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    12 Proven Ways to Boost Garden Harvests

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    12 Proven Ways to Boost Garden Harvests

    Whether you have been gardening for decades or are planning your very first garden, every gardener has one thing in common: You want to enjoy a bountiful harvest. 

    This article explores some tried and true tips for boosting your yield this year – and maintaining healthier plants at the same time.

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    1. Choose plants that thrive in your location

    It pays to research what plants thrive in your soil and climate hardiness zone. Some vegetables that are easy to grow in one part of the country may not be able to cope with temperatures where you live.

    Check with your neighbors or with your local extension service office for advice. You can also read catalog descriptions and seed packets for details on the growing season.

    2. Maximize your space

    Create dedicated beds that allow you to minimize wasted space and avoid unproductive areas. Experts say that planting fruits and vegetables in blocks rather than rows can triple or even quadruple your harvest.

    Choose places on your property that allow easy planning, weeding, and watering access. Extend your growing space with raised beds and containers.

    3. Grow up

    From pole beans to cucumbers and peppers to tomatoes, many plants thrive on trellises, poles, or other vertical structures. Not only do they get more air and sunlight by growing up instead of out, but you will also notice a higher yield.

    4. Enrich the soil

    Along with finding out what plants grow best in your area, it’s essential to understand the composition of your soil. You can purchase an at-home soil test or take a sample to your local extension office to find out what nutrients may be lacking. You can enrich your soil with compost or 

    5. Pay attention to spacing

    You want to make the most of your bed space, but you can compromise your harvest by planting vegetables too close together. You can find out proper planting space on seed packers or check out this printable chart to use in designing your beds.

    6. Try interplanting and companion methods

    Another way to increase your vegetable harvest is with companion planting and succession planting. For example, lettuce and spinach can thrive in the shade of taller, leafy tomato plants. And you can plant slow-growing carrots beside faster-growing radishes.

    Corn stalks can provide vertical support for pole beans, and lettuce heads can fill in space between rows of onions.

    This video explains the difference between interplanting and companion planting and offers strategies for how you can do either or both in your garden.

    7. Make the most of the sun and shade

    Note what plants, trees, and buildings provide shade for your garden and when your garden gets full sun.

    This video gives tips for sun mapping your garden. Consider how taller plants will offer shade to shorter plants as they mature and plant accordingly. Or consider the Old Farmer’s Almanac garden planner tool.

    8. Be water wise

    Many gardeners sabotage their harvests by underwatering or overwatering. Aim for low and slow watering with a drip hose system to encourage root growth. This article provides the basics you need to know to water your vegetable garden. And this article lists some of the frequent watering mistakes home gardeners make.

    Make an effort to capture rainwater, which is softer and more nutrient-rich than municipal water. Investing in a rain barrel or downspout collection system is an excellent way to make the best use of this precious natural resource.

    9. Weed early and often

    Weeding may be your least favorite gardening chore, but it is crucial for a healthy harvest. Weeds will compete with your vegetables for light, moisture, and soil nutrients. Most vegetable gardens require weeding a week or so after sowing seeds or transplanting plants and again about a week later. You’ll need to pay attention in the coming several weeks to remove weeds as they appear.

    After about five weeks, your plants should be large enough to help deter weed growth, but you’ll still want to plan for a once-a-week weeding session.

    Here’s an article on weed control from the Iowa State University extension service.

    10. Deter bugs and other pests

    Slugs, rabbits, mites, aphids, mealybugs, deer. Depending on where you live, the list of insects and animals that can reduce your harvest can go on and on. Learn about the pests in your area and create a plan to stop them from feasting on your plants.

    Here are some ideas for pest control, and once again, your local extension service office can be a big help in this area.

    11. Harvest at the best times

    Timing is everything when it comes to harvesting your fruits and vegetables. If you do it too early or too late, you can lose on quality and flavor. The time of day you pick your harvest is also integral to quality.

    For example, lettuce picked in the heat of the afternoon will quickly wilt, while leaves picked in the cool of the morning will stay fresher longer.

    This video offers some basic harvesting tips for the home gardener. For example, with peppers, the better your harvesting timing, the more your plant will produce.

    12. Extend your growing season

    A way to get more bang from your buck when it comes to your vegetable garden is to extend your growing season. Use cold frames, cloches, tunnels, and row covers to protect crops from late spring and early fall frosts.

    Check out this video for practical season-extending tips.

    A final tip for a successful harvest is to use the right tool for the job. You can damage a plant by pulling off a ripe fruit. Here are some tools to consider investing in for more successful harvesting:

    • Pruning shears (also known as secateurs or hand pruners) for precise pruning, trimming, and cutting.
    • Garden scissors for harvesting delicate herbs, flowers, and small veggies and fruits.
    • Garden knife for cutting through tough stems, harvesting root vegetables, weeding, and dividing plants. 
    • Fruit picker for harvesting fruits from tall trees. 

    Here are some additional resources for achieving an optimal harvest from your home garden.

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