What is Succession Planting?
Planting one crop after another in the same season can help you grow more food and more variety in a small space.
The trick is to pick different species that fit together within the growing season. For example, snow peas are cool-season crops: they grow well in the early spring or in the fall, but grow poorly in the heat of summer. Pole beans are a warm season crop: they need the heat of summer to grow best. So you could plant snow peas in the early spring before your beans, or in the fall beans.
You may also hear the phrase “succession planting” used when a gardener plants small amounts of the same species several times throughout the growing season. For example, if you planted a whole garden bed full of lettuce all at once, all the lettuce would mature at the same time and you might have more than you could eat before it “bolts” and starts to flower. But if you planted a small patch of lettuce every week or two, then later each patch would mature in “succession” every couple of weeks, and you would have lettuce at its tastiest available in your garden for a longer window of time.
Snow peas…..and Beans on the Boulevard
If you want to try succession planting, this year’s bean buddy is a good place to start. Snow peas are easy to grow and like cool weather. They grow well when the air temperature is between 40 and 75 degrees F. The seedlings can even survive a light frost. If you want to grow them in the spring, before a summer crop, it’s important to get them started early, because most varieties take about 60 days to produce pods, and the plants will stop growing and producing flowers when the temperature gets into 80s in June, which is when you will want to plant your pole beans anyway.
You can also plant them in the fall, when the temperatures start to cool down and after your pole beans are past their peak production. Snow peas can be harvested at many stages. When the plants are still young, the shoots can be harvested and eaten as greens, usually stir-fried or steamed. The pods can be harvested and eaten when the peas inside are small. Or you can wait until the peas are more mature, and harvest them for shelling peas.
When harvesting at any of these stages it is important to keep what you pick cool, so that it will not wilt before you eat it. Harvesting first thing in the morning can help prevent wilting. if you harvest after the sun has hit the plants, run what you’ve harvested under cold water to cool them down before you store them in the refrigerator. For more information, see the U of M Extension website about snow peas.