By Barbara Pleasant,
The best way to keep top-quality, organically grown produce on your table year-round is to grow as much as you can, and preserve plenty to eat for when your garden isn’t producing. This is a worthy goal, as organic, homegrown produce is more nutritious, delicious and sustainable than the typical store-bought fare. To help your garden reach its potential, you can implement many creative growing and preserving strategies. As you attempt to grow more organic food, be realistic about the time you have to maintain your garden and manage its harvest, and don’t bite off more than you can chew.
To create a roundup of the best gardening tips on maximizing returns, I brainstormed ideas with the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors. Then I talked with readers who left wise comments on our online gardening surveys (sign up for our surveys). The result is a checklist of 40 ways to make your garden more productive. Choose the ones that work for you, and enjoy maximizing your return on the time, work and money you invest in your homegrown food supply.
Plan for Good Garden Production
Whether you draw your garden plans with pencil and paper or use a software tool such as the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Vegetable Garden Planner, you’ll need to think ahead to incorporate the following yield-maximizing strategies.
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.
Read the rest of the story via 40 Gardening Tips to Maximize Your Harvest – Organic Gardening – MOTHER EARTH NEWS.