If you want to grow a vegetable garden this spring, then you also probably want to know how to get the most bang for your buck in your plot. Gardening is hard work, so understanding the most efficient and effective ways to get your plants from seed to food is important. Starting with crops that are known to produce high yields and taking good care of them is the most basic way to achieve this, but how you organize the way your garden is laid out will make an impact as well. Here we’ll discuss how to maximize space and get bigger harvests.
Start With a Garden Plan for High Yield Vegetable Growing
A simple way to make sure you’re making the most of your space is to create a physical representation of if before you begin. You can do this with grid paper, use one of many online planners, or download an app. When you start by physically planning, you can take your list of plants you want to grow and see realistically what that might look like in your garden plot. This plan ensures you don’t run out of space before you’ve had a chance to plant everything you wanted to.
Also, for many people, seeing the possibility of a garden full of produce is truly motivational. When people see a positive image of what could be, they tend to want to transform it into reality. And when you think about all the work that goes into a garden, it’s hard to deny that motivation is a major determining factor when it comes to final yields.
But Be Flexible
If you begin to implement your plan and realize there are some logistical issues you hadn’t considered before, remember that you have the power to change it up. If you notice potential growing space you didn’t make plans for, think about what would work well there, and plant it. Most importantly, if you have a crop that fails for whatever reason, pull it up and try something else. You won’t do yourself any favors by sticking too close to a specific layout you had in mind if it’s not actually working for you.
Think About Sunlight in the Garden
When deciding where to plant what, sunlight is one of the most important things to consider. The sun is your garden’s main source of food, so of course the amount of sun your plants get will have an effect on overall yield. You don’t want a corn crop casting a shadow over the whole garden all day, but maybe you do want it to cast a shadow on some areas of the garden for part of the day. Especially during the hottest parts of summer, certain tender plants, such as leafy greens, will benefit from partial shade. But as a general rule, tall crops should be planted on the north side of your garden, medium-height crops in the middle, and short crops on the southern side. This will ensure that everyone gets their fair share of sunlight.
Experiment With Unconventional Garden Organization
Another method for maximizing space is to veer away from conventional rows. By planting in raised beds, you utilize more square feet for growing (fewer walkways), minimize weeds, use less water, and put less stress on your back. Just be sure you can reach the center easily. A width of about four feet works well, as long as you have access to the bed from both sides.
You can take it a step further and try your hand at vertical gardening as well. Of course this method includes things that traditionally grow upward, such as pole beans, but you can also experiment with vining plants that you would usually let sprawl on the ground, such as cucumbers and summer squash. While this growing strategy can technically reduce yield per plant, depending on the variety, it will also leave you with more space to grow more things, so it might be worth a shot. Another way to try vertical gardening is to build, buy, or repurpose a shelf that will house many plants and still allow for plenty of sunlight.
Try Companion Planting
Whichever organizing style you choose, your yields will get a boost if you also consider which plants grow well together and which plants do not. It’s a thoughtful, natural way to provide proper soil nutrition, repel certain pests, and just generally give your plants a more hospitable growing environment. Taking all this into consideration should help your plants produce a bountiful crop. Check out this article for general companion planting ideas, and take a look at this one for ideas specifically related to herbs.
Implement Succession Planting
Keep in mind that not all plants will last the season, and have a plan to replant the same crop or grow something else once your plants have run their course. It might be helpful to dedicate a specific bed to fast-growing plants and map out a timeline outlining what you’ll grow there and when. If you do this, be mindful of what certain plants will give and take from the soil so that you don’t deplete the patch of nutrients.
In the end, a lot of your planning will come down to what kind of space you personally have to work with. Someone with only a small balcony will be hard-pressed to find a better layout than a vertical one, while growing upward might not be worth the effort as much for someone who can easily fit multiple beds in their yard. Furthermore, while efficiency and quantity are important, you also want to make sure that your garden is appealing to you on an aesthetic level and that you can realistically handle the workload. What good is a garden that you can’t maintain or don’t enjoy spending time in? When you go to plan your layout, take all of your needs into account, and try to have fun doing it.
Want to learn more about planning a garden layout for better yield?
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Ruth Gulley is a writer and contributing editor for Russell Gibson Content. A native Texan, she now resides in Virginia where she enjoys gardening, cuddling with her clumsy cat named Bird, and watching seasons one through four of The Office on repeat.