6 Tips for Planning Your Crops for the Garden and Homestead

Reader Contribution by Kacey Bradley
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Every homesteader wants to make the most of their land. One way to do this is to grow a garden full of practical fruits and vegetables, food items you can use to replace trips to the grocery store. If you’re new to growing, you may be unsure where to start. Follow the guide below for helpful tips on how to plan and plant crops on your homestead.

1. Find the Right Location

The right location for your crops is essential. You want a sunny spot, as most plants require at least six hours of direct sunlight each day to grow and thrive. The more sun your plants receive, the bigger they’ll get and the better they’ll taste. Find a place that isn’t prone to flooding during rainstorms, as excess water can kill plants. But you also want a location with some water, as dry soil can also damage plants.

2. Understand the Seasons

You won’t plant all fruits and vegetables in spring and harvest them in fall. Get the most from your garden by planting at the right time.

  • Spring: Plant lettuce, arugula, carrots, beets, broccoli, cauliflower and tomatoes.
  • Summer: Plant spinach, radishes, onions, cucumbers, eggplants, peppers and okra.
  • Autumn: Plant Brussels sprouts, rutabaga, Swiss chard, kohlrabi, collards, snow peas and garlic.
  • Winter: Plant asparagus, shallots, beans, peas, potatoes, scallions and mache.

Keep in mind the growth of seasonal fruits and veggies will vary based on different regions in the U.S. Fruit that’s ripe in the South during spring may be different than what’s ripe in the Northeast.

3. Think About Spacing

Certain crops, like corn and sunflowers, will need a lot of space to grow. They can quickly overshadow smaller plants and cut off access to sunlight and essential nutrients. When deciding what to plant in your garden, separate plants into size groups, with the largest at one end and the smallest at the other. Be sure to research how far apart to plant individual seeds to avoid overcrowding.

4. Use High-Quality Soil

Gardening experts will tell you soil is everything to successful crop production. Fruits, vegetables and other plants all have specific nutrient requirements. Test a sample of your soil to get an idea of fertility and pH levels. This test will reveal which nutrient areas are inadequate, and also offer suggestions for which types of fertilizers and nutrients you can add to aid plant growth. You can also test for potentially harmful elements in your soil such as arsenic and lead.

5. Plant in Triangles

Traditional farming means planting your seeds in long, straight rows. But experts suggest you can fit more plants into a small space by planting in a triangle pattern instead. When planning your garden, consider spacing carefully, as some plants will need more room to grow than others. The best fruits and vegetables for tight spaces include lettuce, avocados, lemons, pineapples and kumquats. Overly tight spaces will stress plants, making them more susceptible to disease, prone to insect attack and less likely to produce fruit.

6. Stretch the Yield

The growing season is always variable, with the first snap of cold ready to pounce at any time. But you can extend the season for a few weeks by covering plants with mulches, clothes or row covers. You can even cover heat-loving crops like melons and peppers with blankets. If the temperature warms, remove the covers to allow for direct sunlight and airflow.

Planting Crops on Your Homestead

Whether you’re a first-timer or a homesteading pro, there are plenty of tricks you can try to get the most out of your garden. It all starts with choosing the right location and ensuring your soil is top-quality. You also need to carefully plan out how to place seeds, ensuring each plant has enough room to grow. At the end of the season, as the cold weather looms near, you can cover your crops with mulch and blankets to hold in heat and harvest for a few more weeks.

Remember, running a homesteading is a learning process. When something doesn’t go right, take away a lesson on how to improve next year. Not all your growing ventures will be a success. Take each setback in stride, and instead focus on the fresh fruits and veggies you were able to grow right in your own yard.

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