice IPM control measures.