Maximize Your Garden Harvest

Grow the most food with the least amount of work and money with these 30 tips for more prolific production.

| July/August 2012

  • Fresh kitchen herbs are easy to grow but expensive to buy.
  • If your yard has lots of shade, grow mini-gardens of sun-loving crops such as tomatoes and peppers wherever the sun shines.

Organic, homegrown produce is more nutritious, delicious and sustainable than typical store-bought fare, and the best way to keep it on our tables year-round is to grow as much as we can in summer, then preserve some of that garden harvest for winter enjoyment. But growing enough food for year-round consumption can be challenging when we’re working with limited time, space and budgets. These creative planting, management, harvest and food-preservation strategies will help your garden reach its fullest potential—and stock your kitchen with garden goodness all year. Choose those that work for you, and enjoy maximizing your return on the time, work and money you invest in your homegrown food supply.

Plan for Good Garden Production

Whether you draw garden plans on paper or use a software tool such as the Mother Earth News Vegetable Garden Planner, try these yield-maximizing strategies for a great garden harvest.

1. Grow high-value crops. “Value” is subjective, but growing the food that costs the most to buy makes sense, provided it is suited to your climate. Value can also be about flavor, which means making space for your favorite veggie and herb varieties first.

2. Start early and end late. Use cloches, cold frames, tunnels and other season-stretching devices to move your spring season up by a month or more. In fall, use them to protect crops from frost and deer while extending the season for cold-tolerant greens and root crops. (The time to plan the fall garden is now. Read how in “Fall Gardening Plan.")

3. Emphasize what grows well for you. Crops that are easy to grow in one climate may be challenges in others, so repeat successes. When you find vegetables that excel in your garden, growing as many of them as you can use will move you a step closer to food self-sufficiency. And don’t overlook your gardening neighbors’ wisdom.

4. Conversely, don’t grow more of something than you could possibly use. Last year, some novice gardening friends told me they’d planted 50 tomato and pepper plants. At my house, 14 tomato plants and 10 peppers supply two of us with a year’s worth of canned, dried and frozen goodies. Growing more would be a waste of resources.

3/9/2015 9:17:53 AM

I'm a big fan of companion planting, especially with herbs and garlic. I think it also gives the plants a stronger taste. This article is huge and so I thought I'd share this chart which gives more of an easy snapshot of how to companion plant for other readers:

8/20/2014 9:30:07 AM

Thanks for the terrific article and useful tips. I particularly related to #’s 4 & 14. I often grow more than I need (although it’s a lot of fun to have produce to give away). I also love the concept of “mini gardens”. I have kids, and one of them in particular loves to find little spots in the yard to plant this or that. This summer it was garlic (I have some growing amid my flowers in my front bed). Another year it was corn—I had corn plants popping up here and there. Sounds odd I know—but it’s a real conversation starter when guests stop in, lol. Again, thanks for the timely article. Nature Hills makes gardening easy with it’s outstanding products and service:

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