MAXIMISING YOUR HARVEST
I remember our first successful harvest of tomatoes. It was a hybrid variety called Floradade, beautiful, juicy salad tomatoes and the satisfaction of knowing that they came from my garden. That was a good day. Well, until two weeks later when the harvest was done, the tomato plants died and I was back to square one.
Success with an edible landscape depends on thoughtful and intentional planning. Most vegetables fall in the annuals category. That means that they will grow, set their fruit and die in one season. The key lies in stretching the harvest and the production time for as long as possible.
With Spring on our door step, here are some helpful aspects to consider when planning your spring/summer garden:
Go for heirlooms.
Hybridized seeds are designed to set fruit and ripen all at once. Great if you are a farmer to meet market quantities, not so much if you are just looking to feed your family. A harvest of 200 tomatoes all at once will not be very pleasant. My Floradade tomatoes were designed to do just that, provide a one time, same time harvest.
Heirlooms however, will grow more naturally, that is, fruit on the same plant will set and ripen at different times allowing you to harvest just what you need while some fruit remains to ripen for a later harvest. How do you know if a seed is a hybrid or heirloom? If it doesn’t say Heirloom on the packet, then it’s probably not.
Choose vegetables that have a longer production time.
Eggplants plants and some tomatoes for example will flower and set fruit all summer-long even going in to autumn without you having to replant.
Indeterminate tomato varieties tend to be very tall scarily plants that turn most people off but I love them because unlike their determinate varieties that fruit once in the season, they will continue to flower and set their fruit right throughout the season. A good trellis support will keep them off the floor, healthy and looking good. In general all bush type varieties of tomatoes are determinate and all trailing varieties are indeterminate.
Plan for succession
One of the easiest ways to ensure that the garden is productive over the season, as opposed to abundance in a short space of time, is to practice succession planting. This comes down to planting smaller amounts of annual edibles in phases over the course of the season so that you can have a regular harvest.
For example, when I plant my lettuce, I start with seeds and seedlings at the same time. The seedlings will be ready to harvest in about 2 weeks, at that time, the seeds planted will just be coming up. The result is when the first seedling harvest is done, I can enjoy harvest from the planted seeds. This is also a good time to put in a second sowing of seeds and continue the cycle.
Have a great time planning out your garden!