In my first garden, I planted once. I had no aspirations for a year-round harvest. Any harvest would equal a successful garden in my mind.
But the second year I added a fall garden, and as I gained more experience I realized I could extend my garden season even further. I began growing more winter crops and I enjoyed expanding my growing season much further than the once-and-done summer harvest.
Planning for a year-round harvest is a skill I’m still working to improve. That’s why I invited Becky Porter from The Seasonal Homestead to share with me her tips for year-round gardening.
Even beginners with a small garden space can put these tips into practice. We discuss them all in this episode of the Beginner’s Garden Podcast. Click below to listen to continue reading for the biggest takeaways to help you grow and harvest year-round.
How to get Started Growing a Seasonal Garden
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you get started. First, educate yourself and then practice. You may not be successful the first try. Becky recommends that you start with a few crops that you enjoy and grow from there.
After twelve years of gardening Becky has worked up to a goal of only eating vegetables she grows in her own garden. But she began with only a few crops.
Herbs aren’t fussy, they’re not typically affected by bugs, and they’re expensive at the store so growing your own saves a lot of money. Butternut squash provides a lot of food, it’s more resistant to squash bugs, and it’s very easy to store and keep for the year. Green beans don’t take up a lot of space and they’re easy to blanch and freeze for winter.
Grow and Eat Seasonally for a Year-Round Harvest
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When you first try to eat from your garden year-round, you’ll likely can your garden extras. But soon you may find yourself tiring of canned vegetables. For this reason, it’s important to keep a variety of fresh vegetables to eat with your canned goods.
Becky uses low tunnels, which are constructed with PVC, arched over the garden bed with a row cover to insulate the crops. Using these tunnels to keep her crops warm, her greens, radishes, and carrots survive down to 10*F, allowing her family to eat these vegetables fresh long past the summer harvest.
Becky also plants varieties of crops that are bred for winter hardiness. One lettuce she grows is called Winter Gem and it extends the harvest into winter months.
Timing is also important when planning fall and winter crops. She tries to make sure her crops are close to maturity before the first hard frost. Then, because the ground doesn’t freeze in her zone 6b climate, she can keep the crops in the ground until she is ready to eat them.
Succession Planting for a Year-Round Harvest
When extending your garden season for a year-round harvest, succession planting is critical. Most beginners plant once and then they’re done, but if you want to grow more food then you’ll want to plant more often than just once in the spring.
Stagger the planting dates of the same vegetable to extend the harvest. Lettuce and bush beans are two excellent options. Pull up the plant when the harvest ends, and replace it with another planting. You can even think about how succession planting and crop rotation work together.
Another way to grow more food is to interplant. When you interplant, you grow different crops with different growth habits close together. Becky grows radishes around the edge of a bed and plants summer squash in the middle. By the time the squash is large and ready for harvest, the radishes will be done.
Other options include carrots under tomatoes, lettuce or spinach with peppers, strawberries with onions, melons under corn or okra, and squash under tomatilllos. Have fun experimenting to find pairings that work best for you.
Get Started with Seasonal Gardening
Having a plan is important! In fact, planning your year-round harvest is the most essential element to success. And as Becky says, even if you can’t make it one year, growing enough of a vegetable to get you through just one month is more than you had before.
Each year you can adjust your planning and planting and extend that month more and more each season. (For assistance in planning your year-round harvest, check out my garden planners here.)
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