dawn (ixchel55) wrote in patio_gardens,

Succession planting in containers

Every year I tell myself that I'm going to start my garden earlier to maximize my growing season by planning my space more carefully and utilizing succession planting. And every year I get excited while it's still winter and then burn myself out a little and before I know it time has dribbled away and it's time to get the main summer plants in the pots. This year I managed to get a little bit of a head start, but even then the winter here in the mid-west was so mild that it segued into spring really early (even edging into summer in mid-March with temperatures soaring up near 90 several days), so once again I got caught a little unprepared. I did managed to get some 'spring crops' in though (Packman broccoli, bok choy, some lettuce and Swiss Chard-though that'll go most of the summer). So I decided, what the hell, I'll plan for the fall and have a solid plan in place for next spring. I'll talk about the details of my own garden when I post my first pics in just a bit.

The Bountiful Container by Rose Marie Nichols McGee & Maggie Stuckey


…succession planting: continuously planting seasonal crops in the same space, intermixing fast-growing plants with slower growers, and replacing plants whose production peak has passed with new ones that are just coming into their best season. The goal is to have no bare spots in your container. Succession planting is an ideal was to get maximum use from your containers and to keep them looking their best.

To get you started, here are three plans for multi-season gardens, along with a few alternatives.


Start with a large container, at least 2 feet wide and 3 feet deep.

In early spring, as soon as weather permits, sow seeds of mustard spinach (or any Asian green of your choice) in the center of the container. Plant seeds of bush snap peas in a circle, 3 inches in from the rim. Between, add transplants of blue and yellow pansies.

As the weather turns hot, the peas will stop producing and start to die, and the greens will be past their peak. Cut off the pea vines at ground level (the roots will continue to provide nitrogen to the soil) and remove the remnants of the greens. In late May, or whenever the weather has really warmed up, plant one tomato in the center and add a stake for it. The pansies will soon be overtaken by the tomato, but may put on a new set of blossoms in the fall.

The tomato will continue to produce on into the fall, but the leaves at the bottom of the plant will probably turn yellow and in any case they are not doing you any good. Around the first of August, trim them off to create some room for a new layer: direct-sow seeds of Tuscan kale. Thin the young seedlings so the mature plants are about 6 inches apart.

The tomatoes continue, and the kale gets a good start in their shadow. When the tomato plant is on its last legs, cut it off at the base, leaving the roots in place so as not to dislodge the kale, which will continue to grow until winter and perhaps even on into the spring if your winters are not bitter cold.


In a broad, shallow container, about 8 inches deep and 1 ½ feet wide:

Direct-sow seeds of looseleaf lettuce, chervil, and calendula.

Toward the end of May, when the weather and soil are truly warm, transplant one small hot pepper plant into the center of the pot. Most of the lettuce plants will be ready to come out, and the chervil will be looking pretty sad too, but the calendula may well keep going into early fall. In the space where the lettuce was, sow seeds of cilantro.

For a fall crop, in early August do another sowing of leaf lettuce, arugula, and scallions (Hardy White Bunching onions).


In a medium-size container, about 18 inches in diameter and at least 10 inches deep:

Direct sow spinach beet (perpetual spinach). Sow seeds of Misato Rose Asian radish. In mid spring, add a few nasturtium seeds near the edges.

In mid- to late May, plant two or three seeds (or one transplant) of summer squash. The spinach beet will still be producing, and nasturtiums will be reaching the point where they can spill over the edges; by July the squash will Bigfoot over everything.

For a fall crop, trim away the biggest and oldest leaves of the squash plant in early August, and sow a mesclun mixture around the edges. When the squash is finished, or when you’ve had enough, remove it by cutting at the soil line and sow another circle of mesclun seeds.


Plant March or April, or February in mild-winter areas.

Razzle Dazzle Spinach, Lollo Rossa or Rossimo lettuce, orach, arugula, peas, chives, parsley

Plant May to early June

Parsley, cucumbers, scarlet runner beans, Chinese kale (gai lohn), dwarf sunflowers (Sunspot or Teddy Bear), eggplants, golden purslane, red Malabar climbing spinach, basil

Plant mid-July to August 1

Fennel (bulb type), together with Alaska nasturtiums, purple-flowering bok choy, together with mustard greens, potatoes from true seed, Giant Red mustard, winter purslane, edible pea pods.

The above lists are (for the most part) a little more unusual, to broaden your horizons. You can, of course, substitute your preferences. Here’s something I found with lists of more common vegetables and their general planting times/seasons:

Perennial Crops (that need a permanent home:
Asparagus, Rhubarb, Chives, Horseradish, Winter Onions

Crops that occupy the ground only the first part of the season:
Early Beets, Early Cabbage, Lettuce, Onion Sets, Peas, Radishes, Early Spinach, Mustard, Turnips

Crops that occupy the ground the major portion of the season:
Bush and Pole Beans, Lima Beans, Cabbage, Celery, Sweet Corn, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Muskmelons, Okra, Peppers, Potatoes, Pumpkin, Squash, Tomatoes, Watermelon, Swiss Chard

Crops to be planted in July or later for fall and winter gardens:
Bush Beans, Beets, Broccoli, Chinese Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Endive, Kale, Kohlrabi, Radishes, Spinach, Turnips, Collards, Lettuce,

Another link that looked good: Succession Planting with Vegetables in Containers

And one more with a slide show and lovely pictures!

Would anyone be interested in ideas for 'theme' gardens in a pot (or group of small pots)? Like an herbal tea garden, an Asian or Mediterranean garden, etc?
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