There are some simple methods you can use to get more crops from your garden area. This is particularly useful if you have a small garden but many of these techniques can also help if you have a larger growing area because growing more naturally means that there is less room for weeds to develop.
It’s tempting to simply put more plants into your garden beds in order to grow more, but this can just result in overcrowding the plants. They’ll seem to grow well at first but then, as they get begin to reach full size, the overcrowded roots won’t be able to draw sufficient nutrients and moisture from the soil and you’ll get a disappointing harvest.
Instead, consider the tried-and-tested methods below used by experienced gardeners.
Choose crops that yield a lot for the space they occupy
These are often plants that produce many smaller harvests, over several weeks. By choosing varieties that crop at slightly different times and picking only the ripe fruits, you’ll naturally encourage the plant to produce more. Even plants that are commonly harvested in one go can often be managed to produce over a longer period – picking just the outer leaves of lettuce, for example, can provide a harvest over many weeks, and broccoli will often produce a second smaller crop of side shoots a few weeks after the main head has been cut.
Grow plants vertically where possible
Peas and beans give a very high yield for the space they occupy in the ground and adding a trellis prevents them from sprawling over other plants, though you do have to be careful that they don’t shade nearby crops that need full sun. The Garden Planner makes it easy to decide where your trellis will fit best, and you can use the compass rose to remind you where shade will fall.
Other vegetables can be grown vertically too. Many trailing squash vines can be trained up trellis, although you will need to support the fruit once they start to get heavy.
Include quick-maturing crops in your plans
It’s easy to place a few small, quick-growing vegetables in between rows of slower-growing crops and harvest them before the larger plants need the space. Radishes, lettuce and other salad crops are often grown this way early in the season. Once your main crop has been harvested, it’s also possible to grow a second ‘succession crop’. In our Garden Planner, you can easily see when crops need to be planted in your area and when they should be ready for harvest. For example, if you are planting peas in early April and expect to harvest them by the end of June, you can mark them as being in the ground from April to June and then view how your plan will look in July to see where gaps will appear. Another crop such as spinach can then be grown in that area and you can mark it as being in the ground during subsequent months.
On the Plant List, the months when the crop isn’t in the ground are dimmed which makes it easy to spot at a glance any gaps when a quick-maturing crop can be squeezed in.
In areas with long hot summers, the Garden Planner will automatically recommend separate spring and autumn plantings for cool-season crops. If your growing season is shorter, you can extend it enough to grow a second crop by using protection such as row covers, and the Garden Planner will automatically adjust the recommended range of dates when you can plant the vegetables grown under them.
Use containers to increase your growing area
It’s easy to forget that edible crops don’t have to be grown in the ground. Many vegetables and herbs can look attractive when grown in containers on a sunny patio, at the front of your house or in window boxes. Placing herbs and salad crops near the kitchen door is much more convenient and it frees up your main vegetable growing area for bigger crops. You can plan out these extra containers in the Garden Planner. Just remember that they will need more frequent watering than plants in the ground.
Square Foot Gardening
Finally, there are several ways to grow vegetables at closer spacing using specialist techniques. The best-known method is Square Foot Gardening, which is a very productive method of growing a lot in a small space. However, it’s vital that the soil is deep enough, is enriched with high nutrient compost and is moisture retentive for this to work.
Not all crops are suitable for Square Foot Gardening but by switching the Garden Planner into SFG mode you can plan both square foot beds and larger crops such as pumpkins and fruit bushes at their regular spacing. See our video on Square Foot Gardening for further details.
Each of these methods has been tried and tested by experienced gardeners and by including them in your garden you’ll be able to maximise your harvest for the space and time you have.