by Cristina Cosentino

This month marks the start of gardening season on the East End. Every year is a chance to start over. Gardens are forgiving in that way, and they teach patience. We have to wait a whole year before we can try something different. Now is the time to plan improvements for this year. Planting in succession is one way to make the most out of your garden.

Home gardens are reprieves not only for gardeners, but for wildlife in the air, water and soil. Because of their smaller scale, it’s easy to implement climate friendly, regenerative practices. Regenerative farming regenerates the health of soil by utilizing practices that add organic matter, reduce soil disturbance, build topsoil and sequester carbon. Carbon sequestration is capturing carbon from the air and containing it in the soil. Reducing tillage at a home garden scale is easily achievable by planting directly into mulches, tarping, using a broadfork instead of a rototiller, and adding compost to the top of your garden each year.

It’s tempting in April and May to fill the whole ground with plants. This will yield all your crops at the same time. If you want a steady stream of lettuce, radishes, string beans, or zucchini for example, it’s better to plant a little at once in succession. By the time one planting is finished producing, the next succession is ready to harvest. This is how farms ensure steady supplies of crops at markets and in farm shares.

Crops that are successful in succession on the East End are: lettuce, spinach, arugula, radishes, turnips, escarole, frisèe, scallions, string beans, kale, corn, swiss chard, beets, carrots, zucchini, cucumbers, broccolini, basil and cut flowers like zinnias, cosmos and sunflowers. Some farms also plant tomatoes in succession. Here are the windows when each crop is best planted for a steady supply:

Early Spring:

Every 2 weeks from April-May: lettuce, arugula, radishes, turnips, escarole, frisèe, scallions, peas (until late April), carrots, beets, spinach

These crops are planted as soon as the soil can be worked in April. Peas can be planted until the last week of April. I like spacing them at 2 week intervals. 

Summer:

Every 3 weeks from mid May-August: lettuce, string beans, pole beans, scallions, broccolini, zinnias, cosmos, basil, carrots, beets, sunflowers, zucchini, cucumbers

Every week from June-August: lettuce, salad mix

Lettuce and salad grow better in cooler weather. You can increase your plantings to once a week in the heat of summer because it grows slower. 3 weeks is the perfect amount of time for a perfect stream of beans, zucchini and cucumbers.

Early Spring and Late Summer:

Once in April and once in August: kale, swiss chard

Kale and swiss chard last the whole season if harvested frequently and protected from pests and diseases. You can truly plant these all season, but I like to do an early spring and late summer planting. This gives you baby sized kale and swiss chard twice!

Late Summer:

Every 2 weeks until the beginning of September: lettuce, arugula, radishes, turnips, escarole, spinach, carrots 

The temperatures begin dropping in September. Crops that don’t germinate in hot weather, like radishes, arugula and spinach, have their comeback in the fall, so begin these plantings again in mid to late August. If planted too late, they won’t have enough time to reach maturity. For this reason the cut off date is important. 

Carrots are one of the most satisfying crops to grow on the East End because of how sweet they get when they go through a frost. You can stockpile plantings of carrots into August and leave them to mature in the ground until winter. When frosted the starches convert to sugar, yielding deliciously sweet carrots. This also happens with spinach.

The number of successions achieved per crop is based on temperature and days to maturity. Days to maturity are the number of days from seeding to harvest. Some crops have a quick turn around, like lettuce, which is an average of 45 days to maturity. Others are longer, like carrots and beets, which need 65-90 days. Though the temperature may be ideal to germinate a crop, there may not be enough time to reach maturity. This is why crops like peppers and eggplant are planted once. Any earlier than late May and it’s too cold. Any later than mid-June and they won’t have enough time.

Every year is different and some years your schedule may be perfect, while in others all your lettuce is ready at the same time even when planted two weeks apart. These are the moments when you have to scratch your head and try again next year. Patience grows like weeds in a garden.


Cristina Cosentino grew up on Long Island and has been farming since 2015. Cristina has worked on vegetable and livestock farms including The HOG Farm, Sylvester Manor and DeCotis Farm in Smithfield, RI. Her favorite crops to grow are carrots, escarole, peas and peppers.

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