Maximize your garden harvest this season

It is possible to increase a 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 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 all plants can be reached 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. It can double the harvest and grow more vegetables, not weeds between 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 using 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. It not only saves space, but reduces disease problems and increases the harvest. When growing cucumbers and melons, going vertical increases 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 vegetables. It increases 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, when it reaches three inches in diameter. The flavor is better than those baseball bat size zucchini and you’ll have plenty to eat and share. Harvest heads of cabbage when firm and full size. Leave the bottom leaves and roots intact. Soon 4 or 5 smaller heads will be ready to harvest and enjoy.

With a bit of planning and creativity, it is possible to find ways to increase the enjoyment and harvest in any size garden.

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