Succession Planting in your Backyard Garden

Succession planting in your backyard garden is a method you can use to increase the production of even the smallest plots.

Succession Planting

I have a small garden. We live on a small city lot and despite dedicating nearly half our backyard to a garden, it’s still way smaller than i want. Succession planting is a simple method that allows you to get the maximum production from your small garden space.

What is succession planting

The simplest definition of succession planting is; planning your garden is such a way that you are able to always have something growing in every space. This will produce multiple crops throughout the year.

There are three ways to accomplish succession planting. The first is to plant the same crop at different intervals for a prolonged harvest. The second is to plant so that different crops follow each other in the same space. The third is to plant a fast and a slow growing crop in the same space at the same time.

Staggered planting for prolonged harvests

This method of succession planting is not quite as effecient at using space, but it does provide a longer (and sometimes continual) harvest of one crop. Let’s use corn as an example to demonstrate this method of succession planting.

Let’s say you have decided to dedicate a 10 by 20 foot block of your garden to planting corn this year. You could of course plant all of the corn at one time, in the spring. A few months later ALL of your corn will reach maturity at the same time. But what are you going to do with all that corn coming at once???

Succession Planting 2

Staggered succession planting would mean that you take the same patch of ground and divided it into 3 blocks. Plant the first block in the spring, wait 2 or 3 weeks and then plant the second block. Finally after another 2 or 3 weeks you plant the third block. Now each block will mature at different times, just as you finish harvesting the first block, the second is ready to start harvesting and then the third.  Just be sure you time your last planting so that there is still enough warm weather for the crops to mature.

This method of succession planting spreads the harvest of “one time harvest crops” out over a much longer period. This keeps you from being overwhelmed by a huge harvest if your plan is to only eat fresh and not preserve. This method works best with crops that only have one big harvest that is fairly short, so things like corn, potatoes, carrots or head lettuces.

Follow planting

The second method of succession planting is the follow method. This one takes a little more planning but is a much better use of space because there is always something growing in your space.

Let’s use my year round bed as an example for this method. In the fall I plant spinach and carrots in this bed. Those crops are overwintered in a cold frame for harvest all winter and into the early spring. Those crops are finished up about March 15th. Next I plant potatoes in that spot and they are ready in mid June. The potatoes are followed by a late planting of green beans and zucchini, these will be ready to harvest in September. So this bed had something growing in it for almost an entire year!

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The key to the follow method is to use a mix of warm and cool season crops and to know the maturity times of each crop. Look at your seed package for the days to maturity. Then plan out a series of crops that can be planted one after another. Often times if you choose the right combination of crops you can have 3 crops a year in the same space. This method works best if you use some type of season extending method.

Fast crop, slow crop method

The third method for succession planting is growing a combination of fast and slow growing crops in the same space at the same time. This method works because both crops are planted at close to the same time. The fast growing crop comes to maturity and is harvested while the slow growing crop is still maturing. The fast growing crop is out of the way long before the slower growing crop needs the space.

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Lettuce is often the perfect crop for using this method. Plant lettuce the same time you plant a longer growing crop like broccoli. The lettuce will be up and harvested in about 45 days, it will be finished just about the time the broccoli takes over the entire space.

Ideas for succession planting

You can of course work out your own plans for succession planting by looking at the maturity times on the back of your seed package. But here are a few ideas you get you started with succession planting.

Staggered planting
  • Corn
  • Lettuce
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
Follow planting
  • Peas followed by beans followed by lettuce
  • Lettuce followed by any warm season crop
  • Early potatoes followed by shorter maturing warm season crops like beans or zucchini.
  • Broccoli followed by summer crops.
Fast and slow method
  • Beets and tomatoes.
  • Radishes and carrots
  • Lettuce and broccoli/cabbage
  • Lettuce and pretty much any warm season crop, like tomatoes, melons, squash

There are many other combinations out there. Do you have a favorite? Leave it in the comments section and I will add it to the post!!

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5 High Yield Garden Vegetables for your backyard garden

Sometimes you just really want the veggies your grow in your garden to “mean something”. Lettuce and other leafy greens are great, but if you really want your garden produce to mean something to your food supply then you should choose these 5 High Yield Garden Vegetables.

High Yield Garden Vegetables

This post contains affiliate links, clicking on them with not cost you any thing extra, but does allow Stoney Acres to make a small commission on your purchase through the Amazon Affiliate Program!

There are literally hundreds of vegetables that you can grow in your garden, but many of them, though tasty, really don’t have a lot of bulk. So the space you use to grow them really doesn’t produce very much real food value for your family. But some crops really pack a punch, both nutritionally and in shear bulk. Plant these 5 High Yield Garden Vegetables to provide the most food from your small backyard garden.

5 High Yield Garden Vegetables
Potatoes

Packed with nutrition and calories, potatoes are the best high yield garden vegetables you can plant. If you are really concerned about growing the most food you can for your family then potatoes need to be a big part of your garden! Many experts recommend that up to 30% of your garden space should be dedicated to growing potatoes.

High Yield Garden Vegetables 2

Potatoes do take up a pretty good amount of space in your garden, but they will reward you with a great crop that if stored property can last for 6 months or longer. If you put a little thought into the timing of your planting it is possible to start eating fresh garden potatoes in late spring. Succession plantings can take you though the summer. A late spring planting will be harvested in the fall and those can be placed in storage for the winter.

Tomatoes

Everyone’s favorite backyard garden crop is Tomatoes. Fortunately tomatoes also make the list of High Yield Garden Vegetables.

Tomato plants can grow quite large and take up a lot of space in your garden. But when grown correctly those big plants will reward you with 100’s of pounds of tomatoes. Depending on the variety you grow, each plant could produce 75 pounds of tomatoes or more. If you are not careful you might find yourself drowning in those yummy garden goodies. Be sure to grow them with a tomato cage or a trellis to keep the fruit off the ground.

High Yield Garden Vegetables 3

The best thing about tomatoes is they are easily preserved. Tomatoes can be canned, frozen or dried. They can be made into soups, salsa, and sauces. Growing them is quit easy, you can learn more from my hour and a half long course on growing tomatoes on our sister site, The Online Gardening School.

Green Beans

Adding green beans to your family garden will give you another high yield garden vegetable that is easy to care for. The most productive variety of green beans to grow are pole beans. Pole beans require a trellis to grow well, but growing beans on a trellis has the added advantage of saving space in your garden. Any time you can raise a crop that grows up and not out you will have more room for other crops below!!

High Yield Garden Vegetables 4

A 10 foot trellis covered with green beans will yield many pounds of beans which can be preserved by either canning or freezing. A trellis for green beans doesn’t need to be complicated, it can be a simple as some trellis netting strung between 2 poles.

Squash

Both summer squash and winter squash are a great addition to your garden and both are a high yield garden vegetable! Summer squashes like Zucchini, Patty Pan and Yellow crook neck produce like crazy! Your summer menu will be filled with these goodies. The plants are large but very productive paying you back well for the space they take up. The only disadvantage of summer squashes is they are hard to preserve. They can be frozen or pickled, but those are really your only options for preservation.

High Yield Garden Vegetables 5

Winter squash is an even bigger space commitment, plants like pumpkins, butternut, spaghetti and acorns squash take up a lot of garden space. But the plants reward you with a heavy harvest of nutrient and calorie dense fruit. And the great thing about winter squashes is they can be stored without any processing at all. Simply store them somewhere with temperatures right around 50 degrees and they will last for several months!

Cucumbers

The last veggie on our list of high yield garden vegetables is cucumbers. Cucumbers provide a lot of harvest from a small space. Like beans, cucumbers should be grown on a trellis. Many years our short 6 foot row of cucumbers grown on this simple trellis will produce between 75 to 100 pounds of produce. That gives us plenty of cukes for fresh eating all summer and fall and also gives us a good supply to pickle and eat over the winter.

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Choosing to plant these 5 high yield garden vegetables in your backyard garden will mean hundreds of pounds of fresh garden produce to feed your family all summer and into the winter months.

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What Gardeners can do in the winter time

A winter break is nice but every gardener longs for warmer weather in the winter time. Here’s what gardeners can do in the winter time.

What Gardeners can do in the winter time

Winters where we live can be long and cold. From November to early March there isn’t much happening outside in the garden (except for my winter cold frame garden). So what’s a gardener to do in the long cold months of December, January and February? Well here’s a list of 8 idea of what gardeners can do in the winter time and in particular, December.

What Gardeners can do in the winter time
Sharpen Tools

First on our list of what gardeners can do in the winter time is take care of your tools. All of your garden tools need to be clean, lubricated and sharpened. Use a good quality metal file like this one to sharpen all those garden tools. Tools that need sharpening each year include Pruning Shears, saws, knives and even shovels. Yes shovels, it’s amazing what putting a fresh edge on a shovel will do for your digging next spring.

What Gardeners can do in the winter time 2

Along with sharpening, any tool that is used to cut or prune plant material should also be disinfected. Many plant diseases are viral or bacterial and can be transferred from one plant to another. You should disinfect those tools by placing them in a 10% bleach solution (1 part bleach to 9 parts water) for about 30 minutes. This should kill most problems. Keep in mind that bleach is mildly corrosive so once you have disinfected the tools be sure to rinse them and then give all the metal surfaces of the tools a good coat of some type of oil (something like WD-40).

Build an Indoor Seed Starter

December is the perfect time to build yourself an indoor seed starting set up. Depending on where you live you could be using it as early as January to start your first seedlings of the year. A basic seed starting set up can be as simple as a couple of fluorescent shop lights hanging from some kind of support structure. If you would like to see what I have set up you can check out this post that even includes video tour of my seed starting set up.

What Gardeners can do in the winter time 3

Starting seeds indoors is really quite simple, you can learn more about the process from my Seed Starting Simplified Course.

Clean and disinfect your seedlings pots

All of the pots and containers that I used to start my seedlings each year get a real workout. They often get used 3 or 4 times during an average season. That much use introduces the chance of soil borne diseases or fungi. So it is a good idea to clean up your seedling pots each year and December is the perfect time!

Again a 10% bleach solution will kill most of the disease problems that might be lurking in your plastic containers. Rinse all your containers first and then let them soak for 30 minutes in the bleach solution. Once they have be disinfected be sure to rinse them really well so that there isn’t any bleach remaining on your containers.

Plan Next Years Garden

December is the perfect time to get next years garden planned. Most of us have some extra down times during the December holidays. Be sure to spend some of that time mapping out next years garden. Remember to plan for crop rotation to help prevent disease and pest problems.

Go though your stock of seeds and throw out any seed packets that are more than 4 or 5 years old. Use this time to prepare a list of seeds that you need to buy for next springs garden. Getting that list ready now will help you when all the seed catalogs show up in late winter.

December is also a great time to put the finishing touches on your Garden Journal. Go through your journal and make any last notes on how your garden did for the year. What plants grew best? When were your first and last frosts for the year? What were the general weather conditions for the year and how did they effect your garden? Get all of these types of notes down in your Garden Journal now while they are still fresh in your memory.

Take Advantage of Holiday Sales

Many people don’t think about it, but most companies are still selling gardening supplies online this time of year. Look for holiday discounts and end of season specials to stock up on gardening supplies for next year. Seed companies, tool companies and many other gardening related companies are all still in business this time of year. And they want to sell to you! You will see lots of great deals out there for the gardeners on your list (even if that gardener is you!)

And when thinking about what gardeners can do in the winter time don’t forget about your local brick and mortar stores. Take some time to wander through the garden sections of your local big box stores, farm supply stores and even home improvement stores. Often they will have items left over from last season that they would rather just get rid of and not store for the next few months. I have often found GREAT deals on tools, compost and other supplies in the mostly abandoned garden sections of many stores this time of year.

Read

December is the time to get a library card (if you don’t already have one). Hit the garden section of your local library and grab as many books as you can get. Cold December evenings are a perfect time to add to your garden knowledge I never seem to have time to read during the gardening season, so December is a great time to learn a little more about gardening.

What Gardeners can do in the winter time 4

If you would like a few suggestions here’s a list of a few of my favorite gardening books along with links to find the on Amazon:
Four-Season Harvest by Elliot Coleman
The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener by Niki Jabor
Gardening Like a Ninja by Angela England
The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible by Edward Smith

Watch a Video Course

I’m a bit predigest on this last one, but I think video courses are a great way to expand your garden knowhow. I currently have 6 gardening courses on various topics available to buy on the Online Gardening School. Video courses are a great way to learn and I had a blast making these courses. I hope to have 2 or 3 more finished up soon!

If you would like to try out one of my courses follow this link to the Online Gardening School and you will get your first course for 50% off.

I hope this post has given you some ideas of what gardeners can do in the winter time and how to occupy yourself this cold December as we patiently sit waiting for spring and a new garden!

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2017 Black Friday Video Course Sale

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are upon us for 2017!!  This year I am offering two ways to buy my gardening video courses at special Black Friday Prices!

Online Gardening School

Buy Any Course for Just $10

If you already own some of my courses and would just like to take this sale as a chance to fill in the missing pieces!  You can get any of my courses for only $10.  Just follow the links below to get that price:

Year Round Gardening

Seed Starting Simplified

Vegetable Gardening Basics

PVC Drip Irrigation

Growing Tomato Heaven

Buy the 5 Course Bundle

Or if you would like you can buy all 5 of my video courses and get a bonus 6th course for free.  Just follow the link below and you can get all 6 courses for only $50!!

Online Gardening School – All Course Bundle only $50

There are no limits on how many students can buy at these prices so be sure to tell your friends, over even better buy them a course as a gift!!

Happy Gardening

Harvesting and Curing Popcorn

Harvesting and curing popcorn is a simple process that should be done in mid fall, after your first frost but before snow or rain settle in.

Curing Popcorn (1)

We love growing our own popcorn!  There are lots of reasons for that including self sufficiency and just over all taste (of the home grown popcorn)!  Learning to grow popcorn is easy to do.  If you would like to learn more about growing popcorn in your garden take a look at this post.

Recently I filmed this 5 Minute Friday Video tip on Curing popcorn.  Be sure to watch it as well.

When to Harvest Your Popcorn

Harvest time for popcorn usually comes very late in the summer or early in the fall.  I like to wait until the husks on the cobs have completely “yellowed” and are nice and dry.  You can also feel the cobs.  The corn under the husks should be hard and dry before you harvest.

I try to leave the cobs on the stalks for as long as possible.  The longer that corn dries outside and on the stalk the better.  But there is a happy medium that you need to reach.  Let the cobs dry on the stalks as long as you can, but bring them in before your weather really turns wet.  You don’t want those cobs that have been drying for all that time to then get rained on or snowed on.  We have found that usually we need to harvest our popcorn by the middle of October in out Zone 6 garden.

Curing Popcorn Indoors

As I described in the video above, curing popcorn in a really simple process that mainly involves a nice dry airy spot and lots of time!

I prefer curing popcorn indoors.  It is easier to control the process of curing popcorn if you do it in a shed, garage or even your basement.  A good spot for curing popcorn is some where dry with good air circulation.  And it is vital that your popcorn does not get wet while it is curing.  That’s why I just do it inside in my garage.  No chance of rain or frost getting on the curing popcorn if it is indoors.

Lots of time is the Key

Curing Popcorn #2

Remove the husks on the popcorn before curing.  You can either pull it off completely or if you would like a nice fall time decoration for your house, carefully pull the husks back but leave them attached to the cob.

Curing Popcorn #3

Place the curing popcorn on a screen for good air circulation.  Or tie bunches of cobs by the husks and hang them.

Then all you need to do is wait!  I’ve found that it takes between 4 to 6 weeks for popcorn to cure correctly after harvest.

Once you think your popcorn has cured, scrape a tablespoon or so off of one of your cobs pop it using your preferred method.  (We use an air popper).  If most of the kernels pop then you are good to go!  If you have more than just a few kernels that don’t pop, then wait another week or so and try again!

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We like to remove the popcorn from the cobs all at once and store it in glass jars.  But you can store the popcorn on the cobs if you like and remove it as needed.

Curing Popcorn #5

Store the jars or cured cobs in a dark dry pantry, DO NOT store your popcorn in the freezer!

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When to Harvest Potatoes

Knowing when to harvest potatoes from you backyard garden can be a bit tricky. This post will help you know when to harvest potatoes for a great crop of nice sized spuds!

When to Harvest Potatoes

Every year I get questions posted about when to harvest potatoes. New gardeners always panic when the tops of their potato plants suddenly start to die back in the late summer and fall. I’m writing this post to help you know when to harvest potatoes for a good crop of mature potatoes that will store well and taste great!

Any time after they flower???

Roughly 6 to 8 weeks after you plant your potatoes the tops will flower. Technically any time after your potatoes flower you can start harvesting.

When to Harvest Potatoes 4

But if you harvest right after the plants flower the potatoes you harvest will be very small! These are what we call “new potatoes” and they will taste fantastic and will be very tender with thin skins. We always grow some early potatoes, specifically for this purpose. But if you want larger, mature potatoes that will last a long time in storage then you need to wait!

When to harvest potatoes – Tops dying back

Most potato varieties will mature in 90 to 120 days. This is the optimal time to keep them in the ground to get nice large potatoes. Since the potatoes are hiding in the ground, the first indication you get about when to harvest potatoes is when the tops start to die off.

When potato plants reach their final state of development the “tops” or the above ground foliage on the plants will first fall over and then slowly start to die off. All the energy from the plants is drawn down into the now mature potatoes and the tops will first loose structure and fall over, next they will start to yellow and if left in the ground the tops will eventually die off completely and dry up.

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I have found that the best time to harvest potatoes is once when the tops look like this photo. The plants have fallen over and roughly 50% of the leaves have yellowed or withered. In our area this seems to be the best time to harvest.

When to Harvest Potatoes 3

This is a photo of one of our patches that went a little too long this year. See how the tops are completely gone? This is a bit too long for you potatoes to be in the ground. It’s not the end of the world if you wait this long, but it does increase the risk of rotting. Also if you leave potatoes in the ground too long you risk the potatoes sprouting and growing new tops.

 

This is a shot of a patch of potatoes that is not ready to harvest yet. You can see some early signs of yellowing and the tops falling, but this patch could stay in the ground for at least another 3 weeks.

Make sure you check out the video that I filmed above. I was able to show you pictures of all 3 of our patches this year. They were all planted at different times so they are all in different stages of readiness for harvest.

Other potato Growing resources

Over the years I’ve written several posts on different aspects of growing potatoes. Here are some links to them to help you even more!

Growing Early potatoes

Early Potatoes 2017 revision #3 fb

Growing Potatoes using the Hill method

Growing Potatoes FB

Curing Potatoes before you store them

Curing Potatoes fb

Storing Potatoes for winter

Storing Potatoes fb

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How to Ripen Green Tomatoes

As Fall progresses and tomato season comes to and end you can use these tips to learn how to ripen green tomatoes.

How To Ripen Green Tomatoes

Fall is my favorite time of year.  But one thing that I don’t like about fall is the fact that very soon we will no longer have fresh tomatoes from the garden.  Our first frost arrives roughly the 1st of October, we are usually able to protect our tomatoes for a week or two longer with fabric row covers.  But sooner or later mother nature is going to take our tomato plants and leave us with a bunch of tomatoes that are either green, or at best not fully ripe.

Over the years we have learned how to ripen green tomatoes inside our house or garage.  These tomatoes are never as tasty as those that we pick, sun ripened, in August and September.  But they are still pretty good and way better than store bought tomatoes.

5 tips on How to Ripen Green Tomatoes

Here are 5 tips to help you continue to enjoy your garden grown tomatoes for a month or two after the cold weather arrives.

Don’t bother with the small stuff

A day or two before the really cold weather arrives you need to get out in your garden and pick all of the un-ripe tomatoes.  While we are going through our tomato plants we only pick decent sized tomatoes.  It’s not worth the bother with all the millions of little tomatoes.  Just choose tomatoes that are roughly “baseball” size or bigger.  Pick any tomatoes that are already starting to ripen and as many larger green tomatoes as you think you will need for the next month or two.

How to Ripen Green Tomatoes 2

Sort your tomatoes well

Any tomatoes that are showing even the smallest sign of ripening need to be in a box by themselves.  Ripening tomatoes (and many other fruits) put off a chemical that causes other tomatoes to ripen.  If one of your tomatoes is ripening and you leave it with the others they will all start to ripen.  We like to pull any ripening fruit out and keep it separate that way the whole box doesn’t ripen at once.

How to Ripen Green Tomatoes 2

Store your Tomatoes 1 layer deep

After about a week of being indoors put all your green tomatoes in open boxes (or just on a table top) only one layer deep.  Again this keeps the ripening from spreading too quickly.  Keep your tomatoes in a very cool spot.  We like to keep ours in the garage where it is cold all winter but never freezes.

Pull any ripening tomatoes out of your boxes

As the tomatoes start to ripen separate the ripening fruit from the green.  Check your tomatoes often and any time you see one that is ripening, pull it out of the box.  We have found that if we do this we get a nice slow ripening process over the course of a couple of months.  If you leave the tomatoes that are turning red in the box with your green ones that ripening will quickly spread though the whole box.  Pulling the ripening tomatoes out slows down the process for the rest of the box.

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Some years we have had garden grown tomatoes as late as New Years and have used them to make salsa!  Of course if you want them to ripen sooner then you can leave a ripening fruit in the box with the others or bring them in the warm house where they will ripen much sooner.

Keep your expectations low

These are NOT the vine ripened mouth watering beauties you are harvesting in August and September.  We often compare ripened green tomatoes to store bought tomatoes.  They just don’t have the same flavor and texture that their vine ripened counterparts have.  But they are home grown and organic, and are perfect for soups and casseroles in the early winter months!  I even slap them on a sandwich every once in a while.

How to Ripen Green Tomatoes 4

So that is how to ripen green tomatoes.  If you manage the process well you can have a few ripe tomatoes every week for two or more months after the season ends.

Would you like to learn more about growing your own tomatoes?  You should buy my tomato growing course on The Online Gardening School.  Click the link below to learn more and to get the course for 1/2 off!

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