Successional sowing and intercropping are closely related, ensuring continuous cropping over an extended period, helping to avoid a ‘glut’, which can be wasteful of both plot use and crop.
Successional crops can be achieved by one of two methods:
1) Sowing of the same crop variety (i.e. carrot, lettuce, spring onion) in short rows at approximately two week intervals, throughout the growing season.
It is often better to sow salad crops little and often, as they quickly become unappetising. As a guide to when to sow another row (or half), wait until the first sowing (or last) is about a few centimetres tall, thus ensuring a continuous supply.
2) Choose varieties that manure at different times (i.e. Peas, cabbages, leeks), often classified as earlies and maincrop / early, mid or late-season etc.
Peas can be sown up to four times a season from spring using first / second earlies and a maincrop, extending the cropping over a longer period, rather than one two week spell in summer.
Successional cropping can also encompass replacing one crop with another as soon as it has been harvested, by for example planting a late crop of leeks once the broad beans have finished.
Intercropping ensures land is used efficiently, particularly small plots. Quick growing crops such as lettuce, radish etc. are grown in between slower growing crops like parsnips, cabbages or sweetcorn avoiding ground remaining idle.
No matter how thinly you sow, seedlings inevitably grow thickly requiring the removal of excessive competition in order that the crop can develop properly.
Crops sown directly in situ are best thinned as follows:
· Before thinning, water the row to aid removal, preferably the night before.
· Remove weaker seedlings from row, by gently pressing the ground around the stronger ones, ensuring the correct planting distance between those left.
· Once completed removal, gently water row again to allow soil to wash back around the remaining plants that may have been disturbed.
· Place unwanted seedlings on compost heap.
Avoid hot and windy days for thinning, as it may cause the remaining plants to desiccate before they have a chance to re-establish. Thin with scissors during hot dry weather conditions.