The garden can teach us a lot if we are willing to follow its lead, and with just a little extra attention, there are many things we can do to help said garden take us right into abundance. With just a few shrewd gardening moves we can save ourselves lots of time, energy, and frustration, so these are practices worth not forgetting.
We are currently in an uprising of homegrown veggies and organic practices, and with them comes a reminder of just why we fell into the traps of large-scale chemical agriculture: weeding, pests feeding on our veggies instead of us, incessant watering, and massive harvests coming in all at once.
That said, none of these things need to be a problem, and in fact, with a few simple tricks of the trade, life in the garden can remain easy-breezy, and great harvests can be a fraction of the cost and environmentally invigorating rather than destructive. Now, here’s a few gardening practices that make a monumental difference.
Perhaps the number one mistake many beginning (and well-practiced but modern) gardeners make is to skip out on the mulch. All that tilled up soil just looks so beautiful and rich it’s hard not to display it, but it’s important to resist that inclination. Instead, it’s good form to cover the soil with mulch.
The reasons to mulch are many. Mulching helps the soil stay moist by preventing evaporation and the organic material absorbing water when it’s there. It protects valuable soil life, including predatory insects, worms, and microorganism that keep the growing space natural tilled, fertilized, and balanced. It stops the topsoil from eroding during rain storms or windy days, and in fact, adds nutrient-rich humus to the top soil as the organic material breaks down.
Frequently noted as one of the greenest things we can do, composting is a gardener’s must. The bulk of a good gardener’s labor is spent producing soil, as opposed to fruit and veg. If the soil is high quality, the plants will take care of themselves, and healthy plants are much more resistant to pest and disease problems.
The other great thing is that composting is free. It just requires a little space and the realization that much of what we toss in the garbage could be tossed into the compost bin. From one of them, we get a natural, rich soil builder, from the other we get overstuffed landfills that bleed into our oceans and beautiful landscapes. What a choice!
Wise gardeners recognize that plants work best when they work together. The massive monocultures that we grow these days have created huge deserts and crops completely dependent on outside sources to survive. However, when we create bio-diverse gardens, with plants performing functions for one another, magic happens.
Companion planting, or creating multifaceted plant guilds, helps the garden grow. It ensures that the soil doesn’t become depleted of any one particular nutrient. It helps prevent pest problems. It provides natural fertilization to enrich our crop production. It keeps our dinners well-balanced and exciting, full of different flavors.
For beginning gardeners especially, it’s very easy to get excited about a new project and get ahead of ourselves. Gardening is a labor of love, and for those who continue to do it, it’s something they love laboring over. For a steady and usable harvest, timing is everything, so it is important to take a moment and be aware of when things are going to be planted.
Timing has some crucial considerations. Firstly, when we plant all our seeds for something all at once, that means we are more or less going to get all of the fruit from those plants at once. That’s why it’s best to plant a few seeds every couple of weeks, to elongate the season. Secondly, when companion planting, it helps to note the time it takes for different crops to grow. For example, radishes and many veggies work well together, and the reason is because the radishes are grown and harvested by the time the other veggies are big enough to need more space.
Often, despite our best intentions, the big mistake we make with gardens is poor design choices. We put them in the back corner of the yard, where they are forgotten, not particularly beautiful, and not fun to be in. A good design has food popping up right beside the patio where you are relaxing, salad greens ready to be picked just beside the sidewalk as you get home from work. It’s a good idea to garden in spots that are convenient rather than easily ignored.
Also, gardens, even food gardens, can be beautiful additions to the landscape. For some reason, we’ve decided that things need to be planted in straight rows with no particular care towards aesthetics. Forget that. Design food gardens as you would ornamental gardens. Mix plants, mix sizes, mix colors, and put them all into attractive beds rather the rigid rows. Plants love to grow this way.
Put these simple techniques into food production, stick with it, and the results will delight. The soil will be constantly enriched rather than depleted, creating health pest resistant plants that require little special attention. You’ll harvest much more regularly because the crops will be constantly ripening and right at your feet without having to go out of the way. That’s why these are practices we shouldn’t ignore.