Develop a Good Garden PlanFrom January to March I spend a lot of time working on my garden plan for the upcoming season. One garden planning tool that has helped me tremendously is the GrowVeg Online Garden Planner. Many people are visually oriented like I am. Things just make more sense when there's pictures. Maybe that's why I have always liked pop-up books! I like to be able to see what I'm building before actually getting started on it. GrowVeg is perfect for this because I can construct a visual plan of my garden without even setting foot in it. Creating a solid garden plan is crucial for getting the most efficiency and production out of your garden area as you can. A garden plan gives you the ability to precisely layout where your vegetables will be planted, how far apart they need to be, and help to determine crop rotations from one year to the next, or from season to season. For a long time I planted my vegetable gardens without ever creating a plan, whether it was using a tool on the computer, or drawing it up by hand. I didn't realize how much garden space I was wasting until I began using GrowVeg to draw out my garden. The harvests produced by my vegetable garden has almost doubled since using GrowVeg, because I can layout exactly where each vegetable will be planted and how far apart I can place them. By developing a visual map of my vegetable garden it is far more organized and therefore more efficient.
Use Companion Planting and Succession PlantingImplementing companion planting is an ideal way to increase the efficiency throughout your vegetable garden. By pairing certain vegetables, herbs, and flowers that grow well together you can grow more vegetables in less space while improving their overall growth. Golden Harvest Organics has the best resource I've found on companion planting. They offer an exhaustive list of what plants are good companions and what plants to avoid planting near one another. You can check out their companion planting list here. I refer back to this list many times when planning and planting my vegetable garden. I have also developed a quick guide for companion planting that you can download and keep in a PDF format. If you would like to download the companion planting guide, please check out the Resources page. I highly recommend planting companions when you can. This goes back to the planning stages of your vegetable garden. Take some time to think about the vegetables you intend to grow and find out which ones make good companions and which do not. Once you have that information, it's easy to plant companions near one another, and keep plants that are not companions separated.
Succession PlantingAnother way to improve the efficiency of your vegetable garden is to use succession planting. There are several ways to use succession planting:
- By sowing vegetables at different intervals in order to harvest them throughout the season
- By sowing, or transplanting a vegetable in the same space that a previously harvested vegetable was grown
The Rotating Raised BedI have a small four foot by four foot raised bed in my vegetable garden that I call the "Rotating Raised Bed". I call it this because I always have something growing in this bed. It's hardly ever empty. In early spring I planted kohlrabi and a few beets in this bed. As you can see, most of the kohlrabi is starting to form some nice bulbs, so I will harvest them in a couple weeks. Once the kohlrabi and beets are harvested I will plant something else here; probably bush beans. After the bush beans have produced their share, I will pull them up in late summer - early fall and plant turnips. Some of the turnips will be harvested in November or December, while the rest will be overwintered. Once the overwintered turnips are harvested next spring, I will start the whole process over again. I might plant kohlrabi again, or something else, like spinach perhaps. The main point is I continually have something growing by using this style of succession plant. I get a continuos crop of vegetables from rotating what's in the bed.
Survey Your Vegetable Garden After PlantingOnce you have your vegetable garden planted, and everything is starting to grow, take a stroll and check things out. Survey your garden for places where you can maximize efficiency and get more out of the space. I recently did this in my own garden and found many possibilities for growing more vegetables. Here are a few examples of what I saw:
Between the TomatoesThe picture above is the space between two of my tomato plants. These tomatoes are planted about two feet apart and they will get much bigger by the end of the summer. Much of this area will be filled in as they grow, but I can still plant some smaller vegetables or beneficial flowers here. I could easily plant a couple carrots, beets, onions, radishes, lettuce, or even a bush bean plant in this space. If I were to sow a couple carrots between each plant that would give me an additional 36 carrots for the season (since I have 18 tomato plants). I could also plant a couple onions between the tomatoes, and one carrot in front of, and behind each tomato plant. There are a number of possibilities for which I could maximize this space to improve the efficiency of my vegetable garden.
Between the SquashAnother example of what I found during my survey was the squash plants. I have eight summer squash plants that are planted about four feet apart. Squash plants get very large and can sometimes take up a five or six foot diameter space. I already have two onions planted between each squash, but I can still plant radishes around each plant. The radishes will have a dual purpose; one to help deter squash bugs, the other is to harvest the radishes for use in salads and dips. Since radishes grow very quickly, I will sow and harvest them two or three times during the season.
This is just a couple of examples from my vegetable garden. I hope you can use some of these ideas for improving the overall efficiency of you vegetable garden. What steps do you take to improve efficiency and increase production in your vegetable garden?
Don't Go Overboard!While the tips shared have worked well for me, please keep in mind that you shouldn't overcrowd your vegetables. You still want to maintain good spacing between your plants. It's just fine to fill in a few gaps here and there, but do not go overboard. Crowding your plants could impede growth and even reduce overall production. Think about how large a plant gets before planting it between other plants.
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