Efficient and Economic Gardening

Planning is one of the most important aspects of economic gardening, and the accompanying charts will help you plan for the next growing season.

| January/February 1985

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    Freezer manufacturers recommend approximately 6 cubic feet of freezer space for each family member.
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    Preserving your garden's vegetables may or may not be cost-efficient, and once again, it's a question of time versus money.
    CHART: MOTHER EARTH NEWS EDITORS
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    This chart shows average yields and numbers of quarts.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS EDITORS

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This is the time of year when even a hint of warmth sends us scurrying off to rummage through seed catalogs. With taste buds aquiver, we spend our evenings planning that beautiful, vastly bountiful dream of a garden. For many years, though, my preseason vision refused to turn into a reality.

Typically, I would end up with handsome, healthy, giant, pampered weeds. And the plants that did manage to beat those nasty weeds would produce so much that I'd end up with hundreds of pounds of zucchini, radishes and green beans. As a result, dinner during midwinter became an ongoing source of teasing by the kids.

"Bet I can guess what vegetable we're having tonight," they would chuckle, "... green beans!" (I fooled them once by serving my lone package of sweet green peas.)

But then I began to observe the immaculate, waste-free gardens of some of our community's senior citizens, and it occurred to me that something was seriously wrong with my gardening practices. Here was a group of people who, despite their advancing age, had tidy plots predesigned to fulfill their expectations. Their gardens looked like the seed catalog pictures. What were these people doing that a younger, more energetic person couldn't manage? I finally realized that years of experience had taught these gardeners not only what their limitations were, but also how much to plant of any given crop in order to get the yield they wanted. This desired amount was based on their liking for the vegetable; the amount of time it takes to nurture, harvest and preserve it; and the type of space that was available for both growing and storing the finished product.



This was the kind of planning I had neglected to do. So, after some research and hard-won experience of my own, I put together some hints on how to garden efficiently. I've incorporated many of these into the accompanying chart.

Better Garden Planning

Planning can be the key to setting up an efficient, successful garden. A good first step is to make a list of your family's favorite vegetables and try to determine how much (fresh and preserved) you will want of each kind in the months ahead. Use the "How Much You'll Harvest" chart  in the image gallery or your own experience to help you calculate how much of each crop to grow. Then draw a scale plan of your garden, marking how far apart mature plants must stand and the optimal distance between your rows or growing beds. That way, you'll avoid ending up with overly large amounts of one or two foods and a disappointing scarcity of others.






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