GARDEN

Vegetable Garden Staggered Planting Every Two Weeks

Depending on the growing time to maturity (time to harvest) for a given vegetable you might consider a two week staggered planting delay instead of starting everything all at once.

Why might this be a good idea?

One of our readers recently said this:


 

“I learned that planting an entire garden at one time was a disaster when everything matured at the same time as well. We could not eat it fast enough nor could we preserve it all as required.”

“My answer is to successively plant every two weeks or so, depending on the crop. The following pictures show the growth from some plantings over the last month. About two weeks between each planter full.”

-hermit us

 

[Ken adds:] Some of us northerners may not have the luxury of an extended growing season to do this for all (or many / most) vegetable varieties, however for some crops I don’t see why you couldn’t get several staggered planting starts to maturity before the weather shuts you down in the Fall.

This is particularly feasible if you start in a greenhouse type environment or even indoors.

Example: DIY Raised Garden Bed Planters -Cold Weather Short Growing Season

 
Here’s a chart which indicates some staggered planting times for radish, lettuce, peas, spinach, carrots, chard, turnips:


source: iastate.edu

 
Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting

 
Question: How many of you have staggered (delayed – offset) your planting starts and how has it worked out for you? I’m jealous of those who live in regions of very long growing seasons and can achieve multiple harvests! Although I think you pay the price with extra heat and humidity during that long summer…

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32 Comments

  1. Ken, I really like your planters. Is that your garden?

    My garden is staggered because it is so small and I have to make good use of every square inch. So, in April I plant radishes, carrots, turnips, peas, spinach, etc. I plant my peas in three batches two weeks apart through April. Later I plant my other veggies.

    When it gets too hot for greens, radishes, etc., I harvest the greens and radishes, add more compost, and then plant beans, squash, cucumbers, etc. in those containers.

    I have tried to plant fall crops of radishes, etc. but that doesn’t work in this climate. It stays hot through August, then the weather cools suddenly. There isn’t time after it cools down for a second crop to ripen.

    1. Ken, I didn’t read your article well enough. I see that is not your garden. I love those planters. Whoever they belong to has a good skill for when times are tough.

      I plant peas staggered every couple of weeks in case I plant too soon and we have an early freeze. Once they come in, they produce until it gets real hot, then I get very few peas and the vines turn brown. Beans will produce as long as you keep them picked. Same with cucumbers and squash.

      Some things (such as tomatoes) are either determinate or indeterminate. I like the indeterminate ones since I don’t can them but just use them on a daily basis. I like the Early Girls because they are indeterminate, produce by early July, and are 4-5 ounces — just the right size for one person.

      1. Those belong to ‘hermit us’ in northern Idaho. There’s more about those planters if you check out the link there in the article…

  2. I generally stagger plantings for a couple of reasons. Some plants like spinach,lettuce ect I do both in spring and fall as they don’t like the direct sun I get through the summer. Squash and pole beans get staggered due to not being able to keep up with the harvest and or eating if I do them all at once. With squash and zucchini if you do say 10 plants they grow so fast I can barley pick them all let alone process them. Tomatoes and peppers are ok as I can leave the peppers on the plant and the tomatoes ripen slower.

  3. I can grow vegetables practically year round. I have picked tomatoes in December in years past. I’m working towards a year round garden. But you’re right, Ken. The trade off is the awful heat and humidity, and the gnats, and the mosquitoes, and don’t forget the fireants!

  4. Here in the Four Corners we can have Snow in June and 90º in November. So a Garden is at times a crap-shoot.

    I happen to agree with ‘some’ crops being staggered, but other ‘stuff’ I would like all at once, once in canning, dehydrating, preserving, and freezing mood I want to hit it hard…..

    I did have to chuckle a bit, this year I figured I was going to be smart and get a 3-4 week head start on my tomatoes, Well I had these absolutely beautify starts going, had the raised beds ready to go, even had everything I need to cover and protect from cold….. Yeah Right!!!!!

    Got those puppies in the ground, watered them well, and dutifully covered and uncovered them like a Pro. Wellllll about a week into the most wonderful growth ya could imagine Ol-Man Winter decided to show me who the Boss is, you got it, BAM!!!! A storm moved in got 2 inches of snow and 24º cold snap.

    Now I have seen all kinds of tomatoes in my day, Dark Green, Light Green, some Purple, Yellowish, Some even with pinkish stems, But I guarantee you a ‘Black’ tomato is NOT a good thing…. HAHAHA Those poor suckers lasted about 3 micro-seconds in that 24 degree temperature, even with Walls-O-Water and being covered……

    I do envy those that have a longer growing season, but NOT the heat and bugs that come with that. I can grow a heck of a batch of Snow-Peas though :-) :-)

    NRP

  5. I replant or stagger, all summer with lettuce and radishes. Tomatoes stagger themselves as different kinds have different maturing dates. Beans also keep coming all summer. Other than that it is always a rush in the fall with melons, squash, an all the other veggies.

  6. We are in Zone 6 and plant both seasonally and staggered. We are only able to grow Kale in the Fall, but we overwinter it and then it is there, fresh, to eat through Winter and also grows in the early Spring before it begins to set seed. We will do more overwintering this year since I will no longer be homeschooling and my husband will retire. I would like a hoop house but still have to convince him that it would be an asset. We have a greenhouse for seedlings but have not used it much for growing cold weather crops — I suspect we’ll be doing more with greens and lettuces from here on. That would involve some staggered plantings, too, so that we harvest often.

    Seasonally, we grow many root crops (turnips, beets, etc) and cool weather crops (greens, broccoli, cauliflower) in early Spring and early Fall. The trick with early Spring is that we’ve got to have the garden ready so that when there is a window of clear weather (and no snow), we can hoe the row/block and then sow seeds.

    We stagger some veggies like pole and snap beans, also summer squashes. We usually do 3 large plantings of beans because I like at least 100 quarts a year. I also usually grow a small plot of one bean variety just to carry-on and sustain the seed’s viability.

    Main crops like tomatoes, peppers, cucs, cabbage, and Winter squash are only planted once each season. We are always inundated with tomatoes, but I can more than 100 quarts a year. Sauce tomatoes come on strong once, and they are earlier to produce than the slicers. It’s not planned that way, but it works w/ the schedule. Late tomatoes (and bumper crops) and Fall-ripened peppers are for salsas and meat sauces.

    For a novice gardener, all of this can be overwhelming. Make written notes and be observant. Take it a day at a time, a season at a time. This is one reason why gardening now is encouraged so that when you MUST grow foods to eat well, you can do it!!

    1. MT

      Even so called “seasoned gardeners – punt intended” occasionally have a failure with one crop or another. Gardening is not a predictable science. That is why my gardening, for the most part, is 24 sq ft at a time. Each planter is a unique environment for plant type, soil type, water needs, cover protection,…

      Like NRP said “o-man winter decided to show who the boss is” BUT he is wrong, the boss is Mother Nature. :)

      1. @ hermit us

        Sorry, but I do need to correct you on “BUT he is wrong, the boss is Mother Nature.”

        It’s a well-known fact that Ol-Man-Winter is the BOSS, he’s the one that wears the Pants (or coat in this case) in the grand scheme of things, Now I will admit he wears exactly what Mom-Nature tells him to, but everyone knows the Man is the boss, with the Woman’s permission to say so…… :-) :-)

        NRP

        1. NRP

          Careful, you going to get planted in your own raised bed if you keep talking that way. Where is Daisy, Stardust, and Old Homesteader’s Wife?

          1. @ hermit us

            Hey, someone has to stir the manure and add it to the compost pile…. HAHAHA

            Sure, bring in backups; that’s cheating, but effective. :-) :-) :-)

            NRP

            PS you did read the entire post, right???? :-)

          2. NRP

            Reading your posts are like looking for that subtle weed of truth sneaking into the garden. I check between the rows (lines) and under the leaves – getting an understanding of a character- opps I meant someone’s compost.

          3. @ hermit us

            HAHAHAHA, so my warped strategy is working… ?

            Tis a simple task to just voice the obvious to the masses that know what they want to hear and digest what they want. But to help enlighten those that seek the true meaning of Gardening; tis it not better to allow the recipient the chance to interpret the subtle nuances of a conversation with the probabilities of finding their own answers to the preverbal question of;

            “Question: How many of you have staggered (delayed – offset) your planting starts and how has it worked out for you?” See above in Ken’s article.

            I do believe that Ken mastered the art of capturing the reader’s attention with the patrons that follow this Blog. Interestingly enough the question at bay could also be interpreted as;

            “How many of you take the risk of planting the entire Garden at once without the thought or preparation of a failed Garden start, Hence taking the risk of a complete fail of produce (food) production if you did not have the whereas to retain the seeds for a secondary planting?”

            One can see where the same article could take on a completely different drift and therefore challenging the participant to come to a different conclusion by exercising their imagination of not only a “Staggered Planting”, but of the needed for a “Secondary” backup plan of action, again having the reader somewhat forecast the possibilities of “Cause and Effect” of the simple yet extremely difficult act of ‘Gardening’……

            NRP

            PS; And yes I do have a HUGE pile of “compost” HAHAHAHA

          4. NRP

            I guess I could have simply said that my three spaced successive plantings of some crops boils down to all our prepper philosophies “three are two, two are one. But, I do like reading your long affirmative postings.

          5. @ hermit us

            I do like to have a little fun….

            And to drive Ken a little more crazy :-) Tis good for him…..

            NRP

          6. @NRP,
            :D If we plant you, I’m sure mint will grow! Luv ya’ll, Beach’n

          7. @ Beach’n Make that mullein rather than mint. :) The venerable “butt-wipe plant”!

          8. @ NRP

            OK, here goes controversial Crabbe. I tried it (stagger planting) and it didn’t work very well and I think I figured out why which I’ll briefly cover. My solution? Plant a whole lot of different things instead. That seems to work better and plays to the natural woof and warp of plant life… i.e.. not everything does well every year no matter how you plant it or tend to it. You cannot expect a bumper crop every year and, from my experience, you are not likely to experience a total crop failure of everything. Canning should help alleviate the crop failure issue. The only thing we stagger plant is leaf lettuce which keeps us in lettuce most of the year and green onions which grow all year long.

            Personally, I would rather plant a whole lot of different things and harvest big from that which produces well, can it and be done because canning at our house is a lot of work. There have been times when we canned every day for a couple weeks just to put up all the different stuff, sometimes canning from 4 am to past midnight. We simply suck it up on the things that don’t do well. Generally if it is something that can be canned, we have enough from the previous year to see us though until next year and so far, there has always been something edible growing in our garden all year long. Not everything does well every year so by planting a lot of different things we can split the difference. For example, one year snap beans will produce a bumper crop, the next year they fizzle for various reasons which are too complicated to go into here (bugs, soil, weather, moon cycles blah, blah, blah.) Last year we harvested over a thousand pounds of tomatoes even though the stink bugs started attacking in early June we were still able to put up over a 100 quarts of tomato stuff, and we had very little bird damage but this year the mocking birds and blue jays destroyed over half our tomatoes but the stink bugs were absent. We finally just picked all the green tomatoes and pulled them all up. We did get enough to make almost 40 quarts of tomato stuff but still have a lot from last year. Made a lot of green tomato casseroles and put them in the freezer and ate a lot of fried green tomatoes.

            Every year is different and there is absolutely no way to predict what will grow, grow well or whither. Plants appear to be more fickle than humans and certainly respond to subtle seasonal conditions more drastically than do humans. Humans just cuss and throw hissy fits. Plants die or don’t produce. If what you plant decides to go on strike that year, it doesn’t matter how many times you plant it.

            As far as having a long growing season down here in the South, I’ve discovered that we actually have two separate 4 month seasons and have to plant accordingly. Plant seeds in the greenhouse in late January early February. Set out plants and plant other stuff directly in the ground in March. Harvest in April – June then plow everything under in late June. The only thing that does well in July and August is Okra and hot peppers. Start all over again in late August and enjoy your harvests through December. Some things like carrots, Kale and Swiss Chard will winter over nicely.

            Like I said earlier, there is always something edible growing in our garden all year long. Some years, some things produce well and some things don’t. If you experience a catastrophic crop failure (i.e. major flooding), it doesn’t matter how many times you planted something, you will lose it all. Canning and/or freezing or dehydrating bridges the gap and I think that’s the primary reason preparedness minded people are into food preservation. Just saying.

          9. CrabbeNebulae

            I tried the shot gun approach to planting and took pot luck as to what was successful, but I am am not smart enough to keep track of what is where and what care is needed for each. So I limit myself to little planter areas at a time. This also lets me target crops that we are in need of lets me identify wrong crops for our conditions – I found that beets are not the best here.

          10. @ hermit us

            The only thing I use a shot gun on is varmits. We simply plant a whole lot of a whole lot of stuff. Spring / Fall Winter could be any one of = Tomatoes, Peppers, cucumbers, Snap beans, Butter Beans, Squash summer/Zuccini/Hubbard/Other, Beets, Purple Hull peas, Okra, Sweet Corn, Potatoes, Onions, Broccoli, radishes, Mustard Greens, Eggplants green/purple/fat/long, Lettuce, Herbs, Cabbage Napa/Flat Dutch/Other, Beets, Collards, Carrots, Brussel Sprouts, Mustard Greens, Turnips (I may have left off something). Everything I listed grows well down here (and lots of other places too) and every year I will get a bumper crop of something but not everything. Some years, some things simply fizzle and other years it grows in abundance. Plants are fickle creatures and in a bad year, no amount of multiple plantings will make them perform. I suppose the point I’m trying to make here is you are more likely to have crop failure and go hungry if you plant just a few things.

            PS.. we discovered several years ago that it is way cheaper to buy sweet corn than it is to grow it. There are too many people around us that grow and sell sweet corn $15.00 a bag (50 ears). I save my row space and plant something else instead.

            PS 2.. I’ve had good years and bad years. I’ve had some things grow well in bad years and not worth a damn in good years. I’ve NEVER had a total crop failure.

            PS 3… If you plant just one or two things only, the odds of crop failure and you going hungry increase greatly. Just saying.

          11. @ CrabbyNebulae

            Ok, so what was so controversial about that???? I happen to agree with you, the reason for my comment of ‘additional seeds’ is ohhhhhh let’s say ya have a fire move through the area or hurricane, there may and probably will be time to replant?

            Just a backup to the backup

            FYI, I also put up a LOT of home-canned foods, sorry but the store bought crapo is just that to me anymore, crapo, with very little nutrition it seems, and the flavor of home-canned foods…. OMG!!!!

            NRP

      2. Yeah, I didn’t write about the garden cycles at all since that really wasn’t the topic. Any seasoned gardener is well aware of these things (weather cycles, insects, bird & critter garden thieves). Some of the problems can be solved or worked around, other problems like difficult weather cycles, can destroy a crop or two. One year, I discovered Blister Beetles on a few of our tomato plants and they hopped over to a few of our snap bean plants. I had never seen them before and had to ID them and then read about them. Those things scared me — but they were in a small section of one of our gardens and for some reason, they remained there. I dusted w/ DE one time but many remained. The next year, I saw a few of them in the same spot, but the following year there were none. They have gone. We had a similar phenomenon with the tomato hornworm — one year I found a few on 2 tomato plants, captured them and fed them to the chickens. The next year, there were none. It is strange how most of the serious insects come and go for us — except for the cabbage moth. If we turned our chickens loose in the garden, we would probably be rid of those pests, but then the chickens would destroy too much of the garden. lol

        Some years, our weather pattern gives us growing advantages and we are able to set out a second Fall crop of potatoes and snap beans. I would love to try it with onions (which we grow from seed, not purchased bulbs) and may do that this year or next. What I enjoy about a Fall crop of potatoes and/or beans is that we will then have potatoes in late October/early November and snap beans in mid to late October. It’s not a bumper crop, but an extra crop, not exactly staggering per se, but an extra crop based on weather observations and seasonal weather patterns. Our overall weather pattern in this region has seemingly slid our seasons forward by about a month. Spring is later, as is our Fall season. So we plan accordingly.

        Gardening is dynamic and always challenging, but the food that a gardener grows is so satisfying and rewarding that it’s worth the effort — I think this is why gardening is enjoyed by so many.

  7. We do corn in flights–one set early, then another when the first set is about six inches tall, and a third if there’s time and space. So each “crop” is about two weeks apart. The rest I just throw in the ground and let come what may. If I was growing corn for harvest I’d probably do it all at once, but we just eat it fresh.

    I let the greens, radishes, etc self-seed wherever they want, so we generally have an accidental spring and fall harvest with those.

    Although last year I had what I think is a kale plant come up in an area where there was no water. It survived the winter without protection and now it’s seeding (I’ve never watered it) so I’m hoping I have the start of a drought tolerant kale. :) Which is sort-of offtopic.

  8. hermit us… you are so right about “even seasoned gardeners” can have a problem. My started plants were a total failure this year as we had to be gone several times. Also this year My cabbage, broccoli, & cauliflower that was direct seeded didn’t germinate. We got very hot right after I planted into moist soil but I think the heat dried out the soil. We have a drip system of irrigation but the main line had to be replaced & couldn’t find it locally. The day we went to the city it rained all day. Hopefully they will now come up & we are now prepared for another time.

    I only plant radishes & carrots a few weeks apart.

  9. We stagger starting pepper seeds a few weeks before the tomatoes. We make lots of salsa, and waiting for the jalapenos to ripen when you’ve got baskets of tomatoes is a pain.

    Otherwise, the only staggering we do is back from the garden to the house.

  10. I don’t plant everything at once due to not enough endurance on my part(60+).
    I start with the cold tolerant plants (zone 3b) first and then gradually put out or plant the delicate ones later. I do plant several plantings of radish, beets and lettuce. There’s not enough summer here to get two crops of anything else.
    I’m with ozarks tom I mostly stagger in from the garden.

  11. I tried to stagger some tomato plants–heck, the latest planted caught up with the first ones planted! Only 4 first and 4 last….weed eated one of the latest!!
    I do stagger my green onions..I always have a few ready to pick.

    I am in south Ky., and I have huge green tomatoes. The prettiest tomato plants I have had in years…got rid of the verticillium wilt.

    1. I have seedlings that just popped up, and I fully expect that they’ll catch up with the older tomatoes by the end of the season. Probably by mid-July, but we’ll see. Fruiting is based on temperature and water, so the younger plants often fruit at the same time.

  12. I’m one of those way up in north Idaho,where if you don’t like the weather,wait 5 minutes.I try to plant most of my vegies in late spring into first part of June.Most of it is in by end of may.I start a lot of it indoors(tomatoes,peppers,etc).Get my cold weather stuff in the last week of april or first 2 weeks of may.Carrots,lettuce,beets,chard,etc.Then I watch the 10 day forcast very carefully after the 15 th of may.When I see a ten day strech of fairly warm weather,the rest goes in.I save the tender plants I started indoors till last after I harden them off.I rarely plant anything towards fall.I have a lot of hard work when everything gets ripe in just a couple of weeks,but when the eating starts,it is all worth it.I’ve had 70 years to figure out everything that grows well up here ,and tastes great.I even grow watermellons.Yum!Most of my stuff is either canned or froze,and lasts us most of the winter into early spring.Keep onions and potatoes and some of the carrots in the shed.They last us till aboyut feb. or march.

  13. I plant in stages as there is only so much I can do in one session before i have to take a break, get something to eat or playing with my dog. I work in the yard about 6-8 hrs a week. Beyond that and it begins to feel like work.

    To: NRP and Skibum:
    Is it better to be a warrior in the garden or the gardener in a war? To a veteran warrior, the garden can be a place for the warrior to seek healing and regain perspective about nurturing life and love of our family, pets and living creatures around our world. Much of rehabilitation programs for veterans involve tending and nurturing gardens, dogs and building homes. This is important now that we have many coming home from foreign engagements. Life after war is about rebuilding and nurturing life.

    As for the Gardener in War, When this happens, the casualty rate is tremendously high. This is reflected by the tales of the 442nd combat team in WW 2 which suffered tremendously high casualty rates while fighting up the boot of Italy. Most of these young men were of Japanese ancestry and they were straight off the farm.

    Some come back only interested in: “the thrill of the Kill” Civilian life will never replace this “rush” and so many veterans engage in risky behaviors and too much drinking. Most of these people do not live for very long. I believe this proverb was written in order to help a damaged person regain perspective and return to the world of the living where we are called upon to help, heal, nurture and build.

    I can think of no better activity than gardening in order to take ones mind off the horrors of war. (but we still have a shotgun nearby to take out the errant crop pest that nibbles on my cucumbers.)

    I also like the Nick Adam’s stories written by Papa Hemingway about a veteran that goes on an extended fishing trip after returning home from war. A warrior in the garden is my metaphor for a balanced life.

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