A productive garden starts with a plan, but choosing the best vegetables to grow and where to plant them can be overwhelming.
You can break out the graph paper and pencils to design your garden or turn to technology for help. Many websites and apps provide ready-to-use garden plans or planning guidelines. Gardener’s Supply (gardeners.com) offers free pre-planned gardens that do the planning for you. Reduce maintenance by growing easy care vegetables featured in the Plant-it & Forget-it garden. Or grow more than 50 pounds of produce in just 18 square feet of space with the High Yield Vegetable Garden Plan and High Yield Vegetable Seeds.
These and other intensively planted gardens require proper soil preparation to maximize productivity. Invest time up front to reduce ongoing maintenance and increase your harvest. Dig several inches of compost or other organic matter into the top 8 to 12 inches of the soil. This improves drainage in heavy soil and increases the water holding ability in fast draining soils. Incorporate a slow release organic fertilizer at the same time. This provides needed nutrients throughout the growing season. Check the label and your plants to determine if a mid-season application is needed.
Maximize your planting budget by starting your plants from seeds. Many gardeners like to start long season plants like tomatoes and broccoli from seeds indoors. This keeps their green thumb warmed up for the season and provides the greatest selection of vegetable varieties. Others buy these plants from their local garden center. Start seeds of shorter season crops like greens, radishes, and squash directly in the garden when the growing season begins. Check the seed packet for specific directions on when and how to plant these seeds indoors and out.
When shopping for seeds, select varieties suited to your climate and known for their disease resistance and high yield. Most vegetables produce best when grown in full sun. Greens and root crops are a bit more shade tolerant.
Once planted, cover the soil surrounding the seeded rows and transplants with a thin layer of shredded leaves, herbicide-free grass clippings or evergreen needles. This mulch helps conserve moisture and suppress weeds. Plus, it improves the soil as it breaks down. You’ll save time and improve your plants’ health and productivity with this one task.
After it’s planted and mulched, you’ll spend minimal time maintaining your garden. But be sure to plan a bit of time to enjoy the big, flavorful harvest your high yield garden is sure to provide.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything: Food Gardening For Everyone” DVD set and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio segments. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and was commissioned by Gardener’s Supply Company for her expertise to write this article. Myers’ web site is www.melindamyers.com.