My love of growing food for my family is only matched by the love I have for planning my garden. At the Newcomb Farm, we use a structured planning process to ensure that our rows are intensively planted for maximum productivity throughout the growing season. In this video, I'll walk you through the four steps I take to get the most out of your garden real estate.
The first step I take when planning our garden is to identify our average first and last frost date. The time between these two days is your approximate growing season. This will help quantify how much time you have to get things growing, when you can put plants in the ground, what kind of plants and seeds you can plant, and when you’ll likely lose crops to freezing temps.
With these dates, you can divide your year into seasons. In Arkansas, I’ve divided my gardening year up into four seasons: the preseason, first summer, second summer, and postseason. Folks in cooler climates will only have one summer season. Knowing how your year is divided will help you make the most of the time and space available to you and help plan for the right type of crops.
Finally, using this knowledge, draw out your garden and plan out what you will put in your space throughout each of these seasons. You should match plants with the type of weather you have in your region during each of these seasons. Some crops like lettuce can be grown quickly, are easily started indoors, and do well in cooler environments with occasional frosts. These are great plants to either sow indoors or put in the ground under a low tunnel during the “preseason.” Start crops that need warmer weather well after the chance of frost has passed. If you have a shorter growing season, be sure to look for plants and seeds that mature faster.
One of the most useful secrets I’ve learned for maximizing harvests is successional planting. You can make better use of your garden space by successively planting smaller groups of one-and-done plants like cabbage and broccoli every two to three weeks rather than planting a big group all at once. By doing this, you can have fresh harvests throughout the growing season. Keep cut-and-come-again plants like tomatoes, squash, peppers, and most lettuces growing throughout the time they can grow by consistently harvesting plants. No need to pull these out once you get your first crop. Keep those beds actively producing all season and preserve the abundance.
Images via Isaac Neale.