Planning ahead before planting is one of the most essential skills you can acquire as a gardener. It’s all too easy to get ahead of yourself as the excitement of the growing season draws near, resulting in problems, like starting plants we don’t have garden space for, growing crops you won’t eat or spending far too much money on multiple runs to your local garden center. Having spent most of my life in or around the garden, I’ve gradually come to learn a few things that help move me forward throughout the growing season without getting overwhelmed.
1. Succession Plant
Whether we are willing to admit it or not, most gardeners tend to share a common problem: growing more of certain vegetables than we can practically eat or preserve. With my small front-yard garden, planning is required every year to the get the greatest harvest without overdoing certain crops.
One way to avoid the super harvest is by employing a succession-planting strategy. Rather than planting several single-determinate crops all at once, consider several small plantings spaced a week or two apart, depending on the harvest rate of the crop. This is a great strategy with a wide variety of crops, like lettuces, beets and bush beans to ensure a constant supply of fresh vegetables throughout the spring and summer instead of dealing with a single massive harvest that may go to waste.
2. Grow Vertically
To get more crops in a limited space, add vertical elements to your garden, such as trellises, cages, stakes or fencing. Instead of growing all bush varieties of crops like cucumbers, melons, beans and snap peas, look for vining varieties of the same crops. By growing your plants up, you will save valuable space that can be devoted to additional crops. When bringing vertical elements into your garden, you need to consider their placement closely to avoid casting too much shade on the other plants in your garden.
3. Don’t Grow What’s Hard To Keep
If a certain crop does not do well with organic pest controls, I will often opt to buy fresh vegetables from a local organic farmer rather than take up valuable real estate in my plot. This is certainly the case with zucchini and squash in my South Carolina garden. For years, I planted a large crop of zucchini and heirloom crookneck squash, but every year I would get one quick harvest before the squash vine borers set in and killed off all my plants. The vine borers are such a problem in my region that without row covers and the trouble of hand pollinating my squash, I could barely get five to 10 squash each year. Simply put, it was easier to buy quality local organic squash and zucchini while they were in season than waste time and space in my garden.