by gardening expert Melinda Myers
Increase your garden’s productivity even when space, time and energy are limited. Just follow these six simple planting, maintenance and harvesting techniques for a more bountiful harvest.
Maximize your planting space with wide rows. Leave just enough room for plants to reach their maximum size. Make wide rows, 4 to 5 feet wide, so you can reach all plants for maintenance and harvest. Minimizing walkways means more planting space.
Try interplanting. Grow short season crops like lettuce and radishes between long season crops like cabbage, tomatoes and peppers. The short season crops will be ready to harvest when the long season crops are reaching mature size. You’ll double your harvest and grow more vegetables, not weeds between your longer season plants.
Grow more plants per row with succession planting. Start the season with cool season vegetables like lettuce and spinach. Once these are harvested and temperatures warm replace with beans and onions. Harvest these and plant a fall crop of radishes or lettuce.
When you use these intensive planting techniques, be sure to incorporate a low nitrogen slow release fertilizer, like Milorganite, at the start of the season. Then add a mid-season nutrient boost if needed. The slow release nitrogen won’t burn even during the hot dry weather of summer. Plus, it won’t interfere with flowering or fruiting.
Go vertical. Train vine crops up decorative or functional trellises and supports. You’ll not only save space, but you will also reduce disease problems and increase the harvest. Growing cucumbers and melons increase light penetration and air flow, reducing the risk of fungal diseases. Pole beans are much easier to harvest and produce an additional picking. Secure large fruited vegetables like melons to the trellis with a cloth sling.
Be sure to plant vegetables in containers if in-ground space is limited. A 5-gallon bucket or comparable size container is perfect for a tomato. Peppers and eggplants will thrive in a bit smaller pot. Grow vine crops in containers and allow them to crawl over the deck or patio instead of valuable gardening space. Mix flowers and herbs in with your vegetables. You’ll increase the beauty while adding additional fragrance to the pot.
Harvest often and at the proper time. Zucchini and other summer squash should be picked when 6 to 8 inches long or in the case of patty pan squash it reaches 3 inches in diameter. The flavor is better than those baseball bat size zucchini and you’ll have plenty to eat and share. Harvest your head of cabbage when firm and full size. Leave the bottom leaves and roots intact. Soon you will have 4 or 5 smaller heads to harvest and enjoy.
With a bit of planning and creativity you can find ways to increase the enjoyment and harvest in any size garden.
Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening. She hosts the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV and radio segments and is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. Myers website is www.melindamyers.com