Gardening with Melinda: Grow a High Yield Vegetable Garden This Season

Image by Gardener’s Supply Company he High Yield Vegetable Garden Plan enables gardeners to grow more than 50 pounds of produce in only 18 square feet of space.

Image by Gardener’s Supply Company
he High Yield Vegetable Garden Plan enables gardeners to grow more than 50 pounds of produce in only 18 square feet of space.

By Melinda Myers

Spend less time and money while growing a bounty of flavorful vegetables this growing season. Increase your harvest, even in small garden spaces, with proper planning and easy care, high yielding vegetables.

A productive garden starts with a plan, but choosing the best vegetables to grow and where to plant them can be overwhelming.

You can break out the graph paper and pencils to design your garden or turn to technology for help. Many websites and apps provide ready-to-use garden plans or planning guidelines. Gardener’s Supply (gardeners.com) offers free pre-planned gardens that do the planning for you.  Reduce maintenance by growing easy care vegetables featured in the Plant-it & Forget-it garden. Or grow more than 50 pounds of produce in just 18 square feet of space with the High Yield Vegetable Garden Plan and High Yield Vegetable Seeds.

These and other intensively planted gardens require proper soil preparation to maximize productivity. Invest time up front to reduce ongoing maintenance and increase your harvest.  Dig several inches of compost or other organic matter into the top 8 to 12 inches of the soil. This improves drainage in heavy soil and increases the water holding ability in fast draining soils. Incorporate a slow release organic fertilizer at the same time. This provides needed nutrients throughout the growing season. Check the label and your plants to determine if a mid-season application is needed.

Maximize your planting budget by starting your plants from seeds.  Many gardeners like to start long season plants like tomatoes and broccoli from seeds indoors. This keeps their green thumb warmed up for the season and provides the greatest selection of vegetable varieties.  Others buy these plants from their local garden center. Start seeds of shorter season crops like greens, radishes, and squash directly in the garden when the growing season begins. Check the seed packet for specific directions on when and how to plant these seeds indoors and out.

When shopping for seeds, select varieties suited to your climate and known for their disease resistance and high yield. Most vegetables produce best when grown in full sun. Greens and root crops are a bit more shade tolerant.

Once planted, cover the soil surrounding the seeded rows and transplants with a thin layer of shredded leaves, herbicide-free grass clippings or evergreen needles. This mulch helps conserve moisture and suppress weeds. Plus, it improves the soil as it breaks down. You’ll save time and improve your plants’ health and productivity with this one task.

After it’s planted and mulched, you’ll spend minimal time maintaining your garden.  But be sure to plan a bit of time to enjoy the big, flavorful harvest your high yield garden is sure to provide.

Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything: Food Gardening For Everyone” DVD set and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio segments. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and was commissioned by Gardener’s Supply Company for her expertise to write this article. Myers’ web site is www.melindamyers.com.

Leftover snow photo 4: just another junco

Photo by Chris Bosak  A Dark-eyed Junco perches on an evergreen during a snowstorm in Feb. 2017 in Danbury, Conn.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Dark-eyed Junco perches on an evergreen during a snowstorm in Feb. 2017 in Danbury, Conn.

Tomorrow we’ll think warmer thoughts on this site (stay tuned) but for now here’s another photo from that snowstorm last week. Remember, juncos were the most prolific bird in my yard that day, so naturally I have plenty of junco photos.

Leftover snow photo 2: Titmouse eyes a peanut

Photo by Chris Bosak  A tufted titmouse contemplates grabbing a peanut from a deck railing following a snowstorm in Danbury, Conn., Feb. 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A tufted titmouse contemplates grabbing a peanut from a deck railing following a snowstorm in Danbury, Conn., Feb. 2017.

Here’s another leftover snow shot from last week’s storm. Titmice were the second-most reliable sighting in the backyard during and after the storm(s). Junco was the best most reliable with dozens in the backyard at any given time.

A few leftover snow photo: Black-capped Chickadee

Photo by Chris Bosak A black-capped chickadee checks out a feeder during a snowstorm in Feb. 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A black-capped chickadee checks out a feeder during a snowstorm in Feb. 2017.

Snowstorms are great for backyard birdwatchers. The snow adds an interesting element to an already fascinating subject. Here, and a few more in the days to come, are some more shots I got over the snowy weekend.

Another New England woodpecker in the snow; keep sending me your photos!

https://birdsofnewengland.files.wordpress.com/2017/02/rdwood1c.jpg

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Red-bellied Woodpecker eyes a peanut a few days following a snowstorm in Danbury, Conn., February, 2017.

Yesterday I posted photos hairy and downy woodpeckers. Today it’s the red-bellied woodpecker’s turn. They love peanuts at my house (as you can tell from the amount of photos I post of them grabbing peanuts off my deck railing.)

Not too long ago, the red-bellied woodpecker wasn’t a New England woodpecker. The species is gradually expanding its range northward and is now very common in southern New England and becoming more and more common in the middle of New England.

Now that’s it’s snowing again (it’s the morning of Sunday, Feb. 12 as I write) feel free to keep sending me your snow bird photos. I got some great shots on Thursday from readers, how about some more? To see the Thursday entries, click here.

The difference between Hairy Woodpecker and Downy Woodpecker, snow style

I’ve done similar posts before comparing the larger Hairy Woodpecker with the smaller Downy Woodpecker. But I’ll repeat the lesson as I captured them both on a homemade birdfeeder during Thursday’s snowstorm.

The hairy is larger overall, but with a reference it’s tough to tell strictly by size. To really determine the species, check out the bill. The hairy has a much more substantial bill. Females of each species are shown.

Photo by Chris Bosak A hairy woodpecker eats bark butter out of a homemade feeder in Danbury, Conn., Feb. 9, 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A hairy woodpecker eats bark butter out of a homemade feeder in Danbury, Conn., Feb. 9, 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak A downy woodpecker eats bark butter out of a homemade feeder in Danbury, Conn., Feb. 9, 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A downy woodpecker eats bark butter out of a homemade feeder in Danbury, Conn., Feb. 9, 2017.

Birds in the snow photos; send me yours

Photo by Chris Bosak A junco seeks shelter in an old Christmas tree during the winter storm of Feb. 9, 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A junco seeks shelter in an old Christmas tree during the winter storm of Feb. 9, 2017.

As kids we had snowball fights and played football in the snow. As adults we take photos of birds as our way of playing in the snow. Well, some of us anyway. Some of us still play the old-fashioned way, too.

So here are a few of my shots from today’s storm and a few photos from readers. Send in your shots for inclusion on this post, too! Send them to bozclark@earthlink.net

I’ll update this post throughout the day.

Thanks and have fun out there.

Welcomed visitor

Anna Fay of Marlow, N.H., captured this photo of a barred owl during the storm.

Anna Fay of Marlow, N.H., captured this photo of a barred owl during the storm.

Goldfinches and a nuthatch

Jason Farrow of Norwalk, Conn., captured this beautiful shot of a White-breasted Nuthatch.

Jason Farrow of Norwalk, Conn., captured this beautiful shot of a White-breasted Nuthatch.

Jason Farrow of Norwalk, Conn., captured this great shot of American goldfinches and a house finch.

Jason Farrow of Norwalk, Conn., captured this great shot of American goldfinches and a house finch.

Cardinal in snow, can’t go wrong

Ernest Franklin got this wonderful photo of a male cardinal during the snowstorm of Feb 9, 2017, in New Englnad.

Ernest Franklin of Winchester, N.H., got this wonderful photo of a male cardinal during the snowstorm of Feb 9, 2017, in New England.

Goldfinches galore

Jo Belasco of Colrain, Mass., got this great shot of American Goldfinches during the Feb. 9, 2017, snowstorm.

Jo Belasco of Colrain, Mass., got this great shot of American Goldfinches during the Feb. 9, 2017, snowstorm.

Another nice cardinal

Jo Belasco of Colrain, Mass., got this shot of a northern cardinal during the Feb. 9, 2017, snowstorm.

Jo Belasco of Colrain, Mass., got this shot of a northern cardinal during the Feb. 9, 2017, snowstorm.

Talk about variety!

Alicia Primer of Weston, Mass., got a nice variety of birds in this photo. How many can you pick out?

Alicia Primer of Weston, Mass., got a nice variety of birds in this photo. How many can you pick out?

Bluebirds in the snow, so cool!

Jeanne Ludlow sent in these great photos, taken with her iPhone, of Eastern Bluebirds.

Jeanne Ludlow of Warrington, Penn., sent in these great photos, taken with her iPhone, of Eastern Bluebirds.

Jeanne Ludlow sent in these great photos, taken with her iPhone, of Eastern Bluebirds.

Jeanne Ludlow of Warrington, Penn., sent in these great photos, taken with her iPhone, of Eastern Bluebirds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get ready for the storm! Send me your photos

Photo by Chris Bosak A Dark-eyed Junco eats a sunflower seedsthe day following a snow storm in New England, Jan. 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Dark-eyed Junco eats a sunflower seedsthe day following a snow storm in New England, Jan. 2016.

A snow storm is coming to New England. It makes for one of my favorite times to photograph birds in the backyard and beyond.

If you haven’t already, fill your feeders. You don’t want to wake up to several inches of snow and realize your feeders aren’t filled. Do it now, even in the dark. I just got done with mine. Sunflower seeds, suet cakes, bark butter and peanut nuggets. I also filled a sizable Tupperware container with seeds and brought it inside. That way I can toss some seeds out the window tomorrow at various times as the snow comes down. Many birds will eat seeds off the ground during these storms.

Please send me any photos you get tomorrow (Thursday) during the storm. I’ll post them on this site. It’s not a photo competition; just for fun. Send them to bozclark@earthlink.net.

Thanks and enjoy the storm.

 

Latest For the Birds column: Little birds make up “The Big Three”

Here is the latest For the Birds column, which runs weekly in several New England newspapers.

A White-breasted Nuthatch perches near a birdfeeding station in Danbury, Conn., Oct. 2016.

A White-breasted Nuthatch perches near a birdfeeding station in Danbury, Conn., Oct. 2016.

I call them the Big Three.

In order to make it easier to keep track of the number of bird species I see in my backyard, I lump together black-capped chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches and tufted titmice. They count, of course, as three different species, but it’s just easier to group them.

On any given day I can count on seeing those three birds. Cardinals, downy woodpeckers, juncos, white-throated sparrows and mourning doves are nearly as reliable in the winter, but The Big Three just seem to logically belong together.

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