Seed seed starting Succession Sowing

Succession Planting and Nature

In the most recent post on lettuce in mid September, it had not rained here for weeks. Shorty after that, it rained for an entire week. Then skipped a week and rained another week.

The garden is now perfect for transplanting my lettuces.

As you already know from the previous post, I started succession planting the first of September.  Thus far, four plantings are up and coming. Three of those are in the garden already. At least two more plantings are planned for this month.

Becoming Aware of What Nature Does

While transplanting the other day, I got to looking at my summer poinsettia. (That’s the annual that I allow to reseed in my garden each summer since it makes a great cover crop totally free of charge, and it’s beautiful.) Most of it’s mature and setting seed, but in various spots there are plants in all stages of growth.

Summe Poinsettia

Summe Poinsettia in my garden.

That’s because the seed doesn’t germinate all at one time. But rather a lot germinates, time passes, and more germinates. This is repeated several times.

When seed is produced by almost all plants, nature insures that the seed won’t all come up at the same time. If it did and bad conditions came, the entire “crop” would be lost.  The species could die out in a hurry.

You’ll notice with spring weeds: they pop up; you pull them; and the next thing you know more seed has germinated and new weeds are there.

So as much as we gardeners would like to take credit for the brilliance of succession sowing in order to make sure we have a crop, nature beat us to it.

This can happen with our vegetable seeds as well. (Notice how your volunteer tomatoes come up in the garden at different times. Even the days required for germination can vary with seed you start in flats. )

Nature’s Extreme Insurance Plan

Nature’s extreme insurance plan is called “hard” seed.  Of all the seed most plants produce many have a percentage of what is termed “hard” seed.  Hard seed will not germinate the following growing season.

Plants like hairy vetch have a good percentage of seed that won’t germinate until the second year.

Sweetclover can produce 50 percent or more hard seed.  It can remain in the soil for 20 years without germinating!

Some commercial seed is scarified to break the hard seedcoat. This allows germination to be triggered by the moisture that can then get in.

How We’re Prone to Think

I think back to my beginning in gardening. I planted once and if that failed I thought it was because I had done something wrong. I had no idea that there were dozens of what can be unnoticed variables with each season that can cause you to lose a crop.

It could be temperatures that are too hot or cold. It could be too much rain, or not enough rain. Or, lots of other things that are not that easily determined.

You never know exactly when the wrong conditions will take place. That’s why succession planting is such a good idea. You have a continual supply of seedlings; all started under different conditions (even if they were so slight that you didn’t notice).

If you only plant once (or even twice), lose the planting, and it’s too late to replant – then you have nothing.  If you’ve been succession planting, you’re still in the running.

Also, the life span of each set of seedlings will be influence by the weather, etc.  If one set of seedlings quickly bolts, you’ve got others to keep your supply going.

Another Strategy to Use With Succession Planting –  Don’t Put All Your Eggs (Seedlings) in One Basket (Bed)

To further insure success I spread my plantings around the garden.

Many a time, I’ve lost an entire bed to some unknown soil creature and had another bed some feet away totally thrive.

Final Thoughts

If the weather holds and the lettuce gets 8 weeks of good growth before the real cold comes, I’ll have more to harvest in December and January.

The concrete reinforcing wire frames will go over the beds by the end of this month.  Then it’ll be easy to cover with the row cover fabric.  By November, I’ll think about getting the plastic out and in place for that second covering in the cold of winter.

I hope you’re anticipating serving a fresh garden salad with your Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner no matter what planting zone you live in!


Related Posts:

Lettuce – Greens Will Fall Plantings Carry You Through Spring and Summer

Lettuce – Making Sure You Have Enough for Fall, Winter and Next Spring

Getting Ready for the Winter Season (This is how I prepared when Bill was alive and could help me.)

Winter Gardening – Making it Easier  (This is how I’m doing it by myself.)


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  • Just getting started in the garden this fall after almost a year off, Theresa and this is timely advice worth remembering. I’m trying to think not only of what I want to eat throughout the winter, but what I want to see first thing next spring.

  • After getting my beds prepared for fall, I was so happy to plant that I just broadcast the seeds all at once. I’m glad to read this and refresh with a better strategy. Is there any hard rule for the time between plantings that you’d use across the board, Theresa?

  • Good thinking Sandra. I find that the last planting of the season is usually what gives that abundance in the early spring. (And welcome back! I’ve missed you!)

    Patricia – no hard and fast rule. I usually aim for every week to 10 days.
    Another thing – when I transplanted my seedlings, I also went back and scattered just a few seeds in between the rows as possible backup.

  • This was just what I needed to hear! (As is true for so many of your posts) I’m encouraged to try to keep the momentum of a good season going into the cooler months.


  • Fascinating information about the hard seed! I did not know this about seeds–makes sense. As always, I learn from you posts. 🙂

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