The garden can easily become a case of feast or famine. At times, it may seem like you're harvesting hardly anything from your garden, and then, all of a sudden, you get a glut of tomatoes or zucchini. And when that's over, you go back to sporadic harvesting again. But there is an easy way to ensure that your garden is reliably productive, and that there's always something new to enjoy: plant one new vegetable crop every week.
It really is that simple. Aside from the long-season vegetables we grow, such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, and corn, there are plenty of vegetables that either have a shorter season, or take up a smaller amount of space. We can use these crops to our advantage to ensure that we are regularly able to harvest from our garden, and so that we don't become bored with the same old thing all season long.
For example, here in my Michigan garden, my gardening season starts around the first week of May. I can reliably put cool season crops, such as spinach, lettuce, kale, and other Brassicas in the ground with very little trouble. I've already started seeds for my warm season crops, such as tomatoes, indoors in late winter. If you don't start from seed, you can always find transplants at your local nursery. My planting season ends in September (not counting my winter gardening -- that's a bonus.) So here's a possible planting schedule, based on what I grew this past year (note: direct sow unless transplants are specified):
- Week One: 'Lacinato' kale, broccoli (transplants), and 'Green Arrow' peas.
- Week Two: 'Sugar Snap' peas, 'Bloomsdale Long Standing' spinach, 'Detroit Dark Red' beets, and 'Easter Egg' radishes.
- Week Three: 'Bright Lights' Swiss chard and 'Buttercrunch' lettuce.
- Week Four: Warm season transplants tomatoes, eggplants, winter squash, peppers), 'Danvers Half-Long' carrots, 'Kentucky Wonder' pole beans, 'Country Gentleman' corn.
- Week One: Melons, summer squash and pickling cucumbers. 'Speckles' lettuce.
- Week Two: More 'Danvers Half-Long' carrots, 'Oak Leaf Blend' mesclun mix.
- Week Three: 'Provider' bush beans.
- Week Four: Malabar spinach, second sowing of 'Oak Leaf Blend' mesclun.
- Week One: 'Cosmic Purple' carrots, 'Diva' bush cucumbers.
- Week Two: 'Pencil Pod Yellow' bush beans, 'Cherry Belle' radishes.
- Week Three: 'Black Seeded Simpson' lettuce.
- Week Four: 'Scarlet Nantes' carrots.
- Week One: Broccoli, cauliflower (transplants); 'Red Russian' kale, 'Georgia Southern' collards (direct sow).
- Week Two: 'Purple Top White Globe' turnips, 'Strike' peas.
- Week Three: 'Chioggia' beets, 'Lolla Rossa' lettuce.
- Week Four: 'Lavewa' spinach, mache.
- Week One: Arugula.
- Week Two: More 'Lavewa' spinach.
- Week Three: 'Purple Top White Globe' turnips, more mesclun.
- Week Four: Mache, more arugula.
Tips for Making the Most of Your Garden Space
Limited space is a reality for many gardeners. Here are some ideas for ways to plant a new veggie every week, even if you have a small garden:
- Use containers. A windowbox of mesclun or small carrots works very well.
- Plant intensively. Sow mesclun or spinach seeds around your newly-planted peppers, intersperse radishes and carrots, or sow pole beans around your corn.
- Add veggies to your flower garden. There's no reason you can't add a few groupings of colorful Swiss chard or stately kale to your perennial beds.
As you can see, this plan allows for plenty of variety. Just plant a new row or a small section of the garden each week. The chance to try new varieties is one of the best parts of vegetable gardening, and this method lets you do that, and ensures a steady harvest as well.