It is time to start thinking about your garden this year and what you will grow. For many homesteaders and preppers, the garden is one of the main sources of the family’s food. It is important you spend some time planning out your garden so you can take advantage of every inch of space. If your land is limited, this is even more important. There are plenty of people who make the mistake of planting with no rhyme or reason and end up with very little food compared to those who could quadruple the harvest by spending some time thinking about what they will plant, where they will plant and how they can maximize space by following some unique tips and tricks.
What Should You Plant?
Most preppers have a rule of thumb when it comes to stockpiling food; only store what you eat! Your garden should follow that same guideline. You don’t want to waste space in the garden nor your valuable time and energy by planting things you don’t actually like to eat and your family doesn’t eat. Sometimes, as gardeners, it is easy to fall into this mindset that every gardener grows peppers or every garden must have spinach or radishes because they are super easy and quick to mature. Don’t fall into that trap. If you have no plans of ever actually eating those items, don’t plant them.
Now, if you happen to have a neighbor who loves spinach and manages to grow a plethora of strawberries that you simply don’t have room for, consider growing the spinach with the understanding you will trade it for strawberries. Some gardening pros will tell you it is best to focus on 10 crops. A variety of 10 vegetables is typically enough work for any gardener to handle. However, if you have a small army of kids and helpers and a lot of land, there is no reason you cannot expand your horizons a bits and live dangerously and plant 15 different crops.
Ideally, you want to focus the majority of your energy on crops that you can preserve the harvest to last year round. Unfortunately, things like cucumbers (unless pickling) and melons are simply not capable of being preserved. Limit those items in your garden. Eating them fresh is a lovely treat, but a single plant can produce enough for a growing season.
Planning the Garden
It isn’t time to start sowing your seeds yet. It is time to grab a piece of paper and a pencil and start sketching your garden. If you are dealing with limited space, this is absolutely essential. If you are dealing with a large space, you will appreciate condensing your plants into a smaller area if possible. This will save on watering, weeding and trying to keep pests to a minimum.
First of all, you will want to do some research about companion planting. Certain plants love each other and do well when planted near each other. For instance, peas produce nitrogen. Tomatoes love nitrogen. By planting the two near each other, you can use your peas to feed your tomatoes without the need for fertilizer. If you are using tomato cages, your peas can borrow them in the spring to use as a trellis. By the time the tomatoes start to grow, your peas will be coming to the end of their growing season and the tomatoes will have plenty of room.
Another very common method of planting the garden staples, corn, peas and squash is something the Native Americans used call the â€œthree sistersâ€ planting method. Plant your corn a foot apart or thereabouts as directed and then place a pea plant in between each corn plant. Place a squash plant at the end of a couple of rows and allow them all to grow. The corn will provide shade for the cool-loving peas as well as the sturdy stalks for the peas to vine around. The squash will cover the ground below, keeping down weeds and acting as a mulch by keeping the moisture in the ground. You are getting 3 crops all in one space.
There is also something called recession planting. Plant your cool weather plants early and harvest them just in time to put pepper, tomato and other warm-weather plants in the ground. You are using the same space, but getting two different crops.
Space Saving Techniques
Don’t limit your garden based on the size of your land. You can take advantage of these tricks to saving space in the garden so you can have a bountiful harvest. Get creative and you are sure to come up with some of your own ideas.
- Go up! Use sturdy trellises to grow crops like cucumbers and melons that tend to spread across the garden floor. Your veggies will be off the ground making them less prone to pests and water rot. They also have a better shape and more uniform color when one side is not lying on the ground.
- Use gutters attached to a sturdy fence or the south-facing side of your barn or shed to grow shallow-root crops. Herbs grow great in these as do spinach, shallots and a variety of other veggies.
- Grow tomato plants upside down. You can use one of those hangers you see at the store, or use an old 2-liter soda bottle. Cut off the bottom, fill it with dirt and stick the tomato plant in what used to be the top of the bottle. Hang the bottle in a sunny area using heavy-duty fishing wire and watch your plants blossom.
- Container gardening is another way to grow vegetables on your patio, deck or even in your window sill. Container gardening is a desirable option and limits the amount of weeding while conserving water. Nearly anything can be used as a container. Check your scrap pile and see what you can put together.
We are currently working on creating an interactive planting calendar, we should be up and running within a few weeks. Subscribe to our newsletter to receive updates of when it will be available. In the meantime, donâ€™t forget to check out our Planting Zone Map.