How a hard-nosed and uncompromising approach will result in a better vegetable garden.
Farming is a tough business. You only need to speak to one of our primary food producers, or turn on the news during extreme weather to learn how tough it is on the land.
There are important lessons that can be learnt from our farmers, including the ability to be tough through hard times and move on quickly. Apply this approach to your own vegetable garden and you will grow better and more produce.
Your Vegetable Garden Business
Treat your vegetable garden like a business. Your garden requires an investment and you need to ensure you get a return! In order to do so, you will need to make tough business decisions along the way.
How to be tough in your backyard vegetable garden business:
Whether you buy or grow seedlings, when it comes time to plant you are going to have more seedlings than area available.
When standing in front of well-presented seedlings at any garden centre it is easy to get overly enthusiastic and purchase all the types of vegetables you like. Plus the more plants you grow the more produce you will harvest….right?
Consider that a standard punnet seedlings from a garden centre contains 8 seedlings. If you only choose 5 different varieties, that is 40 plants you are intending to plant!
Realistically you don’t have the room to plant all 40 plants.
This is where you need to make a tough call. Pick the strongest and best two seedlings from each variety and throw away the rest.
You will have mixed emotions. You just paid good money on these seedlings. The more plants the more produce right? These seedlings are living things! I can’t throw them away!
You end up planting all 8 plants.
The reality is that two thriving plants will produce more than twice as much produce as the 8 plants that you squished together in your garden bed.
I know it’s hard, but you have got to be ruthless!
Every plant you plant competes with every other plant you plant. They compete for water, light, nutrients, and root space. Knowing how close you can arrange your plants is crucial to maximising productivity while still achieving robust plants and vegetables. So it’s worth doing a small amount of research to find the recommended spacing of your plants
Note: I usually hold onto the remaining seedlings for a few days to ensure the chosen seedlings look like they are going to be a success. If for whatever reason the seedlings planted take a bad turn, you will have a ready replacement for them.
Out of Season…Out of the Garden!
If a plant doesn’t look like it is going to be a roaring success and supply you with a top harvest then it probably isn’t.
If you have out of season plants, for example spinach in summer, take it out and replace it with something better suited to the conditions. You would rather have a plant that requires warm weather to be fruitful than a plant that needs to be watered multiple times a day just to stay alive.
Similarly a tomato plant grown in winter may produce one or two tomatoes over a long and otherwise unproductive period, which is nothing compared to the 1kg broccoli head that formed due to the cold conditions.
Paging Dr Farmer…Paging Dr Farmer
Don’t waste valuable time and resources nursing a sick plant back to health. Take it out of the garden and replace it with a new seedling. Your time and resources are better spent giving the new seedling everything it needs to thrive.
If your vegetables have obvious signs of disease, most times it is best to just throw them out. You don’t want the disease/fungus being passed on to surrounding plants. Your other option is to spend money on a treatment that could potentially put a question mark over the edibility of your produce.
Do you really want to know what is in that fungicide? What was the gain? Perhaps a few extra tomatoes. It would have been a better idea to start again with something new.
Other times a plant may show signs of a deficiency, and in many cases, when the plant shows signs of a deficiency it’s too late to act (i.e. blossom end rot in tomatoes…the produce is already spoilt). You may correct the deficiency and prolong the life of the plant however its ability to produce the type of produce you expected is affected.
It’s better to learn what has caused the deficiency, take a lesson out of it and remember that prevention is better than a cure.
An Emotional Attachment
Sometimes if you have gone to the effort of preparing an area, buying seedlings, fertilising, and singing to them – things just go wrong – and no amount of love will revive them to the point where you get a decent harvest.
Don’t be so emotionally attached to your plants! Remember this is a business, cut your losses and move on!
So get tough and show your garden who is boss!