CROP TALK: Successions
Having a consistent presence at your market, whether it’s a wholesale account or a farmers market, is critical to sustaining repeat customers. Knowing that you have what they want week after week will build business and traffic, and give you a consistent audience as your offerings increase over the season. Hitting this rhythm takes both planning and real estate. Choices made now can maximize them both when the farm is jumping.
Start with smart variety selection. When you’re selecting varieties for succession plantings, remember to consider days to maturity, nutrient requirements, and pest and disease susceptibility. For example, two successions of summer squash or zucchini plantings in the same area might spell disaster for your yields if the cucumber beetles have already found the first planting (which, let’s be honest, they will). Consider having lettuce follow carrots, which work well in successions thanks to their different but complementary nutrient needs. Here are some other reliable choices for succession plantings, compliments of the growers at Good Heart Farmstead in central Vermont.
Determine your production capacity, then plan your intervals. When you’re preparing for intensive successions, you want to be planning your transplants and sowings at intervals that are correctly timed. This timing should be determined based on the bed space you have available, the length of time it takes the crop to mature, and your production capacity (i.e. how much you can reliably sell). For quick-growing items like spinach and lettuce mixes, these intervals might be short, so you can always be harvesting a fresh crop of greens. For items that have longer harvest windows, like summer squash and cucumbers, the intervals will be longer. For example, if your desired production of arugula requires a fresh cut every week, you’ll want to be sowing new plantings every week to match your harvests and keep up with your market needs.
Be ruthless in flipping your beds. To reap the biggest profits on your growing space, don’t hesitate. Once a planting has peaked for harvest yields, pull it out as soon as you can and start prepping that bed space for the next crop. This is particularly important in the later part of the season, when frost dates approach quickly. It can be hard to let a crop go, especially if you’re trying to get the most out of every plant that you possibly can, but in the long run a newer, healthier crop will bring you a better return-on-investment than a tired, old one. If you choose to plant successions, consider taking some pointers from the “Market Gardener” Jean-Martin Fortier in his approach to bio-intensive market gardening to maximize your space.
Show us your successions! Don’t forget to share your farm stories and images with the rest of the High Mowing community on Instagram using #WhyWeGrow.