10 Ways to Boost Yields in Your Vegetable Garden

, written by Benedict Vanheems gb flag

Harvest from a successful garden

Harvesting more from your vegetable garden is a worthy ambition, but just what are the most effective ways to increase productivity? Healthy soil, careful planning, and defending your crops from pests, weeds and weather extremes is the answer, so let’s dig a little deeper.

Here, then, are 10 proven ways to boost productivity this growing season...

1. Nourish Your Soil

Deep, nutrient-rich soils encourage extensive root systems and strong plants. Nourish your soil with plenty of organic matter such as compost, manure, or leaf mold. Compost and leaf mold can be easily made at home for free, so compost everything you can and put a thriving composting setup at the heart of your garden.

The best time to add most organic matter is in winter to give enough time for it to become incorporated into the ground before spring. Then top up with more organic matter during the growing season, laying it 2-5cm (1-2 inches) thick around existing crops. This surface mulch will also help to slow moisture loss and suppress weeds, saving you time watering and weeding.

2. Feed Your Plants

Many plants will benefit from a further boost of organic fertilizer such as liquid seaweed concentrate.

Comfrey is a powerful fertilizer

Alternatively, grow a patch of comfrey (next to your compost bin is ideal) and make your own comfrey tea, a potent brew ideal for hungry plants like tomatoes. You can also simply drape cut comfrey leaves around plants, or add them to the compost heap where they’ll help to speed up decomposition.

3. Grow in Dedicated Beds

Convert to a system of permanent beds and minimize wasted space while concentrating your resources. Beds may be accessed from all sides and plants can be grown in blocks, which maximizes productivity. And because you’ll add organic matter directly to the beds, there’s no wasting it on paths or other unproductive ground.

4. Choose Plants that Thrive

It may seem obvious, but growing what thrives in your soil and climate will result in stronger growth and bigger harvests. For example, warm climates are ideal for growing sweet potatoes and tomatoes. Or in cooler areas, opt for crops like chard and cabbage that can cope with the cold.

Choose varieties that have been bred to thrive in your climate. Early varieties are great for short growing seasons, while heat-tolerant varieties are a must for areas with scorching summer sun.

Choose plants and varieties suited to your location for best results

5. Grow More in the Shade

Increasing productivity means making the most of every space available to you – and that includes shadier areas. They’re great for leafy vegetables such as lettuce or Asian greens, slow growers including leeks and parsnip, and hardy fruits like blackcurrants and gooseberries. You can use our Garden Planner to filter crop choices to show only those suitable for growing in the shade.

6. Collect More Rainwater

Rainwater is the best option for watering vegetables. Rainwater is softer, contains fewer contaminants, and is at a pH that is preferred by most plants, encouraging better growth all round. So if you’re still using treated water to irrigate your crops, now’s the time to install additional water barrels and collect as much rainwater as you can. You can use a connector kit to join multiple barrels together.

Rainwater is best for plants

7. Extend the Growing Season

Get familiar with your first and last frost dates, then plan to push your growing season further using plant protection. Cold frames, row covers and cloches enable sowing and planting to begin up to two weeks sooner, while harvests can continue a few weeks longer at the end of the season.

The Garden Planner demonstrates this beautifully. Add crop protection such as a row cover to your plan. Then bring up the accompanying Plant List, which now displays earlier planting and later harvesting dates for the plants grown under protection.

A permanent structure such as a greenhouse opens up more possibilities, making it easy to enjoy an even earlier start to spring while affording just enough protection for winter-long cropping of, for example, hardy salads.

8. Space Plants Correctly

Plant too close and your crops will fail to grow properly and be prone to disease, but too far apart and you won’t make the most of the space you have. The Garden Planner shows you exactly how many plants may be grown in the area available.

Using the Garden Planner can help you make the most of your space

Excellent soil can help you to push the boundaries by growing vegetables a little closer than recommended. Square Foot Gardening takes this to the extreme, with plants spaced up to five times closer. Select the SFG option in the Garden Planner to design your own square foot beds.

9. Companion Planting

Some plants are mutually beneficial. Grown together they can help to increase overall productivity. Companion planting takes many forms. For example, lofty corn can be used as a support for climbing beans, while lettuce grown in-between rows of carrot or onion helps to smother weeds while these slower growing crops establish. The Garden Planner takes care of companion planting too. Simply highlight a crop then select the Companion Planting option to display suitable partners in the Selection Bar here.

Mixing up flowers with vegetables can help reduce problems with pests

10. Preventative Pest Control

Take a preventative approach to pests to stop them in their tracks. For example, place barriers over susceptible plants to protect them from flying insect pests, or reduce a nuisance slug population by removing hiding places such as upturned pots or long grass in and around growing areas. Then every few weeks, head out when slugs are feeding in the evening to pick off and dispose of them by torchlight.

Make room for flowers in the vegetable garden too. Flowers like alyssum, calendula and poached egg plant don’t take up much space and will improve productivity by attracting predators such as hoverflies and ladybugs to control pests including aphids, mites and mealybugs.

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Garden Planning Apps

If you need help designing your vegetable garden, try our Vegetable Garden Planner.
Garden Planning Apps and Software

Vegetable Garden Pest Warnings

Want to Receive Alerts When Pests are Heading Your Way?

If you've seen any pests or beneficial insects in your garden in the past few days please report them to The Big Bug Hunt and help create a warning system to alert you when bugs are heading your way.

Show Comments


"I had been a successful gardener. Now I am retired and wanted just a couple tomato plants and a cucumber plant in a small area. I did not have success with my two tomato plants. I don't know what I did wrong. My cucumber plant produced but the tomato plants only had a few very small tomatoes. I am trying to figure out what went wrong. I just dug two holes for the two tomato plants. I did not til up the soil. Maybe that was wrong to do. What do you think ?"
Marie Robers on Monday 25 February 2019
"Hi Marie. Tomatoes need fertile soil that's been prepared for them in advance of planting. Digging in plenty of garden compost or other organic materials would certainly help. If the soil is very compacted the roots will be limited somewhat and the plants won't thrive. It's also important, once plants are growing well, to feed them occasionally with a liquid tomato feed. They also need plenty of sunshine. Depending on where you are, an outdoor variety of tomato will perform better in more temperate climates."
Ben Vanheems on Tuesday 26 February 2019
"I really appreciated your information on Comfrey, I have never heard of this, will give it a try this year"
Ron on Friday 25 December 2020
Frengelina on Thursday 26 August 2021
"Hi Frengelina. I would look to grow naturally fast-growing crops if it's speed you are after. Things like courgette/zucchini, salad leaves, beans and beets/beetroot. All very rewarding and quick-growing. Keep plants well watered, make sure they're in the right place, and plant into naturally fertile soil that's been improved with compost or well-rotted manure. A balanced organic fertiliser would also give plants a good boost."
Ben Vanheems on Friday 27 August 2021
"I planted Beetroot plenty of leaves but no beetroot. I'm growing it in a big pot on my balcony with morning ⛅"
Barbara Naylor on Saturday 30 October 2021
"Hi Barbara. They do need enough room - so getting the spacing right is important. Keep the potting mix they are in moist too. Morning sunshine should be good, but you could try moving them so they get more sunshine - perhaps more afternoon sunshine, which tends to be a little stronger."
Ben Vanheems on Thursday 4 November 2021
"This is worthwhile and I was inclined to the same acknowledgment. Thanks for sharing."
Noor on Wednesday 1 December 2021

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