Best Pro Tips for a Bountiful Harvest
You dreamed. You planned.
You tilled soil. You amended.
You planted. You watered.
You Sweated. You Fretted.
You pulled weeds…the endless weeds.
Now you wait for your plants – your babies – to grow up and ultimately tell you if you did a good job raising them (children grow up so fast, don’t they?) at harvest time.
Is there more you can do to help them produce more, and be the best plants they can be? Of course!
Here’s just a few Pro Tips for you to make your vegetable harvests more bountiful, and beautiful. Enjoy!
Pro-Tip #2 – Strategic Fertilizing Plan
About a month ago I wrote an article for you, Top 10 Fertilizing Tips, that has some good information on when to give your plants a good boost of nutrients. During the time when plants are turning flowers into fruits, they are using the most energy, and thus need more fuel to power these fruit miracles. Fertilizer is like a vitamin drink to an athlete – giving vital nutrients that are needed to create the end product. There are many different kinds of fertilizer out there – there’s (arguably) no wrong answer to the question of what to use, as long as you’re following the recommended application directions (or in the case of organics like compost, compost tea, and the like, applying a few times a week and watering in).
Pro-Tip #4 – No Place for Suckers
You’re probably thinking…suckers? Is she just trying to be clever or “hip”? Well, maybe. But suckers are extra branches off the main stem that don’t serve much of a purpose except extra photosynthesis. You might think that more photosynthesis is good, right?
Sure, in some cases. But when your plants reach the flowering and fruiting stage, like the plant shown to the right here, it’s got plenty of energy creation potential with the leaves that it already has. If it didn’t, it wouldn’t be able to produce the flowers and fruit.
The reason these are called “suckers” is because they “suck” energy from fruit production, making the plant focus on new branches AND fruiting. It’s too much. You’ll get more flowers and fruit when you prune these away.
But don’t worry, the trimmings don’t have to go to waste. You can create new plants by rooting these trimmings! You’ll get the same exact species of plant, and a second helping of tomatoes a little later on!
Pro-Tip #1 – Pollination
Pollination of your plants’ flowers is the key to making fruit (which contains the seeds). We mostly rely on local insect pollinator populations to do that work for us, however, in many cases you can help too.
In squash, for example, there are clearly defined male and female flowers. The female flowers are attached to what look like baby zucchini or whatever type you’re growing, sometimes called the “budding fruit” – it’s actually an ovum. The male flowers look like just a regular flower on a stem, with an anther holding a lot of yellow pollen grains. Pollination happens when pollen from the male stamen is physically taken from the male and lands on the female flower’s pistil structure.
Since in the case of squash these flowers are in different locations, maybe even on different plants, the female is really lucky to get pollinated at all! It’s the miracle of life, we’re all born of luck, right?
The good news is, you can help increase the odds of successful pollination! Use a small artist paintbrush to collect some pollen from the male, then paint it on the female pistil. Voila! You’ve made a squash baby! You can actively look for female flowers each morning and find a male flower to “rob” for the purpose of creating fruit.
Be careful not to cross-pollinate – yellow squash and zucchini will pollinate each other’s females, and you’ll get some weird fruit – and the seeds from those are usually sterile, and/or not true to their parents. It happens by accident sometimes and that’s ok. Also, this pollination technique works for other plants, like cucumbers, tomatoes and more.
Pro-Tip #3 – Pick Often to Produce More
Believe it or not, some plants will produce a lot more seeds/fruit when you harvest the ones it’s already growing. Green beans, for instance, whether the bush or the pole variety, will push out more flowers after a harvest and set more seed pods when you harvest the ones that it’s already working on.
You see, it’s all about the biological processes of survival. If a plant “thinks” that it doesn’t have any seeds to drop and procreate itself, it will immediately put on more flowers and create more seed pods. If you take those pods away, it will start over, and over, and over, until it’s exhausted. This is how beans give us such bountiful harvests time and again. Tomatoes also do this to a certain extent, as do peppers, cucumbers, and many more flowering fruit plants. Try it and keep score!
I hope you enjoyed these tips for getting more yield from the garden. I’m sure there are many more things we could talk about, but these are the ones on my mind right now.
Do you have your own great advice for getting better yields? Share with the community.
I look forward to hearing from you.
In the meantime – enjoy the bounty that we can grow with our own two hands and a fair amount of sweat equity. Eat well and be well in the garden!
Marissa – Writer for Shell's Feed & Garden Supply
I'm an over-educated, passionate, gardening and pet enthusiast, and I have found the perfect job! My writing is based on my studies in Biology and Health, and my experiences from gardening with my family as a child.
The great thing about gardening is that it is a life-long learning process. The many blunders and successes of my own gardening projects over the years have been invaluable to me. The late, great, J.C. Raulston once said, "If you're not killing plants, you're not stretching yourself as a gardener." Learn by doing, gain knowledge from the failures, but more importantly, relish the successes, (because they're delicious!) Thanks for reading!
Special thank you to Abby's Farms, where the photo on the left was taken. Shell's Feed & Garden Supply sponsors the chickens and chicken coops there. Visit their website here.