If you’re hoping to grow a high-yield backyard garden this year, you’re not alone. Most gardeners hope to get the most from their homegrown gardens, whether those gardens happen to be 2′ x 2′ or 20′ x 20′. Follow these seven tried-and-true tips, and you’re sure to reap a lot more than you sow.
Cherish Your Soil
The single most important thing that you can do to ensure that your garden is productive is to take good care of your soil. This means “building it up” by keeping it well fertilized (but not over fertilized) and loose (meaning that it has plenty of organic matter), so that you have every gardener’s dream: loose, fertile soil that can “breathe” and transport nutrients.
Take your soil for granted by neglecting to nourish it or habitually overworking it, however, and you’ll eventually see your garden vegetables pay the price. Not only will they suffer from stunted growth and low yields, they’ll be much more likely to fall prey to disease and insect predation.
Don’t know the first thing about soil? Here are some tips:
- Get a basic understanding of soil, such as what its major components are and what the different soil nutrients do.
- Consider composting. Creating your own compost is an incredibly easy, safe and cost-efficient way to fertilize your soil.
- Don’t overwater. Yes, to keep your garden vegetables growing they need a solid supply of clean water, but it’s important to remember that the more you water, the more nutrients you flush from your soil. The key is to water an _appropriate_ amount for the plants and conditions in which you grow.
Be Smart About Space
Garden spacing is a bit of a balancing act. On the one hand, you don’t want to pack so many plants into one space that they don’t have enough room to grow. But, on the other hand, give them too much room and you’re more likely to waste water and open your garden up to weed predation.
As you plan and grow your backyard garden, use space wisely by:
- Giving plants just enough room to thrive. Follow your seed or transplant supplier’s planting instructions, and resist the urge to overplant your space. It’s better to have fewer plants that produce more than more plants that produce less.
- Consider using raised beds. Not only are raised beds easier to work, the soil is easier to amend, it tends to be workable earlier in the season than in-ground garden soil, and there’s no space wasted for footpaths.
- Planting in triangular and staggered patterns rather than squares and rectangles.
Pick Plants That Are Right For Your Growing Conditions
When you’re deep in an impulse-driven, seed-buying frenzy, it can be easy to forget that some herbs and vegetables—no matter how hard you try—just aren’t going to do well in your garden simply due to the unique growing conditions of your space. Whether it’s the pH of your soil, the amount of sun your plot gets, or the space you have available, picking plants that are incompatible with your growing conditions is sure to produce two outcomes: an irritated you and an underperforming garden.
When choosing which herbs and vegetables to grow in your garden, consider:
- What’s the pH of your soil? (Not sure, check out these easy, free ways to test soil.)
- How much sun will your garden get?
- What type of soil do you have?
- How much space do you have?
Once you have a good idea of your growing conditions, choose plants that are a good fit. Choosing the right plants for your space can make a huge difference between garden success and failure.
When it comes to water, all you need to do is make sure that your garden veggie’s get enough of it, right? Well, no, not so much. If you want a high-yield backyard garden that runs at maximum productivity, it’s incredibly important to water your garden properly. This means:
- Using water that is approximately the same temperature as the air and/or soil (“ambient temperature”). When you use water that is too hot or too cold (like the water that comes spilling out of your garden hose), it can shock your plants and retard their growth for weeks at a time.
- Don’t overwater or underwater. This is definitely a balancing act. Underwater and your plants won’t get enough water to thrive. Overwater and you’ll make them more susceptible to moisture-related diseases (like powdery mildew) and leach your soil of the very nutrients you’re trying to keep. The best ways to water appropriately are to pay attention to your seed/transplant supplier’s planting instructions and know what the critical watering periods are for garden vegetables that you’re growing.
Incorporate Companion Planting and Crop Rotation Techniques
Did you know that many backyard garden vegetables have BFFs? Or that vegetables, just like people, can benefit from a seasonal change of scenery? Two natural gardening methods that farmers have been using for centuries, companion planting and crop rotating are two time-methods to improve your backyard crop yields. So, what are they?
Companion planting involves planting compatible plants (companions) close together in your garden. Typically, companion plants are chosen because they somehow support one another (such as growing a plant that repels insects next to a plant that is often pestered by them) or because they have complementary growing cycles (such as growing rows of fast-growing vegetables in between rows of slow-growers).
Crop rotation involves changing up your garden plan on an annual basis so that different vegetables and/or herbs are grown in a given space every season. Not only does this often help balance soil deficiencies (since different vegetables consume different nutrients at different levels), it also helps deter soil-borne diseases.
Stretch Your Growing Season
If you’re like me, you live in a temperate zone that’s great for gardening—three months out of the year. Outside of that (and without a dedicated greenhouse) keeping a productive backyard garden can be a challenge. There are, however, tools and techniques that we cool-weather gardeners can use to stretch our growing seasons, such as:
Cold-weather growing tools like cloches and cold frames can help keep the air around your plants warm even when outdoor temperatures get quite cold, which can be all you need to get an extra crop out of your garden every season.
The Biggest Tip for a High-Yield Backyard Garden
Keep gardening! Keeping a productive, bountiful garden can be a bit of work, but it’s worth it! By putting a little time in every day for weeding, cultivating and nurturing your garden, you’re much more likely to be successful, and to keep small problems in check.
For more useful information on how to care for your garden, see my Gardening Guides page.