Have you felt as though all of your garden efforts culminate in only a few weeks of late season productivity? Here are some ideas to elongate your harvest season, start to finish. Regardless of where you live, the opportunity for a continual harvest throughout the summer months is within your reach. With a little planning, organization, effort, and patience, you can maximize your garden's space and output.
1. Know your zone and plant seasonally. Find your hardiness zone, research what grows well in your area, and plot out when to start from seed. Get an early start in the season by planting early spring varieties like lettuce, spinach, beets, peas, radishes, and onions.
2. Plan ahead and stay organized. Purchase the seeds that you wish to grow. Based upon your specific spring and fall frost dates, map out a planting calendar and group seeds that share the same planting dates. I find the most pertinent information on planting, care, and harvesting on the back of the seed packet.
3. Try succession planting. Ensure multiple harvests by planting seeds over multiple weeks. Sow seeds in alternating rows or even in multiple containers.
4. Replant kitchen scraps. Many purchased vegetables can be replanted in your garden throughout the season, producing another harvest. Celery and scallions are a couple of great options.
5. Try companion planting. Some plants benefit from the company of others. Tender plants, like lettuce, thrive alongside the broad, shaded leaves of a tomato plant. You can also try surrounding your squash plantings with an early harvest of radishes, which will mature long before the squash takes over. I also intersperse marigolds throughout my garden to deter multiple garden pests and brighten the scenery.
6. Learn to preserve. There is no way to avoid the fact that at certain points during the season, many plants ripen simultaneously. Learning to can, freeze, and dehydrate can capture their peak ripeness and stretch your garden goodness for the entire year.
7. Plant vegetables and herbs that continue to produce all season long. Single plantings of Swiss chard, collards, and kale can be harvested for months on end. Simply pull leaves from the outer portion of the plant. Peppers, squash, and indeterminate tomatoes provide continued harvests on an almost daily basis. Herbs prolifically produce all season, when they are properly pruned and harvested in a timely fashion. Beets and other root vegetables can hang out in the ground, until you are ready to enjoy them, and they will also last long after that, if properly cellared.
8. Try container gardening. Gardening in containers provides easy mobility for maximizing rain, sun, and shade requirements over the course of the growing season. They can also be brought indoors during late season inclement weather.
- USDA Plant Hardiness Zones
- Johnny's Seeds Succession Planting Guide
- Mother Earth News' Companion Planting Guide
- Pick Your Own's Canning, Freezing, Drying, and Preserving Guide
These tips have greatly stretched my garden's productivity over the past several seasons. What are your favorite tips or resources to ensure a continual harvest?