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Garden Backwards: Plan Harvest Then Plant

Community garden flickr cc Stephanie Dillingham.jpg
Stephanie Dillingham
Creative Commons/Flickr
A community garden plot

In horticulture and agriculture it’s important to start at the end. You have to know how a crop will be harvested and what the final product will look like before you start.

In agriculture, a grower has to know how the crop will be harvested. Then the planting scheme can be planned. The grower has to know how a machine or people are going to get the greatest percentage of a crop harvested in the most efficient manner. Then the grower knows the spacing between rows and the spacing in the row.

A landscape plan is the final picture of what a new landscape should look like. That drawing allows everyone involved – the owner, the contractor and the designer – to see the end result. It allows them to communicate and plan how the whole landscape will come together. Without a plan it is hard to know where to start.

This starting at the end concept hit home to me this season. I had the great idea of planting potatoes in a hole and building soil up around them. If I had started at the end I would have planned the harvest first and then planted.

Harvesting potatoes out of a hole is really a pain. It is hard enough to dig them when they are at ground level. Instead of forking them out we have to dig a foot and sometimes 18 inches down to get all of the potatoes. It’s not an efficient or easy way to harvest potatoes.

This season we’ll plant potatoes in a raised bed or cage them above ground. If I grow them up the harvest will be easier.

The basil harvest is another example. Usually we have basil to pick throughout the season. Last year the basil all came on at once.

There were two bushels of basil in the kitchen sink. It was an `oh my’ moment. All of the basil flowing out of the sink had to be de-stemmed. The garlic had to be peeled. And seven hours later we have a winter store of pesto. Usually that seven hour marathon is broken into two or three sessions of a couple hours each.

This year we’ll plan to have the basil harvested a little at a time. And the potatoes above ground.


Tom has been offering garden advice on KUNC for almost two decades. During that time he has been the wholesale sales manager at Ft. Collins Nursery, Inc. Since January of 2005 he has been the owner and operator of Throgmorton Plant Management, LLC., a landscape installation and maintenance company as well as a horticultural consulting firm. He lives in northern Ft. Collins with his wife and two kids.
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