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Introduction to making your vegetable garden more productive
there are many ways to level up production. In this article, I try to give as many options to do that as well. I’m not perfect and maybe I don’t mention all the ways to make your vegetable garden more productive. But the ones I mention will most definitely help you out.
I do have to mention that not every point I talk about will be useable for both private and commercial growers. Some points are just not feasible in certain circumstances. Still, try to get as much out of it as you possibly can because it will benefit you in the end.
When gardening, the soil is everything. And there are many things you can do to better the soil you have and you grow in. When making your vegetable garden more productive, soil should be your first concern as it can make or break your garden.
By not using chemical salt-containing fertilizers you can get back a fertile healthy soil in a couple of years time.
The use of chemical or organic insecticides can have a huge impact on the soil-life as these insecticides can kill a lot of healthy critters in the soil. This effect has just the opposite effect of what you want to accomplish in your garden. By killing of soil insects through the use of insecticides, it’s very much possible that you kill-off the defense mechanism of the plants.
I know that sometimes insecticides can be necessary but keep the usage at a minimum if possible.
You can develop the soil by adding carbon-rich material and lots of mulch on top of the soil to amend the soil with the necessary nutrients and the necessary bulk materials to make it healthy and living again.
I personally mulch my soil with lots of greenery. The beds stay covered at all times with woodchips and branches. I even use weeds to mulch the beds as this mulch has plant-available food for the plants I grow in my beds. The woodchips break down slowly giving the food-web enough food to maintain a healthy balance.
Don’t turn the soil
Stop turning the soil and breaking up that topsoil. Nature never intended the soil to be turned and amended with fertilizers to grow plants or trees. The soil is like the skin of the planet. Every time you break it up, you make a scar that has to be healed. If you keep on breaking up the soil, you will eventually kill your soil and have dead dirt to grow plants in.
Plants don’t only need fertilizer to grow. They need the life in the soil to get help from good bacteria and lots of creatures that help defend the roots and the overall wellbeing of the plants.
You can start rotating your crops yearly to avoid build-up of pathogens in the soil. This takes careful planning but works out really well in the end.
I must say, Charles Dowding, a well-known gardener is experimenting at the moment on whether we should use crop rotation or not. He has been growing vegetables in the same spot for a couple of years now. The vegetables are still thriving. So maybe, we will eventually find a way to avoid crop rotation totally but the experiment is still ongoing so let’s wait and see for the results.
plan the place right, shadow and sun
I don’t really believe in companion planting and I have the same opinion as Luke from MIgardener. I do know that there are logical reasons to use companion planting in some cases but in most cases, there’s no scientific proof for what is being told.
On the other hand, planting your plants in the right place is something to consider well before you start planting out your plants.
Some plants like the sun, other plants like the shadow. Take the habits of the plants into consideration when you start planning your garden for next spring.
Let me give you a simple example. Don’t plant sunflowers on the sunny side of your broccoli plants. They will shade out your broccoli plants giving you a much smaller harvest than intended.
On the other hand, you can easily grow beans just next to your corn plants as the beans can use the corn plants to grow towards the sun.
So it does take some logic thinking to plan the garden and it’s always better to plan before starting the garden. This will give you a big advantage and your production can go up quite a bit.
chose the best plants
When you first start growing vegetables in your garden, you don’t know what plants are adapted to the specific conditions in your area. Maybe, you don’t have a clue on which plants produce better than others.
Don’t be afraid to ask experienced gardeners and growers what grows well in your region. Experienced growers will gladly tell you which plants they were successful with and which plants didn’t grow all that well in their gardens.
This doesn’t mean you have to totally abandon some vegetables you wanted to try in your garden. Maybe you can try on a small patch of soil or change the environment altogether by growing in a hoop house or a greenhouse.
Maybe this paragraph isn’t really put underneath the right title but I want to discuss it as it can be important. Not only the sort of plant matters but also the way it was grown. You can, for instance, have good luck with growing a tomato variety on a vein crawling up a fence while the same plant might get diseased when growing as a bush over the soil.
use succession planting
This is a major point in planning the garden and making the vegetable garden more productive.
Not all the plants need the same amount of time to grow to maturity as other plants. This means that at a certain point you will get empty spots in the garden you can use for other plants.
Don’t hesitate to use empty spaces to fill up your garden again. It will help you out tremendously.
Succession planting can be as easy as growing a second crop of lettuce in the same spot as you grew the first crop of lettuce. Of course, you can change the species altogether and plant a totally different crop. Just try to keep in mind that crop rotation is still of the essence.
try to grow year round
Don’t start growing after the last frost in spring. And don’t stop growing just before the first frost in fall. Search ways to extend your growing seasons.
Extending the growing season can be done as cheap and as expensive as you want it to be. You can start out with row covers. Row covers will keep plants from freezing with a couple of degrees difference.
You can use cold frames that you can buy on the internet. But it’s also possible to make your own cold frames and plant those lettuces through the first frost to maturity.
I personally use greenhouses to extend my growing season until it gets too cold as I don’t heat the greenhouses.
It’s also possible to use a grow room inside your house. The plants will have the necessary heat and you can keep growing plants if you have enough light coming into the room.
My grow rooms are used to grow vegetables through the winter and keep plants alive through the period snow covers the outside soil. I have to use light to keep the plants growing but it only shows that there is always a way to extend the growing season. You can keep on growing vegetables year round if you really want it.
Some plants just thrive in the colder weather. If you take, for instance, brussels sprouts. They will taste better after the first frost. So extending the growing season can be as simple as planting the right varieties in the colder period of the year.
watch your garden’s health
Keep an eye out for diseases and pests at all time. Don’t wait until it’s too late.
I personally made the mistake many times of letting weeds take over. Once pests, weeds or diseases take over, you will be overwhelmed with the problem.
You can make your solutions as simple or as difficult as you want depending on the time of action.
In the years, I have come to understand that action is necessary as soon as there is a problem. Waiting too long will make you lose much more than just one plant. You’ll eventually be discouraged and you’ll lose your entire garden.
timing, once again
Treat pests as soon as they emerge. Blast off those aphids with a water hose as soon as the first one starts sucking on your plants.
Attract beneficial insects by building them a shelter. Grow flowers and plants that attract the beneficial insects.
attract pest. Really??? Yep, really
Start growing plants that attract pests. Really, this is a way to avoid pests on your vegetables. For instance, I grow nasturtiums in the garden because I know nasturtiums have the tendency to attract aphids. Once there are a bunch of aphids on my nasturtium plants, I will see ladybugs coming in the garden and eat until they burst.
If you really have to rely on pesticides, try to use organic ones. I’m not saying that organic pesticides are the best means ever. It’s never good to use pesticides but sometimes you just have to make a choice to make sure you don’t lose all the plants you’ve grown.
Using pesticides is an art in itself. Use pesticides at the right time so you don’t kill off beneficial insects and critters. Research the how, the when and how much before you even consider using a pesticide.
remove habitats for pests like slugs
The garden doesn’t always have to be tidy but getting rid of some hiding places can be a good thing.
Don’t give mice and rats a chance to survive in the garden by giving them piles of junk to hide in.
Remove planks and boards where slugs can take cover during the day. Or don’t remove the planks and boards but check the boards every day for slugs and snails.
Keep lawns and weedy area’s short so the pests can’t procreate in your garden. You have, of course, to consider a number of flowers you keep for bees, bumble bees, and other pollinators.
If you consider a plant a weed, remove it from the garden. Don’t give it a chance to flower and go to seed. Weeds will compete for light and food with your vegetables.
Contrary to what I normally preach, it’s okay to turn the soil the first time you want to use it. Just make sure you remove the roots of tenacious weeds before you do so as this can spread the roots all over the place, leaving you with more work than before.
Take into consideration that there will always be a weed bank so the garden will never be weed free.
Once again, timing is everything. Don’t wait until you have a weed forest before you start weeding. You will get overwhelmed and you will give up in the end.
protect your plants
Do whatever you have to do to protect your plants from potential predators.
Use netting to avoid strawberries, tomatoes or whatever being eaten by birds, squirrels, rats or mice.
Use mesh to avoid pests to invade your plants. A lot of seasoned gardeners use mesh covers to avoid flies, butterflies and other pests to attack their brassica’s like cabbage and broccoli.
You can make your own cages with mesh to put over your plants or you can make mini hoop houses with mesh. As I said, whatever it takes.
By taking these precautions, you will also avoid the use of insecticides while keeping a bigger and better harvest.
Making your vegetable garden more productive can be done by growing vertical. Use a trellis to grow your beans, cucumbers, tomatoes and all other plants that are capable of growing straight up.
Some plants like beans won’t need much help at all while other plants will have to be woven into the trellis.
Use walls to hang up baskets with plants like lettuce, strawberries, and other smaller plants.
This one has already been mentioned partly in above paragraphs. Use free fertilizers. But it is an important point when making your vegetable garden more productive.
Having a vermicomposting bin can be really beneficial to your plants. Vermicompost is a really healthy soil amendment full of life with the added benefit of having some N, P, and K in it together with necessary micronutrients.
The same goes from compost. Compost is a combination of fertilizer and carbon material. Both go hand in hand and will give you sturdy, big and healthy plants.
Composting the chicken poop together with woodchips will give your garden a tremendous boost making your vegetable garden more productive in no time.
Perennials are plants that you sow or plant once and they keep on coming back year after year.
The plants will give you produce without all the hassle of growing up seedlings and transplanting. You don’t have to take care of the planning part as the plants will come back year after year in the same spot.
Interplanting could be a part of logical companion planting and it most certainly is a part of making your vegetable garden more productive.
You can just plant a slow growing crop like brussels sprouts and grow lettuce between the brussels sprouts plants. The lettuce will outgrow the brussels sprouts. The lettuce will be harvested long before the brussels sprouts reach maturity.
The same goes for radishes. Radishes are a really good plant to use for interplanting. You can even use the radishes as pointers to know where you’ve sown slow-growing plants. By the time you harvest the radishes, the other plants will have grown to a size where you can locate them without a problem.
square foot gardening
The last one, but certainly not the least one, is square foot gardening.
Taking over certain principles of square foot gardening will teach you how to plant crops really close together and get a dense mass of plants.
You don’t have to take over all the principals of square foot gardening. But if you have a rather small garden and you want to optimize production, I would most certainly recommend it.
So this is it for this article on making your vegetable garden more productive. I hope you’ve found it interesting. If so, please share on social media, with friends, and other gardeners.
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Thanks for reading and see you in the next post.