No one wants wasted space in the garden. Bare soil not only means less fresh food; it’s not good to leave your soil exposed like that. Luckily, there are a ton of ways to get more fresh food on your plate. Here are 5 tricks to get higher garden yields and keep your plants healthier.
First and Foremost, Create A Crop Plan
If you haven’t created a crop plan, you’re going to be randomly sticking plants in the ground and planting seeds. This chaos might feel okay at the beginning of the season, but as the growing weeks proceed, you’re going to be spending a lot of effort wondering what to plant in that empty space. Crop plans are essential to maximizing your fresh food harvests.
Trick #1 – About Those Sun-Kissed Tomatoes
Single stem your indeterminate tomatoes. Single stemming is a process where you trellis your indeterminate tomato varieties and plant them just one foot apart versus the normal 18-24 inches. You’ll keep the lower branches trimmed leaving just one stem on the plant. When the plant begins to flower, you’ll prune all the way up to the first set of flowers. As you harvest those tomatoes, you’ll prune the leaves just above that cluster. The result is that while you’ll have fewer tomatoes per plant, you can get a higher yield overall because you’re planting the plants closer together. Plus, by pruning off all those leaves, you’re protecting your plants from pests and diseases and increasing air flow.
Trick #2 – Why Wait For Giant Hard-To-Work-With Roots
Harvest roots at smaller stages. The longer you leave a plant in the ground, the more potential that crop has to get a pest or disease. Not only will you lose less food to pests and diseases, but you can plant closer together than typical spacing. Forget planting beets 4-6 inches apart and harvesting them at 60 days when they’re gigantic and hard to work with, getting stains all over the counter. Harvest them at day 35-40 when the roots look more like the size of a radish. Then you can plant them just an inch apart and get more successions in before the season ends.
Trick #3 – Abandon Traditional Spacing
Over plant and thin the in-betweens. Lettuce say 😉 you have a lettuce variety that says to space them 10 inches apart. Instead, place a plant every 5 inches. As they grow in, begin harvesting every other baby lettuce in the row. Now, you’ve had a whole row of half lettuces and still have a whole row of full head lettuce coming in!
Trick #4 – How to Plant Cool Season Crops In Summer
Plant cool season crops behind taller crops in summer. Lettuces are a cool season crop. When the heat arrives, the scorching afternoon sun is just too much for them. However, you can get lettuces later into the season by planting your lettuces on the north side of taller crops, if you live in the Northern Hemisphere and planting them on the south side of taller plants, if you live in the Southern Hemisphere. This way, the lettuces get relief from the strong summer sun.
A great crop to choose for the protector plant are those single stem tomatoes because if your lettuces need more shade, you can leave an extra set of leaves on the tomatoes. But if your lettuces need more light, you can prune off more of the tomato leaves.
Trick #5 – Overlap Your Successions
Overlap your successions. A lot of the time gardeners will plant a row of plants, harvest, then plant another row. But this wastes time. Let’s say you’re growing a small variety of radish. These often mature in about 30 days. So you plant your row, but instead of waiting until you harvested that row, in 15 days, you’ll plant another row about 4 to 6 inches next to the original row. That second row will take about 5 days to germinate and another week or two before it starts needing the roots space. About the time that second round of radish needs more root space, you’ll be harvesting the first row, giving the second more root room.
These are just some of the tricks you can use to pack in more plants and get more fresh food harvests from your garden. But none of these tricks will matter if you don’t properly plan your garden with a crop plan.