Making the Most of Your Gardening Space Yields a Larger Harvest

Hopefully you had some time to think about what vegetables your family enjoys eating and what you would like to plant in your garden this year.  Now that you have done a little research and you know what is best suited for your climate’s growing season then you can start looking at what will produce the most yield for the area you have.  Since I plant raised beds it is easy for me to plan out my gardens using a Square Foot gardening plan.  In raised beds you can utilize your space so effiecntly that you can usually grow so much more than you could in traditional rows.

Here is a great planning tool I have found to be very useful from Gardener’s Supply.  They have a drop and click tool that allows you to plan out your garden visually.  You select the size of your garden (4×4 or 3×6) and then it gives you a grid to click and drop the various herbs and vegeatbles into the spaces.  It also will automatically tell you the quanities that can grow in each square foot, such as one sweet potato, nine spinach, sixteen carrots, two cucumbers and so on.  It is a great planning tool to get started as it takes the guess work out of overcrowding plants and not utilizing your space!  It gives great information on planting instructions for each plants as well.  You can then save your garden, email it to yourself or print out your plans.  You can play with it over and over again until you get a design you like.  It does not have flowers as an option so be sure to plan to add those once you print it!  What garden would be complete without a few flowers added?  You can also get ideas from their pre-planned gardens but most are warmer season (summer) vegetables.

If you looked at the planting schedules I posted last week you had a chance to take a look at what is best planted during each season.  In the past I have planned out my cool weather garden (spring), then my same space for my warm season garden (summer) then again for cool weather (fall) plantings.  Some of the best advice I was ever given was to plan!  Just like anything else you are far more productive and you waste less when you plan.  Why would you only plant 9 carrots in a square foot when you could plant 16 carrots and yield a much richer harvest!

As you can see from my plans above, you may have a hard time distinguishing which plants are which but the bottom line is you can see I can get a lot more of certain crops planted in one square foot than of others.  You have to decide how much you enjoy one thing over the other to give up your space.  I LOVE fresh garden broccoli & califlower although I have not had good success in the past because of the heat, but I am once again going to try this year by planting those inside well in advance (which will be soon) so that I can get a greater jump start on the heat.  I am not willing to give much of my space up for them (even though I do LOVE them) because I can plant 16 leaf lettuce sprigs, 16 carrots or 8 snap peas in that same spot for a much greater harvest.

For everyone what they want out of their garden is a little different from the next.  Some want to try all the new exotic varieties, others just want to grow 2-3 different things.  My desire is to grow what we enjoy eating but also to get the maximum yield out of the space I have.  My strongest desire is to one day grow most of our vegetables and fruits to put up for the winter.  I know of those that do and my hats off to you if your family does already!

Obviously your first time gardening you would not want to attempt to have 5-6  different garden spaces and grow 20 different varieites, we all have to be realistic and you don’t want to set yourself up for failure.  My growing area now in my raised beds is 12×3 or 36 square feet.  We will be moving/building new beds this year and I hope to start with 4-5 4×4 raised beds.  I would love more but at the beginning of summer I will have to be content if I have those.  By using succession gardening as well as companion planting, I will make the most of what I have and provide the best possible nutrtion for my family.  Next week we will touch on the subject of companion planting to get even more out of your gardening space as well as a the importance of having a gardening journal & where to get one for free!

If you have started making plans to garden this year, please share some of what you will be planting!  For my cooler season crops we are going to try once again with brussel sprouts, cabbage, bok choy, broccoli and califlower.  And of course we will have the tried and true lettuce (several varities), kale, spinach, carrots and snap peas.  In the next week or so I will be sitting down to figure out when & where I will be starting off our seeds indoors.  (Figuring out a good spot for me is a challenge right now).

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