Plan with your real needs in sight....
This also means most home gardeners are spending 50 to 80 percent more on labor, time, water, money as well as fertilizers/other additives than needed.
How can you cut down on waste?
Use your likes and dislikes as your starting point
- Every year I plant several rows of green peppers. I don't like green peppers and neither do my kids. Tom will eat a few in his salad and I'll force myself to do the same. But then why do I plant so many?
- I love eggplant. Tom does not. He won't even eat it when my mom makes it and we all know you're supposed to just eat the food your MIL prepares. Ditto with the Brussel sprouts. He won't touch them with a 10-foot-pole. So when I grow these, I know I'm growing only enough for myself and to share, but not for my husband or kids dinner.
- Now I don't like radishes. Or beets. It's tempting to throw them into the garden for fun, but then I think, what's the point?
- For several years running, I have planted 24 cherry tomato plants yielding a humongous crop. And every last one gets eaten. No waste. They taste like candy. Don't they?
- Big tomatoes are used for so many recipes. We love them. And I can always make sauce if I have too many.
The verdict? If you "like" but don't "love" red onions then go ahead and put in one or two. It's the same for any crop. Just because you see most vegetable crops in neat little rows in all the seed catalogs doesn't mean you have to plant a whole row of any single crop. Plant half a row or a quarter of a row or even just a single plant! Don't waste space on crops you don't like or won't use.
Move onto what you actually buy
- I never buy just one broccoli crown. In fact, I never buy less than 3 (I should say Tom since I usually get him to do the grocery shopping). My kids will eat broccoli and we go through tons every week. I never fear than I will outgrow what we'll actually use.
- Green beans. That's a different story. I love tender green beans. Don't you? The kind restaurants serve. The really bright green ones. Planting 6 rows is a bad idea. I should know by now that each plant produces a ton of beans even after you've harvested the initial crop. It's gets to the point where I can't even get out to the garden to harvest.
- I love all the varieties of carrots and plant row upon row of them all. When they surface, I am absolutely overwhelmed by carrots. With so many, I haven't the patience to peel them all. Regrettably, some go to waste. You can't give them away! Same with zucchini. Those fast growers turn into baseball bats overnight. If I planted with a grocery buying mindset, I'd never dream of planting this many because I only buy one bag at a time.
Final thought? Definitely consider how much of each item you buy in a given week and can make use of when deciding what to plant. But make sure you also answer this question. Am I willing to use more of any vegetable when I know it's free and fresh and in my own backyard?
Go Vertical - Grow Upwards
Did you know? Vertically grown crops offer easier access every time you work around them. They also have better access to sunlight and improved air circulation. More air circulation also means the plant is less prone to insect and disease damage. And of course, the more vertical the plant, the less bending is involved!
Best crops to grow vertically...
- Muskmelons (including cantalopes)
- Squash (summer and winter)
Growing vertically saves space by not allowing your plants to sprawl all over the place, therefore you can plant a little closer together, especially in raised beds. But what I really like about going upwards is that it allows your vining crops like cucumbers to neatly hang on the fence instead of lay on the soil. Produce that lies on wet soils tends to rot and get eaten by pests.
I like to check out Big Lots and the Christmas Tree Shops to buy cheap fences and tomato cages. I usually pay about $3 a piece for a tomato cage.
Do you feel like your "space" is big enough for your garden?