Tuesday, May 1, 2012

10 Ways to Maximize your Garden's Harvest

There are many things that everyone has heard that will help their garden grow to it's biggest potential. There are many magazines on the market, blogs on the internet, friends, farmers, experts, etc. who all have an opinion on some of the things that you should be doing.  Well, we want to add our list to all that info, perhaps you will find some ideas here that you want to try, or others have been telling you about (if it comes from more than one source, it just might work...right? Well, we'll see...)
  1. Grow foods that grow well for you. Be sure to repeat crops that you have had success with in the past as certain plants thrive in different climates and soil types. When you grow an abundance of foods that do well for you, then you will be sure to have them on hand for meals and for preserving for the winter months.
  2. Plant edible perennials. Plants that come back each year save you time in planting and the maintenance for these types of plants is usually limited to weeding, fertilizing, and mulching. Some examples of edible perennials are: rhubarb, sorrel, Jerusalem artichokes, horseradish, bunching onions, and even bamboo shoots.
  3. Plant crops that are compatible. (see our list of companion plants) Companion planting allows plants to help each other grow, whether by shading plants that do not need as much sun, or by releasing beneficial nutrients into the soil that other plants need. 
  4. Think about trying vertical gardening. This is great for those with limited space. Use trellises for tomatoes, pole beans, and cucumbers to maximize space and help them grow.
  5. Harvest plants when they are their peak. It is best to pick your vegetables and fruits in the morning. This is when your plants are full of moisture and nutrients. 
  6. Use free fertilizer. Grass clippings make great mulch for your gardens, also creating your own compost pile is a way to have free fertilizer.
  7. Be sure to use the correct tools in your garden. Long handled spades, garden trowels, and hoes that you can use to standing up are great for bigger gardens, however, if you have beds or container gardens then you will want to use shorter handled tools. Be sure to keep the edges on your spades and hoes sharp so that they work better. 
  8. Water your plants efficiently. Mulches help to hold in moisture, and soaker hoses help to get the water deeper so that your plants roots grow deeper and won't dry out as easily. To help with watering during droughts capture water in rain barrels to use in your garden.
  9. Write out a garden plan in late winter. This is a great time to go over all of your preserves, what did you run out of that you would have liked to have more of? You should grow extra of that this year. Do you have some foods left that you aren't sure will be eaten? Grow less of that plant this year, or maybe not at all depending on you and your family's feelings about that food. Grow smart, grow foods that you will eat and appreciate.
  10. Create small spot gardens. Spot gardens are mini gardens that are grown in spots in your yard where there is more than 6 hours of sunlight each day. You will want to create deep, fertile gardening beds in these spots. Or you can use large containers for spot container gardens.

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