Increasing the annual yield of a vegetable garden is a real challenge because organic gardens aren’t centred on productivity like commercial agriculture. That why increasing quantity is a real challenge for every green thumb but luckily, this isn’t mission impossible. From growing vegetables in dedicated beds to preventive pest control, there are at least 16 measures you can implement for an excellent yield next year.
Growing Plants in Dedicated Beds
Seasonal beds are nice and allow you to rotate crops each season but this decreases productivity in the long run. If the yield is your ultimate goal, then switch to a system of permanent beds. This will minimize the waste of space, helping you concentrate on valuable resources and reduce the overall maintenance cost.
The dedicated beds should ideally have 360° access, allowing plants to grow in blocks. Such a setup means that organic matter is added directly to beds, so fertilizer or mulch won’t end up on paths and neighbouring land or concrete patches.
Plants that Love the Shade
A shaded area of your garden is nothing more than a zone that doesn’t receive enough sunlight. However, high productivity goals state that every square meter of the garden should be cultivated. The shade is idea leafy greens, slow growers like parsnip, and hardy fruits, such as blackcurrants or gooseberries.
Of course, you can always find extra species online but they all have in common the fact they require less than three hours of direct sunlight daily. Be sure to search for plant species that “thrive” in the shade, rather than “survive” in it; the difference is enormous.
Plants that Thrive
Speaking of thriving plants, these should be stapled species in your garden. If you want to increase the annual yield, then you need plants perfectly suitable for the local soil and climate. The better adapted a plant species is to your garden’s ecosystem, the bigger the harvest.
It is no wonder that sweet potatoes do well in South American when they prefer a warm climate. The same goes for tomatoes that grow exceptionally well in the Mediterranean, while cabbage and chard are suitable for cooler climates. Russia might be cold but that’s why it’s one of the biggest producers of cabbage, alongside China and India.
In most cases, you will choose local plant species for maximum yield. However, the changing global climate that experimenting with exotic species, so nowadays we have bananas growing as far north as Iceland. Anyhow, our advice is to start with vegetable varieties that already thrive in your region.
Don’t Forget to Collect Rainwater
When it comes to watering your organic water, rainwater is definitely the most affordable and most eco-friendly option. For some reason, a large portion of gardeners simply forgets to harness the power of rainwater.
Not only is rainwater free of charge but it is soft in composition, containing fewer contaminants. Rainwater’s pH level is ideally balanced for most plants, helping them grow faster. Switching from treated water to rainwater tanks is one of the best investments you can make. You can have as many barrels as you want (interconnected with pipes), so you’ll never have to spend a cent on watering the garden.
Feeding the plants
Apart from choosing the top of the range fertilizers to stimulate growth, you should use organic fertilizers as well. From a liquid seaweed concentrate to patches of comfrey, there are numerous organic fertilizers you can spread across your garden.
Just like rainwater collection, you can save money on fertilizer as well by composting. Compost boxes should be large enough to take in food leftovers your household “produces.” By adopting a zero-waste policy in your home, you are providing enough food for your garden to thrive without spending too much money.
Weeding out the Garden
When focusing on increased yield, many gardeners forge about weeding out the garden. The last thing you want is for weeds to be “productive” as well since they thrive on the same nutrients you provide other plants with. Weeding out the garden should be performed regularly and decisively.
Namely, the most effective way to get rid of weeds is to pluck them out entirely. This can be done by hand but it’s better if you used gardening tools, such as a weeder. Preventing weeds is best achieved through mulching.
Mulching and Productivity
If you thought that mulching was performed solely for decorative purposes, you were wrong. Not only does colourful mulch look lice but it protects plants from invasive species, such as weed grass. It effectively deprives weeds of sunlight and water, killing off any unwanted sprouts.
As parasitic species are eliminated from the garden, vegetables and herbs can growth full size. The best thing about mulch is that it can be home-produced. Namely, everything from tree bark to pine cones can be used for mulching and you can even colour it using non-toxic paint. If you mulch properly, then the soil underneath will retain moisture, enabling you to water the garden less often.
The Right Tools for the Job
Have you ever had a shovel or rake shaft break due to overuse? The increased yield comes with extra work that your gardening tools will have to bear the brunt of. For this reason, quality garden tools are essential for successfully increasing yield!
From pruners to spray mixers, every single piece of equipment in the garden needs to be reliable and durable. If you feel your current set of tools are unfit for the job, replace them immediately, as they will fail you by the end of the season.
Choose the Best Possible Layout
The space between individual plants plays a huge role in generating an excellent yield. You need to hit that sweet spot when plants are ideally distanced from one another. Plant too far and you’ll be wasting space and decreasing productivity; plant too close and plants will compete for resources, thwarting each other’s growth.
If you’ve never planted vegetables and herbs on such a large scale before, then consult online garden planners that help you position different species ideally. Keep in mind that the better the soil quality, the closer together can plant be positioned. The usual size of garden beds is around half a meter, so you can easily calculate how many plants your current garden can accommodate.
As we have just mentioned, the better the quality of the soil, the more densely you can plant vegetables. Nutrient-rich soils allow plants to grow an extensive root system, allowing for the stem of the plant to grow strong and bear fruit.
Use the opportunity to add manure, compost, fertilizers, and leaf mold to the soil whenever possible. Apart from composting, you can gather fallen leaves in huge piles and use them as fertilizer in the winter months. In fact, the cold spell at the end of the year is the ideal time for fertilizing, as the ground has enough time to imbibe all the nutrients before spring.
Growing Plants all Year Long
As you have seen, a productive garden doesn’t lay idle in winter. Green thumbs are alert to the first and the last frost date, extending the growing season to the maximum. You can grow plants in cold weather as well if you adopt appropriate plant protection.
From row covers (the cheapest solution) to cold frames, there are numerous ways to shelter plant life from the bitter cold. If you manage to sow just two weeks earlier than usual, then this will increase the harvest next year. With proper agricultural measures, even the harvest can be prolonged for a couple of weeks.
Consider Erecting a Greenhouse
If you want to reach the next level of plant protection, then erecting a greenhouse is the ideal move. Greenhouses are permanent structures that make a section of your garden independent from the weather conditions outside. You could be growing lettuce indoors while the air temperature outside is below freezing.
Plants have Buddies
Just like people, plants have “buddies” of their own, i.e. plant species they thrive next to. Mutually beneficial plants should be grown in clusters to increase productivity. For instance, mixing flowers with vegetables such as cucumbers results in reduced pest problems, as strong scents repel most critters.
Further on, lofty corn can be “partnered up” with climbing beans, while you can insert a row of lettuce in-between rows of onion or carrots. The number of combos is endless, as you discover new species that can buddy up with other plants.
Include Flower Patches
There are various types of organic gardens but in most cases, people like to cultivate vegetables or herbs. Flowers can also be grown commercially but you should include flower patches inside your garden even if you don’t plan on selling them.
Flowers help increase yield by creating a natural border around the edge of the garden. This adds an extra layer of protection against dust and helps attract pollinating bees. Like with cabbage, you can plant strips of flowers inside the garden to separate individual flower beds.
When to Water?
You can have as many plants you want but if their root system rots away, you won’t have anything to harvest. Overwatering is a common problem in large gardens, as it is hard to keep track of how much water each section got. That’s why we recommend watering the whole garden in the morning.
The Importance of Pest Control
Lastly, you don’t want pests and various critters eating up your annual produce. When it comes to larger pests, such as foxes or rabbits, they can be stopped by erecting a fence that runs deep underground. Such fencing is efficient against moles as well.
Placing barriers over particular plants will protect them from flying pests, such as crows but the barriers will let bees in. Finally, you need to deal with slugs and snails, as they can eat away the entire yield of cabbage if you’re not careful. Search for slugs in the evening when they feed and pluck them out by hand.
Increasing a veg garden’s yield isn’t easy and it requires a lot of hard work and care. On the other side, if you compost, get the right tools for the job, and reuse rainwater, you will actually save money in the long run.
Patrick Adams is a freelance writer and rock-blues fan. When he is not writing about home improvement, he loves to play chess, watch basketball, and play his guitar. More than anything, he loves to spend his time in his garage, repairing appliances and creating stuff from wood.