How to Harvest 3 Crops a Year From Small Garden Beds
Think you can't grow a lot of food in your small garden? Guess again! It's possible to grow up to 3 crops in one year in your garden beds. Here are four sample garden layouts, starting with the easiest:
If you'd like to grow mostly small salad greens, you can grow three crops a year by using a simple, 8-week rotation shown at the beginning of this article:
If you'd like to add a few more types of salad vegetables, including carrots, miniature cabbages, tomatoes, and snap peas, you can grow 2-3 crops a year with the garden plans/layouts shown in this article:
Start your first crops under a cold frame or row cover, about 6 weeks before your last spring frost. Choose cold-hardy salad greens that you can harvest young, at around 45 days old. These will be planted at the base of two trellises, on both the north and south sides of the garden bed.
In the middle of the bed, you can plant cool-season crops that will mature in about 10 weeks. This can include carrots, beets, kohlrabi, miniature cabbages, and more.
You will start planting your second crops from mid-May to mid-June. Replace your salad greens with large vining crops on your trellises, such as tomatoes, squashes, pole beans, melons, etc. The vegetables in the middle of the bed take a little longer to mature, but should be ready to harvest by mid-June.
Replant that area with fast-growing, heat-tolerant salad greens – for two reasons:
1) the large trellised vegetables will grow massive root systems that will fill up the bed by mid-summer (smaller plants don't compete well with them, so you want to finish harvesting the middle of the bed before the trellised plants get too large), and
2) the greens can tolerate (and even appreciate) the partial shading produced by your larger crops as they start to grow up the trellises.
Near the end of the season, as the trellised crops are harvested, you can replace them with more cold-hardy, fast-growing salad greens. Extend your growing season by protecting these plants with row cover or a cold frame as the weather gets colder. Many of these greens can be harvested throughout most or all of the winter.
This garden plan starts with fast-growing, cold-hardy salad greens (S) interplanted between an early variety of broccoli (B) in 2/3's of the bed. The north 1/3 of the bed is all salad greens.
As you finish harvesting the salad greens, the broccoli continues to fill their section of the bed, and you can plant vining plants, such as tomatoes, on your north trellis around mid-May (after frost). When you finish harvesting your broccoli in mid-June, you can plant extra-early melons on your south trellis, and fast-growing, heat-tolerant salad greens in the middle of the bed.
Your third crop for this layout would be the same as the third crop in Layout Three. If you haven't finished harvesting your tomatoes on the north trellis by mid-September, you can just plant your cold-hardy greens in the rest of the bed – though they may not grow as well, since they will be competing with the large root system of your still-living, large tomato plants on the north trellis.
I created these four plans/layouts for a frost-free season from about mid-May to mid-October. You will have to adjust the plans to your own gardening season. If your season is much shorter, you might only be able to grow 2 crops a year. If you have mild winters, but scorching hot summers, your three crops might instead run from early fall, through winter, into early summer.
So, there you are! Four different examples on how you can grow 3 crops in one year in small garden beds. With a bit of practice, you'll be able to feast year-round from your backyard!