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Succession Planting x 2 + Intercropping = Happy Farm

As I look toward next year, one of the ways that I am planning for the farm in 2023 is to plan out the flower beds and make sure to take into account succession planting and intercropping.

Succession planting has multiple definitions. One way to succession plant is to stagger the planting of a single crop so that you get consistent blooms during the growing season instead of all of your crop blooming at once. For example, you would start seeds for the desired crop in February, April, and June. You will plant out those seedlings in March, May, and July. This ensures lots of flowers all summer. This year, for the 2022 growing season, I planted multiple successions of ranunculus, sweet peas, zinnias, sunflowers, bachelor's buttons, stock, and pincushion.

A great way to succession plant is to plant hardy annuals in the fall and then do more plantings in the spring and early summer. I succession planted snapdragons with a planting in the fall as hardy annuals, a planting in the early spring, and a planting in early summer.

Succession planting is also used in reference to bed space. When you completely remove the first crop from a bed and replace it with the next crop to grow, you are planting the bed in succession. In this way, a flower bed can have multiple plantings of different crops in a single growing year. One example is a bed that was planted with no-dig tulips in the fall, then planted with a succession of sunflowers in early summer summer, followed by a fall cover crop.

When I plan out the map for the farm, I succession plant most of my beds because my farm is so small. I have to take advantage of available space. When one crop finishes in a flower bed; the crop gets pulled; the bed gets a layer of compost; I go over the space with a broadfork; and, then, the next crop gets planted.

Intercropping is when you plant two crops together. You can choose to interplant if two crops have a beneficial relationship or grow well together due to timing. A few of my successful intercroppings this year were asparagus with basil, sweet peas with calendula, and cress with foxglove. By the time it was warm enough to plant out the basil, the asparagus had already produced stalks. The basil could easily grow next to the feathery foliage and filled in valuable bed space. The sweet peas loved the cool weather. I interplanted calendula at the base of the sweet peas to keep weeds from taking over once it started warming up. The sweet peas died back and the calendula has been blooming all summer. Finally, I planted out foxglove in early spring along with cress. The cress grew quickly. I harvested it for foliage while the foxgloves continued to grow.

When choosing plants to intercrop, make sure to consider timing and attributes of the plant. Will one plant die back or finish before the other plant takes over? Does one plant help repel insects that tend to eat the other plant? Marigold is known to repel harmful insects while Feverfew repels pollinators. Knowing this, I will plant marigold near plants that aphids love and make sure to keep Feverfew away from any plant that will need to be pollinated.

Succession planting and intercropping are helpful tools when thinking about what and how you will grow in your garden or farm space next year.

My hope is that these tools help you to add even more flowers to your space, whether your space is large or small.

This post is a part of a series about planning your garden space for next year. Check out the other posts in this series.


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