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Optimizing the Gardening Season

May 1, 2024
Written by The Eising Team

It’s the question we probably hear the most when it comes to flower gardens…”What can I buy that will flower all season long?” While some annuals bloom for a very long time, no plant will bloom from early Spring to late Fall, and no vegetable plant will produce for that duration either. The solution? Succession Planting! It’s a simple strategy that maximizes the time your garden is blooming or producing vegetables.

What is Succession Planting?

Plant early (earlier than you think) and plant things in succession that thrive in the current weather conditions - right up until there is a hard frost. Simply plan to plant another crop or flower once one is harvested or finished blooming. Many gardeners here in southern Ontario wait until the May 24th weekend to plant everything - all at once. Succession gardening staggers planting times so there is a continuous harvest of vegetables or an everchanging series of blooming flowers. While it takes a little more planning, the results are worth it.


A Succession of Blooms

The best way to ensure a parade of colour in your garden is to choose a variety of annuals, perennials, and biennials that bloom at different times. There is a notion that a garden can only have annual flowers or just perennials, but the best results come from a mix of both. You’re allowed to mix them together! Most annuals bloom during the heat of the summer, but perennial flowers can extend the season for you by blooming in early spring or in the fall. A list of perennial bloom times can be found in this Landscape Ontario article to help you choose your plants.

Some flowering plants, like pansies, love cooler weather and are easy to purchase in the spring. A little planning and planting in the fall will provide a flush of colour from Spring bulbs like Daffodils, Crocus, and Hyacinth. Spring bulbs look great alongside early-blooming shrubs or trees like Canada Serviceberry and Forsythia. 

April or early May is also an excellent time to directly sow annual flowers like sunflowers, nasturtium, borage, and herbs like cilantro and dill to give them a head start.

Cool Weather Veggies

It’s surprising how many vegetables thrive in cool weather and withstand light frost. Keep tender plants indoors until the third week of April and slowly harden them off, but get outdoors any time in April and begin directly sowing fast-growing cool crops like leafy greens, root vegetables, and some herbs. 

Lettuce planted in late spring will tend to “bolt” and taste bitter once hotter temperatures arrive. Lettuce loves cooler conditions. So you don’t have to wait until May 24th to sow lettuce and other vegetables. Which Vegetables? We have a list of examples for you in our article: Starting Seeds Indoors and Cold Weather Crops. Starting early means you can harvest a whole crop of vegetables before you plant heat-loving crops like peppers and tomatoes.

Sow All Season

If you’ve ever been overwhelmed by planting too much of one crop at once, you will love succession gardening. While you may be able to freeze a batch of 2,000 string beans from the entire packet of seeds you planted in one go, sometimes stretching out the harvest is nice. Plant smaller batches of beans, peas, and herbs like cilantro, dill, and basil every three weeks to ensure continuous summer harvests. This approach is also known as interval gardening. 

Sow cool-weather crops like leaf lettuce, Swiss Chard, and Radishes in April or early May and again in September.

Continuous Harvest

Once your early Spring vegetables like lettuce, peas and radishes have been harvested, it’s time to sow your second crop of cool-weather veggies for harvesting in the Fall. Do you know veggies like parsnips, Brussels sprouts, peas, and kale have more flavour after a mild frost?! A mild winter this year meant we were still harvesting some Brussels sprouts in December.

Double Up

Another tip is to plant things that grow well together. For example, plant seeds for a root crop like carrots below your tomato plants, peas or bush beans in the vegetable garden. The carrot crop will be next after the tomatoes, peas or beans are done for the season. There are many combinations like this - tomatoes and basil, kale and dill, lettuce and beets, broccoli and borage, just to name a few. Doing this helps to increase the production of your plot of land and keeps the soil covered, which is always better for soil health.

One final strategy for flower succession planting is to use containers. Consider placing a well-positioned pot of annual blooms beside perennial plants resting after flowering. 

Once you get started, researching companion plant combinations like these can be a fun game. These combinations will extend the time you can enjoy lots of colourful blooms and increase the amount of vegetables a garden can produce! 

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