Yield a Bountiful Harvest This Season with Low Maintenance Vegetable Gardening

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Gardening expert Melinda Myers shares tips and techniques for getting the most from vegetable gardens while minimizing the workload.

Position rows closer together with just enough pathway for weeding, watering, and harvesting. Photo credit: Bonnie Plants

All that’s needed is a bit of intensive planting, along with some low maintenance techniques.

This year, enjoy a bountiful harvest without increasing the size of the garden or the workload. “It is possible,” explains Melinda Myers, host of the How to Grow Anything: Food Gardening for Everyone DVD set. “All that’s needed when vegetable gardening is a bit of intensive planting, along with some low maintenance techniques.”

Myers shared the following tips and techniques for maximizing this year’s harvest with low input.

Invest some time upfront to prepare the garden soil. This saves 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. Plants will be healthier and better able to fend off pests and outcompete the weeds.

Match the plants with the right growing conditions. Tomatoes, 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 gardening app, like Homegrown with Bonnie Plants, for plant information, maintenance tips and more.

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

Interplant to further maximize the 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. Gardeners will be pulling radishes or cutting lettuce instead of weeds. Plus, there will be two crops to harvest 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 them 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, there will be 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. Gardeners will 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. Plus, they 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 for an abundant harvest without a lot of extra work.

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Diana Paul
Melinda Myers LLC
+1 (414) 771-1888
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