Wondering how to make your veggie garden better? The secret to getting more from the garden is not just fertilizer and water, or even available space. Size does help to maximize garden yield, but not everyone can extend their plot, and for those who can, don’t forget that the bigger your make it, the more time you’ll have to invest in keeping it thriving. Having a bigger garden doesn’t instantly make it more efficient or beneficial. But there are ways that you can get more benefits from the foods you grow, and have more to harvest.
1… Increase Quality & Health Benefits
This should be huge for every gardener, because these are the two main reasons people grow their own. Both fruits and vegetables are juicier, and more delicious when you harvest early in the morning – before the sun heats up the day. Not only that, but the vitamin and nutritional content will be at peak levels as your plants revitalized after spending the dark hours consuming yesterday’s stored energy. You’ll find that leafy greens and herbs won’t wilt as fast as when you pick in the afternoon or early evening. Plus the food harvested will already be cooler than picking late in the day, allowing refrigeration to lock that freshness in faster.
2… Smarter Plant Selection
The varieties you choose can make a big difference in yield. We all grow things that are marginal in our climate, but don’t expect a bumper crop from these plants every year, because the weather can make for slim pickin’s, sometimes no harvest at all. If you’re super limited on space, stick with crops known for being super productive in your growing zone. Not that you should allow your garden to get boring, just make the focus on getting efficient returns on your input.
3… Extended Harvest
You can sow some crops two or more times over the season to get continuous harvests. This is especially true when you live where winters are short and mild, but there are several crops that even Northerners can plant for a constant flow of fresh eating. Things like lettuce, bush beans and carrots can be sown in succession to get bigger yields, and if you’re limited on space – start second and thirds crop seeds in pots and trays to be moved into position as soon as the current round is finished. You can even try growing lettuce crops in part shade during the hot part of the season. Some report that a mid-season harvest works out well if planted where it gets morning sun only, because it’s the heat that makes it bolt to seed, and shade during the hot part of the day will keep your lettuce about 10 degrees cooler than full sun.
4… Multiple Foods from 1 Plant
There are a few edibles you can grow that give you more than one kind of harvest. Cilantro is one. When leaves are young it’s a fresh pot herb, but when it starts flowering, you’ve got coriander. Look for pole beans that are great fresh and dried, you’ll find numerous options in heirlooms. And Tromoncino squash gives you a summer squash similar to zucchini, and if left to mature turns into a winter squash with good storage that is something like butternut, but not as sweet. Naturally, indeterminate tomatoes just continue to produce until frost, but they are edible both green and ripened, giving you distinctly different tastes from the same small space. Study your seed catalogs – there’s bound to be more options like this.
5… Harvest Every Day
You can trick some plants into bearing more heavily. Zucchini and pole beans are prime examples. The faster you remove their handiwork at setting seed, the harder they work at creating new fruits. Once these two crops start coming on the fruits develop super fast anyway, and they’re both at their delectable best picked young. Peppers will also flower more if you harvest some of the fruits young, so you can get more jalapenos if you don’t leave them all to turn red. And if you’re going to chop up the green peppers, then there’s no reason to leave them in tact until they’re huge.
6… Know Your Climate
To cram the most efficiency into your garden you’ve got to start early and grow late. Find out what your frost dates are and commit them to memory. Watch the weather. Using cold frames, low tunnels, and even temporary greenhousing, you can plant weeks ahead of time if you keep ahead of the weather. Even old fashioned cloches come in very handy. Starting seed indoors can be done for most crops too, giving you a big jump start on the season.
The more intensely you plan your garden, the more you can maximize what it produces. While there are even more ways to make your garden more bountiful, these 6 tips will make a big difference in how efficient your space is… as long as you keep weeds, pests, and disease at bay.
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