Cool Season, Warm Season, and Succession Planting

Cool Season vs. Warm Season
Cool-season crops are those that germinate and grow at lower temperatures of spring and fall and are not injured by light frost. Experienced gardeners begin the vegetable growing season on St. Patrick’s Day (March 17), weather permitting, with the planting of peas, spinach, and onion sets. Garden calendars provide guides for the best planting dates for vegetables.

Cool-season crops generally perform poorly during periods of extended hot temperatures. Leaf lettuce and other greens BOLT and produce flowers and the foliage tastes bitter. Peas stop producing pods.

Other crops, such as onions and potatoes, require cool weather to become established before producing the harvest during the summer months. Insulating techniques, like cold frames, hot beds, ROW COVERS, and cloches, are often used to further extend the harvest of cool-season vegetables.

Warm-season crops do not grow well at temperatures below 50ºF and are killed by frost. Seeds of these vegetables will often rot if planted in cold, damp soil. Not only is their growth retarded by cool weather, but also fruit set will be delayed.

Cool-season crops Crops not injured by light frost are asparagus, broad bean, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, collard, garlic, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, leek, onion, pea, radish, rhubarb, shallot, spinach, turnip.

Crops injured by frost but intolerant of temperatures above 70ºF are beet, carrot, cauliflower, celery, chard, Chinese cabbage, endive, lettuce, mustard, parsnip, potato, Swiss chard.

Warm-season crops Crops for planting after danger of frost is past are cantaloupe, cucumber, eggplant, lima bean, New Zealand spinach, pepper, pumpkin, snap bean, squash, sweet corn, sweet potato, tomato, and watermelon.

Succession Planting
SUCCESSION PLANTING is done so garden space is put to its most efficient use. With this method, there is never an unplanted area in the vegetable plot. As soon as one crop is harvested, the space is immediately replanted with a different crop. This method of succession planting uses groupings of cool-season and warm-season crops. In the simplest scheme, succession planting involves planning for spring, summer, and fall crops.

Another method is to make several plantings of a vegetable. Bush beans, for example, can be planted every two weeks from mid-May to the beginning of August. A third type of succession planting involves a single planting of several different cultivars with varying maturity dates. This method works well for cabbage and corn. These methods allow for a continuous harvest over a longer period.

Vegetable harvest can be extended into the fall by growing the faster growing, cool-season crops. The quality of many of the cool-season crops is exceptional when they mature in the fall. Plant so there is adequate time for the crop to mature.

When planting seeds for a fall crop, you must water the seeds more often than in the spring because the summer soil is usually warm and dry. Provide some shade to help retain moisture. Cover the seedbed with cardboard or newspaper. Check the seedbed daily and remove the covering when the first seed sprouts. Keep the bed consistently watered until all the seedlings are established. Pre-sprouting also ensures good germination of cool-season crops in the hot, dry soil of August.

By combining an awareness of cool/warm season crops with a concrete plan for crop succession, the Haverford Garden can maximize its productivity in a small space.

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