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Succession planting: heavy feeders, medium feeders & light feeders

16.05.2019  /  Reading time: 7 minutes

There are a few things to consider when planning succession planting as not to strain the soil. The division of plants into heavy-, medium- and light-feeders is important for planning your beds throughout the year.

In this article, we explain what succession planting is and how you can plan it for your beds. Find out what heavy-, medium- and light-feeders are. We also provide you with a chart in which you can see the nutrient requirements of different crops at a glance.

This article contains:

  1. What is succession planting?
  2. Advantages of succession planting in the vegetable garden
  3. Table: Good pre-crops and post-crops in the vegetable patch
  4. How to create a succession plan
  5. About heavy-, medium- and light-feeders
  6. Succession planting chart: List of heavy-, medium- and light-feeders
  7. Heavy-, medium- and light-feeders: soil preparation & fertilization
  8. Frequently asked questions about succession planting

Quick Overview

What is sucession planting?

  • Rotation of different crops on a bed within a year
  • The nutrient requirements of the crops play an important role here and they are divided into heavy-, medium- and light-feeders

Create a good succession plan

  • Pre-cultivation: medium- or light-feeder
  • Main crop: heavy-feeders (summer or winter crop)
  • Subsequent crop: Medium- or light-feeder
  • Green manure

Succession planting & fertilization

  • Heavy-feeders: high nutrient requirements; soil preparation and fertilization during the season
  • Medium-feeders: medium nutrient requirements; several fertilizer applications during the season
  • Light-feeders: no additional fertilization

What is succession planting?

Succession planting means growing different crops on the same area within one season. For example, if you first grow early potatoes in a bed and then sow spinach in the same bed after harvesting the potatoes, this is succession planting. A well-thought-out succession plan allows you to make the most of the growing season. In Central Europe, the growing season lasts roughly from April to November, during which time as many crops as possible should be planted. When planning your vegetable garden, you should therefore make sure that you take into account the optimum growing times for the individual crops and plan the planting of your beds accordingly.

In addition to succession planting, you should also keep your beds as varied as possible over several years. Rotating different crops over several years is called crop rotation. You can find out more about crop rotation in the vegetable garden here.

Advantages of succession planting in the vegetable garden

A balanced succession plan prevents your garden soil from being depleted to one side. This helps to maintain soil fertility. In addition, the soil is planted all year round, which benefits soil life on the one hand. On the other hand, the soil is protected from erosion and silting.

But you as a gardener also benefit from a good succession plan. The space in the bed is used optimally, as it is planned with planting throughout the season. This means there are no empty spaces before or after a main crop.

In order to garden as sustainably and ecologically as possible, you should plan your beds in mixed crops. You can find out how to plan a mixed crop in the vegetable patch in our article. Based on the information about good and bad companion plants, the cultivation period and the nutrient requirements of a plant - i.e. whether it is a heavy-, medium- and light-feeder - all crops can be optimally distributed over the year and the beds. It makes sense to divide all plants into three categories: Pre-crop, main crop and post-crop.

Crop rotation planning
A crop rotation in one of your beds could look like this, for example.

Table: Good pre-crops and post-crops in the vegetable patch

Good pre-crops Good post-crops
Chard Chard
Field beans Field beans
Herbs Garlic
Kohlrabi Herbs
Lamb's lettuce Kohlrabi
Peas Lamb's lettuce
Radishes Peas
Rocket salat Phacelia
Radish and Radishes

How to create a succession plan

For a good succession plan, alternate between different crops in your beds: m#edium- or light-feeders are followed by a heavy-feeder as main crop. The main crop is usually the longest on the field. Pre- and post-crops have a shorter cultivation period and must be adapted to the temperatures. After the sequence of pre-crop, main crop and subsequent crop, the soil is happy to have a break. To do this, you can sow a green manure that covers the soil but does not remove any nutrients from it. This increases soil health.

The main crop can be either in summer or winter. In our latitudes, we usually plant a heat-loving main crop such as tomatoes or zucchinis in the summer in hobby gardens and plan around it. To provide yourself with vegetables all year round, you can also plant main crops such as cabbage in winter. You can find more information about growing vegetables in winter here. To keep an overview, it makes sense to enter the sowing dates of the different types of vegetables in a calendar. This way, you will always know when to start growing or sowing in the vegetable patch.

One bed (section) over the year: change of drills followed by green manure
One bed (section) over the year: change of drills followed by green manure

About heavy-, medium- and light-feeders

The three terms describe the general nutrient requirements of a plant. The concept of heavy-, medium- and light-feeders does not, of course, adequately describe the needs of individual plants. Many plants have special requirements regarding the composition of the nutrients they receive from the fertilizer. However, the division into the three categories provides a rough overview and also offers a reference point for bed planning. Here you will find a chart with an overview of heavy-feeders, medium-feeders and weak-feeders.

Succession planting chart: List of heavy-, medium- and light-feeders

Heavy-feeders Medium-feeders Light-feeders Green manure
Aubergine Beans Garlic Beans
Cabbage Beetroot Herbs Buckwheat
Courgette Carrots Lamb's lettuce Lupin
Cucumber Celery Lettuce Mustard
Leek Chard Peas Oil radish
Potato Fennel Radishes Phacelia
Pumpkin Flowers Sunflower Vetch
Rhubarb Garlic
Sweet corn Kohlrabi
Sweet pepper Onion
Sweet potato Parsnip
Tomato Radish

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Heavy-, medium- and light-feeders: soil preparation & fertilization

Depending on your nutrient requirements, you may need to prepare your bed so that enough nutrients are available for the plant during the growing season. With the no-dig method, your beds are prepared once a year with compost for the whole season. Alternatively, you can also fertilize your beds depending on the planting. You can find tips on soil preparation and fertilization here:

  • Heavy-feeders need the most nutrients and require a balanced soil environment. It is usually not enough to simply fertilize them with liquid fertilizer a few times during the gardening season. To achieve the best results, you should prepare your bed of heavy-feeders before you plant them. Compost or green manure with plants that enrich nutrients are suitable for this. You can find out how you can improve your garden soil easily and naturally in our article.
  • Medium-feeders are not quite as demanding as heavy-feeders and do not require any extra bed preparation. They can, for example, be cultivated on a bed that was used to grow heavy-feeders the previous year. A few applications of liquid fertilizer over the summer are usually enough to exploit the full potential of these plants.
  • Plants that make no particular demands on the nutrient content of the soil and can manage with just a few nutrients are generally referred to as light-feeders. These plants often do not require any additional fertilization.

If you have any questions or comments, please write to us at [email protected]. Would you like to receive helpful gardening tips all year round and plan your own beds optimally? Then register here or download the Fryd app for Android or iOS.

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Marie studied agricultural science at the University of Hohenheim. Her main focus is on ecological agriculture and permaculture. She writes articles for Fryd to educate people about ecological interrelationships and alternatives to current land use. Our current economic systems, especially in agriculture, have numerous negative effects on nature and destabilize our ecosystems. We need a great diversity in our gardens and beds again to counteract the extinction of species. Every gardener can contribute to creating and maintaining habitats and food for a wide variety of creatures. With her articles, she would like to pass on her experience in dealing with natural systems and give people the opportunity to contribute to a stable ecosystem and thus also to securing our livelihood.

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Succession planting is the alternation of different crops on a bed within a year, based on their nutrient requirements, so as not to deplete the soil.

Heavy-feeders are plants with high nutrient requirements such as cabbage and tomatoes. Medium-feeders have a medium nutrient requirement and light-feeders get by with few nutrients.

For a succession plan in the vegetable garden, plan either medium- or light-feeders crops after a high-yielding crop. Another alternative is green manure, which you can sow for soil fertility.

Succession planting prevents your soil from being depleted and too many nutrients from being extracted. This preserves soil fertility in the long term.

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