6 sure-fire ways to harvest MORE grow-your-own veg now

July 3rd, 2016 Posted In: Grow-your-own

Would you like more grow-your-own veg? Can you improve your harvest, even in summer, once you’ve started picking your crops?

Yes. There is alot you can do even at a late stage to increase your yield.

How to have the best harvests of allotment and grow-your-own veg

Now is the time to make sure that the harvest lasts as long as possible. It’s at this stage – when everything seems to be going so well – that I often lose my way, and find myself with fewer vegetables than I expected.

This year is already different. We have been eating from the garden every night, and there is lots to come.

There’s no doubt that feeding fast-growing plants like vegetables is the number one way of getting maximum harvest. This post was originally a collaboration with Baby Bio plant food, who supplied the fertilisers for free. So the tests show the impact of using Baby Bio Outdoor Liquid feed vs not feeding your plants.  I didn’t add any other commercial fertilisers into the test.

If you want to make your own fertiliser, there is a post here on 5 homemade garden fertilisers.

Note: links to Amazon are affiliate, which means I may get a small fee if you buy, but it doesn’t affect the price you pay. Other links are not affiliate.

The courgette in the foreground is fed by Baby Bio® Outdoor liquid feed

The courgette in the foreground is fed by Baby Bio Outdoor liquid feed. The test showed that you will get much bigger harvests if you feed your vegetables with extra fertiliser, although I didn’t compare different brands.

But feeding isn’t the only important thing you need to do now to ensure that you have productive and delicious grow-your-own veg.

These are the things I often forget to do. If you do them, you will have much better harvests.

  1. Why you need to feed your fruit and vegetables

Producing leaf, flower or seed takes up alot of nutrients, which plants usually get from the soil. Looking after your soil by regularly adding compost or well-rotted manure is very important. Looking after your soil is enough for many border plants. But’ hungry’ plants need a top-up while they are growing.

The RHS says that if your plants seem healthy and are growing in the right conditions, but aren’t giving you much of a harvest, then it’s likely they need feeding.

You will (usually) find feeding instructions on labels and seed packets. It will be either be ‘feed weekly’ or ‘feed every 14 days’ once flowering has started. For more about how and when you need to use garden fertiliser, see this post here

For this experiment, I fed tomatoes, beans, courgettes, chillies and mangeout with Baby Bio Outdoor liquid feed. I am not feeding the salad crops because they are currently vigorous enough without. One plant is fed with Baby Bio Outdoor and the other – exactly the same size and type – is not.

The main findings so far are that the courgette plants fed with Baby Bio Outdoor are about 15% larger than those which are not fed. I haven’t compared the Baby Bio to other liquid feeds.

I have also had 16 courgettes from the two plants fed with Baby Bio Outdoor, compared to eight courgettes from the two plants that weren’t fed.

I’ve particularly noticed that the two courgettes that were fed – one in the bed and the other in pot – have got much less mildew than the courgettes that weren’t fed.

2) Keep harvesting

Old hands at allotment and grow-your-own veg know this. It’s why they arrive at your house with bags of salad and beans.

There’s a saying ‘the most generous gardener has the most flowers’. Certainly the most generous veg growers will have the biggest harvests.

This is where I went wrong in the past – I hesitated to harvest in case I somehow weakened the plant. Or I thought ‘I’ll need that on Saturday, I’ll save it for later.’

Harvest your grow-your-own veg regularly

Keep harvesting lettuce, salad leaves, chard, spinach, beans and courgettes. Don’t leave the plants to run to seed.

But after attending the excellent Sarah Raven’s Year Round Veg course, I realised that holding back on harvesting cut-and-come -again veg like courgettes, salad and beans was probably my biggest single mistake.

This year I go round the garden every evening, picking every mangetout and courgette I can find, and snipping off salad leaves. There is always more the next day.

Sarah says that you get more if you snip leaves off around the outside leaves of salad, kale and chard rather than cutting across the plant.

3) Don’t relax your guard against slugs, snails and pigeons

As we live in town, our veg doesn’t suffer from rabbits or deer. And as we live in the Northern Hemisphere, we don’t get kangaroos, wallabies, parrots or possums devouring our veg either.

But the British snail is sneaky and powerful beastie.

I’m prepared to share some of my harvest with Mr Snail and his millions of friends and relations, but not all. I use ferric phosphate snail pellets, which are certified for organic use. Currently I’m using Bayer Garden Slug Killer, which I bought last year (ie I wasn’t sent it free for review!). It has lasted well – I’m only just getting to the end of the packet one year later.

Keep an eye out for slugs and snails

The RHS are carrying out tests on deterrents such as copper, coffee grounds and more as snail and slug deterrents, but I think the early results have been discouraging. I have never had any success with either copper or coffee grounds, although the latter compost well into the soil.

Birds and hedgehogs don’t eat dead snails so you won’t poison them. If there was any chance of getting rid of slugs and snails entirely, I would say ‘leave some for the birds’, but there are always plenty of slugs and snails left, even if you use slug pellets regularly.

The key to using slug pellets is to throw a small handful across the bed. Don’t make little barriers around individual plants – the snails will swing over on a leaf, Tarzan-style, and you will spend more money to less effect.

I’ve done a video on it here:

I have a number of homemade contraptions to keep the birds and squirrels off. I drape horticultural netting over hoops or metal garden supports. That seems to work fine. I secure the netting with bricks or stones.

I also have a polytunnel with a netting layer which can be unzipped, and also a wire cloche from Crocus. But once veg gets to full-size it often outgrows its protection.

There are lots more options for deterring pests in the highly readable book Outwitting Squirrels by fellow blogger, Anne Wareham.

Companion planting is growing plants that discourage pests from other plants. There haven’t been any long term scientific studies on which companion plants work, but I have personally noticed fewer aphids on my vegetables when I grow nasturtiums in the veg beds.

Delicious mangetout

I allow nasturtiums to self seed in my veg beds in order to discourage aphids. Although it’s difficult to generalise from one person’s experience, I would say that I have seen significantly fewer aphids on the plants that grow close to the nasturtiums.

4) Keep planting

I usually forget to keep on planting. The veg bed is full to bursting, so it doesn’t seem necessary. But many salads and leaf veg can be planted throughout the summer for a steady crop.

Beetroot is a good grow-your-own or allotment veg

Do a small planting of beetroot every three weeks to keep your harvest going.

At the beginning of July, I can plant radishes, chard, beetroot, komatsuna, summer lettuces, coriander and kale. There are probably loads more, but that’s what’s waiting in my seed pack.

5) Keep watering

Veg, like container plants, need more water than many border plants. They grow so fast, and don’t have deep roots. Also their leaves often cover the soil. That helps stop evaporation but it can stop light rain from being effective.

Komatsuma is more productive than spinach

This komatsuna, or mustard spinach, after rain.

6) Grow unusual grow-your-own veg

This is another tip I learned on the Sarah Raven course. It makes sense. Cut-and-come again leaves, such as salad, chard, perpetual spinach and most herbs will grow again after harvesting. And there are now many unusual varieties of cut-and-come-again veg available. Many are more productive than the veg I usually grow.

This year I have planted mizuna and komatsuna (available as seed here from Chiltern Seeds and Mr Fothergills) instead of carrots. I started to harvest the mizuna over six weeks ago. It works in salads, stir-fries and soups and it grows fast. It really has produced more than any other veg in my patch – ever. I could, perhaps, award it the accolade of my number 1 grow-your-own veg.

grow-your-own veggies in raised beds

The mizuna is the very green leaf on the left as you walk up the path. There is komatsuma, red amaranth , chard and kale sprouts elsewhere.

Mizuna doesn’t seem to get too nibbled (although there is a small white moth-type thing that resembles cigarette ash, which flutters out of it sometimes…)

If you’ve just started veg growing…

You may be interested in this post on eight easy ways to avoid mistakes when growing your own veg.

I’m also often asked for recommendations, so I’ve put together lists of the garden books, products and tools that I use myself on the Middlesized Garden Amazon store.

For example, this is my pick of the best books for learning how to grow-your-own veg. And this is my list of essential garden tools.

Pin to remember top tips for grow-your-own veg

And do join us on the Middlesized Garden blog every Sunday morning. We talk about tips, ideas and inspiration for middle-sized gardens – which could be anything from 25ft long to just under an acre. Follow by email here.

top tips for brilliant grow-your-own veg harvests

3 comments on "6 sure-fire ways to harvest MORE grow-your-own veg now"

  1. John Turner says:

    Thanks for this article, it was a great read and came in really handy this past summer. I took your advice and tended to my vegetables much more which led to a better yield. I came across this site ( https://www.onlinesoil.co.uk ) that also had some useful grow your own tips that helped. Every little helps!

  2. Sue says:

    A timely reminder Alexandra, I am certainly guilty of not feeding my plants regularly. I am also going to dig out those remaining packets of salad seed and keep on sowing. You veg garden looks beautiful.

    1. Thank you! I must admit that the veg patch benefited from a considerable tidy-up as it was Faversham Open Gardens last weekend and we were open. It really is worth being part of a town or village Open Gardens scheme just to have one day in the year when everything has to be tidy…Otherwise I find myself tolerating all sorts of mess.

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