High yield vegetables: The way to get bigger harvests!

garden harvest of vegetables

Do you wish you got more food from your garden? I don’t blame you.

Gardening is joyful work, but it’s work nevertheless.

It’s nice to feel that the hours and sweat you’re pouring into your garden are being rewarded with large, colorful and delicious harvests.

Getting more food from your garden is an attainable goal for sure. You just need to understand some of the different characteristics of the vegetables you grow, such as – which vegetables are high yield crops?

A few years ago my sister called me from Philadelphia, where she was learning how to garden, and asked me, “When you plant one onion how many onions do you get?”

Wow! This one question from a newbie gardener completely re-framed how I look at my garden. (My sister’s always good like that!)

woman harvesting onions

I had never quite thought about each vegetable in this way. When you start to examine the garden in this light there are clearly things that are more “worth it” to grow than others.

When you plant a tomato you obviously get a lot of bang for your buck. You plant one seedling, wait three months, and then get to harvest pounds and pounds of tomatoes. That’s a pretty good investment for a $3 seedling.

Definitely a high-yield crop.

On the other hand, when you plant a cabbage seedling you wait 70 days and then harvest one cabbage. That’s it, no more, it’s over. If you want to get anything more out of that space you’ll have to rip out the remaining cabbage carcass and plant something else.

Not really a high-yield crop.

Hmmm, which one sounds like a better investment to you?

Well, from an objective standpoint, we’d both probably agree that a tomato plant will definitely provide you with more food per plant.

But, there are other factors besides just yield.

Whether you think tomatoes are a better choice than cabbage might depend on how much you love cabbage and hate tomatoes. Maybe you eat sauerkraut every day for lunch so you can’t wait to fill your garden with rows and rows of cabbage.

The answer to the question, “Is it worth it to grow?” all depends on your unique perspective.

That’s why it’s important to know a bit more about the harvest categories of vegetable, including which vegetables are high yield and which are low yield, so you can make a strategic decision based on YOUR cooking, grocery shopping and eating habits and what the people in your house like to eat.

Here’s what you need to know!

Woman harvesting beets

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The Three Harvest Categories You Need to Know

The different vegetables you’ll plant in your garden produce widely different amounts of food. Ever hear of National Sneak a Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day?

Yep, it’s a thing!

And it gives you a clue about how much food a zucchini plant might produce. The answer is a lot! It’s definitely known as a high yield crop. Woo-wee!

That’s why it’s important to understand how much food you’ll get from each plant throughout the season when deciding whether you want to grow it in your garden.

Sure, zucchini might be a high yielding vegetable, but if you don’t really like zucchini that fact doesn’t really matter to you. Instead, you might skip planting it in your garden and replace it with something more to your liking.

The following categories focus on how much food you’ll harvest from each vegetable plant. This is one of the factors you should consider when deciding what to grow in your garden. I’ll talk about the other factors later in this article.

broccoli in garden

PLANT ONE – Harvest One (Low Yield Crops)

In this category are vegetables that produce one thing to harvest for each seed or seedling you plant. When the seed or seedling matures, you’ll harvest the whole thing and it won’t re-grow.

Let’s go back to my sister’s question. How many onions do you get when you plant an onion? The answer is one. One onion seedling equals one onion.

Broccoli is another example. When you plant one broccoli plant it will produce one large head of broccoli after about 65 days. You’ll harvest that head and it won’t grow another one. It may continue to put out little baby broccolis (called side shoots), but you’ll never get another big one on the same plant.

These vegetables produce one vegetable for each seed or seedling you plant in the garden:
beets, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, fennel, garlic, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce (head), onions, parsnips, radishes, scallions, shallots, turnips

So what does this mean for your garden planning?

Think about each vegetable in this category and decide whether you want to devote the space and time to it. Often, but not always, these vegetables ripen all at once, so you’ll need to deal with the whole crop in a short window of time. If you plant 12 broccoli plants of the same variety on the same day in April, they’ll all be ready for harvest at about the same time.

But a bonus for vegetables that get harvested all at once is that you often have time to plant something else in their place. I usually plant my fall carrots and beets in the space from which I harvest my onions in July.

Some of these vegetables are great candidates for succession planting. You can replant them several times throughout the season for a continued harvest.

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Cilantro harvest on tablecloth

PLANT ONE – Harvest for a Short Time (Mid-Yield Crops)

The vegetables in this category all provide a few harvests and then they stop producing for different reasons (heat,
time of the season, end of plant life).

If you’ve ever grown cilantro in your garden, you’ve probably noticed that once it grows to harvest size you’ll get the chance to go out on a few different occasions and harvest some cilantro for dinner. But eventually the plants start flowering and then go to seed, and you can’t harvest from them anymore.

This is a perfect illustration of how the vegetables in this category work.

Bush beans are another example. When you plant a row of seeds, each one will grow into a plant. And each plant produces more than one bean. Once they’re ready for harvest, you can go back to the plants every few days to pick a bowl for supper.

But after a few weeks, the beans will slow down and eventually stop producing because they’re at the end of their
natural life cycle. You’ll need to plant a new row if you want green beans again that season.

Unlike the last category where each vegetable produced one item per seed or seedling, vegetables in this category do produce more than one vegetable per seed, but the harvest doesn’t go on indefinitely.

These vegetables produce more than one veggie for each seed or seedling you plant, but only for a finite amount of time: arugula, asparagus, bush beans, brussels sprouts, cilantro, corn, dill, edamame, melons, peas, potatoes, pumpkins, raspberries, rhubarb, salad mix, spinach, strawberries, sweet potatoes, winter squash

What does this mean for garden planning?  

If you want a continued supply of your favorites from this category, some of them can be planted multiple times throughout the season (succession planting).

Keep in mind that many of the plants will remain in their garden spaces for much of the season, even though they may only produce for a limited amount of time. For example, winter squash takes over 110 days to produce fruit.

Because you often have only a short time to deal with the harvest, be careful of how much you plant if you don’t think you’ll be able to eat it all or preserve it when it’s ready. (I’m looking at you, bush beans!)

woman harvesting spinach in the garden

PLANT ONE – Harvest for a Long Time (High Yield Crops)

These plants are a great bang for their buck! Once they get to harvest stage, they’ll produce food for many weeks or months as they continue to grow new leaves and fruit throughout the season.

For example, a basil seedling planted in early summer will produce for many months. The leaves and plant will continue to grow, so you’ll be able to go back to the same plant for many dinner harvests. Basil will often keep producing right up until your first frost in fall.

Kale is another great example. After you plant a kale seedling you’ll be harvesting from the plant for the rest of the season, even weeks after your first frost!

These vegetables produce food for many weeks or months of the season once they get to harvest size: basil, celery, fall cilantro, collards, cucumbers, eggplant, kale, mint, okra, parsley, peppers, pole beans, fall/winter spinach, summer squash, swiss chard, tomatillos, tomatoes, perennial herbs like sage, oregano, thyme, mint, etc.

What does this mean for garden planning?  

You could choose to plant more of these vegetables because they produce a continued supply of food in your garden. You’ll also have an extended period of time to deal with the harvest since it doesn’t come all at once.

Remember that they’ll remain in place for most of the garden season, so you won’t be able to plant anything else in that space.

Also, make sure you really like to eat these vegetables or you might get sick of them after a while! I pulled out my okra plants one year even though they were still producing because I just couldn’t eat them anymore.

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seed catalogs spread out for garden planning

Time to Dig In

Take a look at all of the vegetables you’re thinking about growing this season and note which category they fall into. Knowing whether they’re low, mid- or high yield crops will help you evaluate whether you think they’re worth it to grow in your garden this season.

If you haven’t yet decided what you’re growing, check out this post where I walk you through the steps you should take to start to choose which vegetables to grow: So Many Choices! How to Decide What to Grow in Your Garden.

The point of this part of the planning process is for you to pick the vegetables that are perfect for your own eating and cooking preferences.

If it doesn’t seem worth it to you to grow onions, give yourself permission to leave them off your garden plan this season. Buy them from the farmers’ market instead!

Armed with this knowledge of which vegetables are high yield crops, you’ll now be able to make more strategic decisions in your garden and evaluate which vegetables are “worth it” to grow.

There are three other categories of vegetable characteristics I cover in my book, Smart Start Garden Planner:

And then I help you bring all of the categories together to help you strategically decide what to grow in your garden this season. Grab your copy here and then check out the other garden planning resources below.

garden planning book and seeds

Next Steps for Planning Your Garden

Your garden dreams really can come true . . . you just have to plan for them! If you’d like some guidance in creating a smart and simple plan for a successful season in your garden, here’s how I’d love to help.

gardening planning book

 

BOOK: Smart Start Garden Planner: Your Step-by-Step Guide to a Successful Season. In this book, I help you delve deeper into the different characteristics of all of the vegetables. I even created a Veggie Essentials Cheat Sheet table with each vegetable and everything you need to know about it including in which season it will produce a harvest, how many day it takes to grow to harvest size, and recommended varieties.

Check it out here.

 

 

MASTERCLASS: Smart Garden Planning for Spring. Grow more vegetables than ever in your garden this season!

The most successful gardeners take some time before the garden season begins to devise a simple and smart plan for the year.  A smart garden plan lays the groundwork for a beautiful garden that yields lots of food for the least amount of time and money invested.

Smart Garden Planning for Spring is a fresh and simple approach to planning your garden. This video series keeps planning practical, down-to-earth, and fun!

Join the Masterclass now.

BLOG ARTICLES: Find all of my Garden Planning articles here.

 

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