If you’re new to planting a vegetable garden, it’s easy to fall into a seemingly natural and easy approach to planting: waiting for the warm weather to arrive.
But the fact is, a proper strategy — or what is often referred to as a planting program — can actually expand garden harvests by matching plants to their associated harvest ‘windows’. Doing a little advance research will quickly move you from catalog on the couch, to gloves in the garden. Here’s how to start:
- Descriptions: Use the information contained on seed packages as well as catalog write-ups to determine the appropriate seasonality of your favourite vegetables.
- Due dates: Plant varieties with staggered harvest dates, so you can plant early and late, too.
- Technology: Reduce, or even eliminate, damage from cold weather or frost by using row cover, clear plastic bins, or salvaged window frames to grow through three (and even four) seasons.
- Schedule: Use a basic calendar (or if you’re tech savvy, a spreadsheet) to map the suggested planting and harvest dates of your vegetables and herbs. It might be helpful to also note the average daily temperatures of your region for quick reference. Your final list should naturally give you a spring, summer and fall vegetable planting schedule.
It’s worth reiterating that there are plant varieties that are better suited to cooler or warmer weather; planting either in a mismatched season will result in lower yields and poor plant performance. And, it may seem obvious but since growth rates vary by season (thanks to all-important light), plant faster-growing, cold-tolerant varieties to cope with the shorter days of spring and fall, and plant slower-growing, heat-tolerant varieties in warmer weather.
Whether you’re a home gardener or gearing up to sell at your local market, maximizing your yields isn’t just satisfying, it makes smart sense.