Last year, we saw an increase in the number of new gardeners as well as an increase in the number of folks ordering bulk packages of seeds. In uncertain times people were turning to the garden and we’re honored that so many chose SESE for their seeds. If you’re looking to expand your food production next year here are a few things you can do to plan this winter.
Consider your previous garden.
If you’ve had a vegetable patch this year or in the past take a moment to consider how it did. Did you struggle with Downey mildew? Or grow way more zucchini that your family could eat?
Try to be as honest with yourself as possible about your struggles and triumphs. Figure these into your plan. Try growing less zucchini, Downey mildew resistant cucumbers, or a few more of those beans your family really loved.
Use market gardening techniques.
While potager gardens certainly have their place, setting aside a large section of your garden for tidy rows can help you maximize efficiency for large scale production. There’s a reason that farmers and market gardeners typically set their gardens up this way. It allows you to plant, weed, and harvest easily.
This isn’t to say you still shouldn’t be conscious of techniques like companion planting. It’s wise to alternate rows of different crop types. Mixing in rows of wildflowers has also been shown to help with pest pressure. You should also keep track of what is planted where and practice crop rotation.
Pam Dawling’s site, Sustainable Market Gardening, offers a wealth of information about growing and preserving large amounts of food.
Have a plan in place to put up food.
It always feels great to look at a bunch of jars of food you’ve canned or a freezer full of your frozen vegetables but when you’ve got a large garden it’s a lot of work.
It’s also wise to have some of the basic supplies you need on hand. At the beginning of the season, you might want to pick up some basic supplies like jars and lids, vinegar, or other airtight containers. It’s also wise to make sure items like your pressure canner or dehydrator are in good working order.
Really consider where you invest your time too. Canning 20 quarts of dilly beans may seem like a practical way to put up food but if your family is used to eating frozen green beans that may be a better alternative.
If you’re unfamiliar, succession planting means using timed plantings to maximize your space and harvest. For example, you might succession plant blocks of sweet corn, planting one each week, over several weeks so that your harvest is spread out. You might also succession plant different crops in the same bed. For instance, you may plant lettuce or cauliflower in the early spring and then sow the bed with warm-season crops like bush beans or summer squash when they’ve finished.
Here are some helpful articles:
- Summer Succession Crop Planting: Avoid Gluts and Shortages
- Planning and Planting for an Abundant Fall and Winter Harvest
- Succession Planting Warm-Season Crops for Hot Summers
- Succession Planting 101
Draw it out.
Sketching out or planning your garden using a garden planner will help you use your space well. You can also use it to plan for succession planting and crop rotations in years to come.
Find our garden planner here.
To till or not to till?
If you’re completely new to gardening, you may not have heard about no-till agriculture. It’s a gardening technique where you never turn over your soil. Practicing no-till can help increase the levels of beneficial microbes, fungus, and insects in your soil. It also helps build organic matter.
That being said, it’s generally easiest to till your garden the first year if you’re starting completely from scratch. Not continuing to rely on a tiller may mean you can just borrow or rent a tiller for the first season rather than purchasing one. Alternatively, check out our post, Starting a Garden From Scratch Without a Tiller.