Low Main­te­nance Veg­etable Gar­den­ing For Boun­ti­ful Har­vest

Riverbank News - - LIVING - By MELINDA MY­ERS Melinda My­ers has over 30 years of gar­den­ing ex­pe­ri­ence has writ­ten over 20 gar­den­ing books. My­ers is a colum­nist and con­tribut­ing edi­tor for Birds & Blooms mag­a­zine.

In­crease your har­vest with­out in­creas­ing the size of your gar­den or work­load. All you need is a bit of in­ten­sive plant­ing, along with some low main­te­nance tech­niques.

In­vest some time up­front to pre­pare the gar­den soil. This will save you time through­out the grow­ing sea­son. Add sev­eral inches of or­ganic mat­ter and a slow re­lease fer­til­izer into the top 8 to 12 inches of soil. The or­ganic mat­ter im­proves drainage in clay soils and in­creases mois­ture re­ten­tion in sandy soils. The slow re­lease fer­til­izer feeds the plants for sev­eral months, re­duc­ing the num­ber of ap­pli­ca­tions needed. You’ll have health­ier plants that are bet­ter able to fend off pests and out­com­pete the weeds.

Match the plants with the right grow­ing con­di­tions. To- ma­toes, pep­pers, and other veg­eta­bles that pro­duce fruit need full sun. Leafy crops like let­tuce are more tol­er­ant of shade. Check plant tags and seed pack­ets for plant­ing de­tails or down­load a free gar­den­ing app, like Home­grown with Bonnie Plants, for plant in­for­ma­tion, main­te­nance tips, weather re­ports, and more.

Plant seeds and trans­plants in blocks with fewer path­ways. Give each plant enough room to grow to its full size. Your rows will be closer to­gether with just enough paths for weed­ing, wa­ter­ing, and har­vest­ing. You will be grow­ing more plants and pulling fewer weeds with this strat­egy.

In­ter­plant to fur­ther max­i­mize your plant­ing space. Plant short-sea­son veg­eta­bles like let­tuce and radishes in be­tween prop­erly spaced longer-sea­son veg­eta­bles like broc­coli and toma­toes. By the time the longer-sea­son plants start fill­ing the space, the shorter sea­son plant­ings will be ready to har­vest. You’ll be pulling radishes or cutting let­tuce in­stead of weeds. Plus, you’ll har­vest two crops from one row.

Plant suc­ces­sive crops through­out the grow­ing sea­son. Plant cool weather veg­eta­bles like spinach, radishes, and let­tuce in spring. Once these are har­vested, re­place with warm weather veg­eta­bles like beans, toma­toes, or cu­cum­bers. Fin­ish off the sea­son by fill­ing any voids with a fall crop of cool weather veg­eta­bles.

Go ver­ti­cal to save space, re­duce dis­ease, and make har­vest­ing eas­ier. Grow­ing vine crops on sup­ports lifts the fruit off the ground and in­creases the amount of light and air­flow the plants re­ceive, re­duc­ing the risk of dis­ease. Plus, you’ll do less bend­ing when it’s time to har­vest.

Mulch the gar­den with pine straw/ev­er­green nee­dles, shred­ded leaves, or other or­ganic mat­ter. These ma­te­ri­als sup­press the weeds, con­serve mois­ture and add or­ganic mat­ter to the soil as they de­com­pose. You’ll have fewer weeds to pull and not have to wa­ter as of­ten.

Save time and wa­ter with the help of soaker hoses or drip ir­ri­ga­tion. These sys­tems ap­ply the wa­ter di­rectly to the soil where it is needed. Less wa­ter is lost to over­spray, evap­o­ra­tion, and runoff. They also re­duce the risk and spread of dis­ease by pre­vent­ing wa­ter from set­tling on the leaves of the plants.

Try a few or all of these strate­gies this sea­son for an abun­dant har­vest with­out a lot of ex­tra work.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF BONNIE PLANTS

In­ten­sive plant­ing and low main­te­nance tech­niques can in­crease a gar­den’s har­vest, but not the size of the gar­den or the work­load.

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