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3 Strategies to Get More Veggies from a Small Garden
Most commercial farms concentrate on growing a few select crops to supply to a wide variety of customers — but gardening at home is a different story entirely. Most backyard food gardeners are looking to supplement their family’s grocery store purchases with an abundant variety of seasonal vegetables, fruits and herbs throughout the growing season.
For those of us who face time and space constraints in our gardening endeavors, combining crops within the same planting areas makes a lot of sense. Try these three proven crop-combining techniques to boost crop productivity from your small home garden and get more sustained and bountiful vegetable harvests.
Crop-combining gardening techniques are particularly well-suited to organic gardening, which relies on natural techniques to control garden pests and maximize crop productivity rather than using chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
The most common way to combine garden crops is via an age-old technique called interplanting, which in essence means planting various garden edibles with different growth and spacing attributes together in the same soil beds or rows.
One example involves combining fast-maturing vegetables, such as lettuce, field greens or beets, with slower-maturing ones like winter squash or pole beans. According to Our Garden Gang, mixing tall plants like sweet corn, peas or staked tomatoes with low-growing crops such as melons or radishes is another way to maximize diversity and yield.
2. Vertical gardening
Vertical gardening is a space-saving way to combine low-growing crops with plants that produce vines and can be grown on trellises, or on fences along the edges of a garden. Vertical gardening can concentrate much more production into each square foot of planting area.
Better Homes and Gardens recently reported that crops grown off the ground “tend to be healthier because they are less likely to contract fungus infections or soil-borne leaf diseases.”
Tomatoes, pole beans, cucumbers, snap peas, melons and winter squash are all examples of crops suitable for vertical gardening if staked or supported properly.
3. Succession planting
Another common technique often employed by “weekend gardeners," whether their gardens are organic or not, is succession planting, which entails replacing a finished crop with a different one, or planting a single crop in small amounts over an extended period of time.
Examples of using succession planting techniques include:
- Replacing a spring crop with a summer crop, such as planting cucumbers — which thrive in warmer weather — where the peas had been growing earlier.
- Staggering the planting of seeds over the course of the growing season to ensure a continuing supply as long as possible.
- Planting both early- and late-maturing varieties of the same type of crop around the same time and harvesting the resulting crops successively. Tomatoes and corn, for example, each come in varieties that ripen at different times during their respective growing seasons.
Crops that are particularly well-suited to succession planting include bush beans, lettuce, spinach and radishes, each of which have long growing seasons but can be harvested after only a few weeks.
While it may be easy to get carried away with edible gardening, don’t forget to plant a few flowers to spruce up the look of your garden and attract bees to help pollinate your food crops. Marigolds and sunflowers are good choices as they are relatively easy to grow organically and tend to attract lots of bees.
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