June 11th, 2013
I try to milk every last little bit of production space out of my vegetable garden.
From the design itself to what and how I plant, my goal is to get the most out of the least space with the least work.
You’ve heard of Square Foot Gardening? I do Square Inch Gardening because a speck of soil is a terrible thing to waste.
I’ve picked up a lot of little yield-boosting ideas over the years, so this week I thought I’d share some of them with you:
1.) Planting in blocks instead of rows right off the bat increases yields. But I maximize even the block-plantings by inserting small, fast-growers in the gaps among the transplants.
Example: When I plant my broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower plants about 15 to 18 inches apart, I insert a lettuce seedling or plant a few radishes in each gap. By the time the cole crops expand over the space, the lettuce and radishes are ready to pick.
2.) Similarly, I interplant tomato transplants with cucumber seeds. I use concrete-reinforcing wire tied to metal stakes as my “tomato walls,” and this support is also ideal for climbing cuke tendrils.
The cukes wind their way up along with the growing tomato foliage, and I end up picking bonus cucumbers in space that otherwise would be used solely by tomato leaves.
Even a few plants give plenty of cucumbers for fresh eating, usually starting before the tomatoes ripen.
3.) Those tomato walls are spaced 1 foot in from the edge of my beds to allow soil space for the tomato roots to stretch out.
I’ve found that shallow-rooted lettuce, mesclun and similar leafy plants do fine in that foot-wide strip without setting back the deeper-rooted tomatoes.
In summer, I plant the leafy crops so they’ll get afternoon shade from the tomato foliage. That keeps them cooler, giving me bolt-free, bitter-free summer lettuce that wouldn’t be possible out in the open garden.