Probably the two greatest secrets to having an ongoing fresh harvest from your garden is to plant continually and increase the varieties you plant.
They’re obvious things really, but somehow they’re overlooked by many gardeners.
It’s hard for me to believe that many never figure this out because they just go along with what everyone else is doing and considers “normal” for gardening.
All the gardeners I knew before I started to garden planted crops once and harvested once. They just about worked themselves to death with harvesting and preserving. I’ve known quite a few who no longer garden because they came to hate it so much.
Sometimes when gardening comes up and various folks find out we depend heavily on our garden they picture me —slaving in the hot sun all day, harvesting hour after hour and then canning for days at a time. (They’ve told me this.) I tell them that’s certainly not me — no way! But they can’t relate – so, I just drop it.
First of all, I never work in the hot sun because I don’t like the heat. I do most garden and border maintenance in the cool months. The only thing I do in summer is harvest, check for bugs on squash and potatoes, and pick my 5 minutes worth of weeds each day.
I spend approximately an hour in the morning and an hour just before sundown in the garden. If I do it all in the AM I don’t go out in the evening.
Secondly, I wouldn’t think of spending day and after day — or even one full day — on preserving. I do all that little by little.
- I freeze my berries daily. That takes all of about 10 minutes after I bring them in.
- Onions are easy as pie and take very little time to cure in order to have them keep longer.
- About the most I do with tomatoes is when I get the quantity needed to fix roasted tomato sauce. That might take an hour of actual work from start to finish (not counting cooking time) maybe once a week.
- I freeze peppers when I start getting excess. That just takes only a few minutes each time.
- I limit the amount of peas I plant. I want enough for 12 quarts plus fresh eating in season. Shelling takes some time but after that I just put them in the freezer bag. I don’t bother with blanching because I use up what I freeze each year rather than keep it over. My peas taste just like fresh!
- With each picking of string beans, I eat a portion and freeze a portion. Succession planting keeps them coming until frost.
Continual planting helps make all this possible.
For example – one reader wrote to me last year and indicated she didn’t know what to do with all the radishes she had maturing. You’ll never have that problem if you plant a little spot (about 3 x 3) of radishes every week starting in early spring through May and harvest and eat daily when they’re mature. The same goes for lettuce, other greens, beets, and Russian Kale, and string beans.
And mark your calendar to start planting again for fall in August. Your fall spinach, lettuce, kale and other plantings can insure that you’ll have greens for fresh salads a month early than gardeners waiting for next spring’s plantings to mature.
Diversity in your garden is important. You’ve probably noticed when you start the seed of several varieties of tomatoes that some are more robust and do better than others. Some things will like your set of variables in your garden better than others will. You have to keep trying different ones to know.
If you’ve only grown Cherry Belle radishes, try growing French Breakfast radishes and German Giants. (German Giants stay sweet and delicious when they get big— even in the heat.) And when you find one variety that you really love, still plant another variety as backup.
If you’ve grown Straight 8 cukes seemingly forever, add Marketmore to your garden this year.
When you garden like I do and
- don’t have to prepare the ground each year,
- don’t have to weed (except for about 5 minutes a day),
- don’t have to fertilize,
- don’t have to water,
- plant continually and
- spend minutes instead of hours preserving your bounty for the winter,
- harvest a little each day, and
- diversify crops to see what varieties to best
you’ll be having a lot more fun than most gardeners AND your harvest will be greater and longer.
Organic Garden is easy, effective, efficient — and it’s a lot healthier.
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Theresa, I love this post! I was beginning to think that I don’t have enough garden space to grow all the things I need to grow, but with each passing day I visit our little plot, I realize it would be difficult for me to keep up with much more. Of course, we are just now converting over to your raised bed method. Once the new garden is established, maintenance will not be so labor intensive!
Where I fail at succession planting is in my lack of planning. I tend to fly by the seat of my pants and am generally random in my planting, once the main crops are in. Do you plan everything out at the beginning of the season? Do you have a schemata we could borrow???
Just to clarify for anyone reading — I am assuming by raised beds that you mean deeply prepared bed that are therefore naturally raised and that you do NOT mean framed raised beds.
And yes, once your garden beds are established, maintenance will be a breeze.
The only real planning you need to do for succession planting (I call it continual planting) is to have the seed available.
All you need do is plant – let it come up – plant some more — let it come — plant some more – let it come – plant some more. 🙂
Theresa, YES, I mean raised beds a la Martz! (Smile)
And just for clarification, when you say “plant – let it come up – plant some more” do you mean plant more of the same? Or do you diversify within the bed and plant something else when you “plant some more”?
I suppose I was making it all too complicated, thinking that I would have to alternate crops within one bed in a scientific way… And when would you plant buckwheat in a bed? After you are done planting vegetables altogether? Or between summer and fall plantings?
OH! But you could plant buckwheat while vegetables are STILL growing in a bed, right???
It will take a while for me to “get” this new way, but I am liking it already!