Green Living

Published on June 30th, 2014 | by gatsbyadmin

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Ten Gardening Tips to Maximize Your Harvest!!

The ideal season for growing your favorite foods comes but once a year! In some places, especially in Colorado, that ideal season can last much shorter than most of us would like it to. So, how can we make that season last and maximize our harvests? Here’s ten easy steps for getting the very most out of growing season and your summer harvest! Enjoy 🙂

1. Grow High-Value Crops.“Value” is subjective, though growing things that would be costly to buy makes good sense, provided the crops are well-suited to your climate. But value can also be about flavor, which may mean earmarking space for your favorite tomato varieties and fresh herbs first, and then considering how much money you could save by growing other crops at home.

2. Start Early, End Late. Use cloches, cold frames, tunnels and other season-stretching devices to move your spring salad season up by a month or more. In fall, use row covers to protect fall crops from frost and deer while extending the harvest season for a wide assortment of cold-tolerant greens and root crops.

3. Grow the “Shoulder Season” Fruits. You can usually pick and stash June-bearing strawberries and early raspberries in the freezer before your garden’s vegetables take over your kitchen. Raspberries that bear in the fall and late-ripening apples are also less likely to compete with summer-ripening vegetables for your food preservation time.

4. Emphasize What Grows Well for You. Crops that are easy to grow in one climate or soil type may be huge challenges in others, so aim to repeat your successes. For example, my carrots are seldom spectacular but my beets are robust, so I keep carrot plantings small and grow as many beets as my family can eat. When you find vegetables that excel in your garden, growing as much of them as your family can eat will take you a huge step closer to food self-sufficiency. And don’t overlook the wisdom of your gardening neighbors.

5. Grow Good Things to Drink. In addition to growing what you eat, try growing tasty beverages. Allow rampant apple mint to cover a hillside because it’s such a great tea plant, and rhubarb stalk tea makes a tart substitute for lemonade. Freeze or can the juices of berries and tree fruits, or make them into soda, hard cider or wine. These days, well-made apple, blueberry or strawberry wines start at $12 a bottle, so learning how to make your own can yield huge dividends.

6. Plant Perennials. Edible plants that come back year after year save planting time, and maintenance is usually limited to annual weeding, fertilizing and mulching. Asparagus and rhubarb thrive where winters are cold, sorrel is a terrific perennial salad green, Jerusalem artichokes and horseradish grow almost anywhere, and gardeners in climates with mild winters can grow bunching onions or even bamboo shoots as perennial garden crops.

7. Choose High-Yielding Crops and Varieties. Few things are more disappointing than nurturing a tomato plant for three months only to harvest three fruits from it. Don’t let this happen to you! Network with local gardeners to find varieties known to grow well in your area, or see our list of the best regional varieties, and give them a try. Keep your mind open to classic, traditionally bred hybrids as well as superior open-pollinated varieties. With sweet peppers, for example, many gardeners need the disease resistance and fast maturation of hybrid varieties to make a good crop. The opposite is true with beans, lettuce, peas, winter squash and many other vegetables that don’t require hybridization to make them more productive.

8. Include Essential Kitchen Herbs. When we conducted our online mega-survey of the best garden crops, many gardeners told us about the rewards of growing culinary herbs such as basil, dill, mint and parsley, which are easy to grow yet pricey to buy.

9. Don’t Grow Too Much of One Thing. Last year, some friends who hadn’t gardened in a while proudly told me they had spent the weekend planting 50 tomato and pepper plants. Wow! At my house, 14 tomato plants and 10 peppers give the two of us a year’s supply of canned, dried and frozen goodies — plus extra to give away. Growing more would be a waste of time, space and precious soil resources. Unless you sell at a farmers market stand, aim to grow only as much as you can use.

10. Try Something New Every Year. Part of the fun of gardening is discovering new things, and few of us have ever grown many edible crops worth trialing in our gardens. Keep in mind that you’ll need to try cool-season crops in both spring and fall before deciding whether they are garden-worthy. Some crops (or even varieties) that are duds if grown in spring may amaze you with their exuberance if grown in fall.

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