Beautifully innovative garden design. That’s how I would describe my style of gardening. I believe that our gardens should function in a way that allows us to fully live life and provide an abundance of food for the table.
There is a myth running rampant through our nation that gardening is only for those who have plenty of time to garden. I’m here to tell you that couldn’t be more far from the truth. If you have time to run to the grocery store, you have time to garden.
A garden executed in the right way, from the start, will give you the freedom to do all the things you love to do. For example, I go on vacation every summer…. for a week at a time …. three different times. Having the right systems in place puts me at peace while I’m away and leaves me excited to come home and see all the amazing growth that happened while I was away. Delicious food growth not weeds.
The only thing I’ve ever needed to find someone for while I was away is picking produce so it will keep producing well when I return. Let me tell you, it is not hard to find someone. The excitement of amazing garden free produce for free is incentive enough for most people. Let it be known that I do give them a little walk around and teach them how to pick if they haven’t done so before. You wouldn’t want them to pick your underdeveloped pumpkins when they were supposed to pick zucchini.
So what are the systems I put in place to achieve these results?
Well, it’s a mixture of permaculture practices, good timing, allowing nature to do what it does best, and a little bit of common sense. Here’s a handful of quick things to get you going. It’s really not all that innovative but they are things that are often forgotten about.
01 | It all starts on paper.
Planning is key. It’s important to have a garden layout so you know how much you can plant, what you’ll need for other materials, any prep you’ll need to do and where you can plant what.
For example, I can tell you that locally where I am, people plant way too early. Yes, there are some things that can go in a bit sooner, but the bulk of my plants I don’t put in until the very last week in May to the first week in June. Anyone that’s laid eyes on our garden would tell you that it’s one of the healthiest vigorous gardens in the area. Plus, if you plant too early you run the risk of having to replant which is more work and costs more money. With four kids, I don’t have extra of either of those.
You may have land that tends to hold a lot of water when you get heavy rains. Maybe you need to consider building up your garden bed a foot or so. Maybe parts of your garden are in shade more than others. Look for the types of vegetables that thrive in part shade.
02 | Choose varieties that are suited to the conditions in your growing area.
There’s no point in growing a 120 day pumpkin if your growing season is only 90 days, or long day onions if you should be growing short day onions. If you’re hoping to plant some perennials fruits and vegetables you’ll want to make sure you are purchasing plants that are within your growing zone. For instance, I live in Zone 4. I can expect that if I planted a mango tree in my garden, it would die.
03 | Diversity is key.
I plant multiple varieties of peppers, tomatoes, beans, beets, etc. Pretty much everything grown in our garden has a minimum of 3 varieties growing. Why you ask? Each year presents a different and unique set of growing conditions. Some years we’ve had zero rain while other years we live in a rain forest. Sometimes the wind knocks down all my corn. Different varieties do better in different growing conditions. All my varieties produce well but if one type of potato doesn’t like rain and we have a flood, I know I will still have a great crop.
04 | Mulch, mulch, mulch.
Providing cover for the earth helps to stabilize the amount of moisture in your soil. Even in the driest of years, I hardly water our garden. We live in town which means we have city water. I really don’t like using that to water our garden and the garden doesn’t like it much either. I would much rather use rain barrels. Sadly, I don’t have any yet. Mulching keeps the moisture where I want it. It keeps the soil at a better temp and stops the it from splashing up onto my plants during a hard rain. Not to mention if you are using natural materials such as lawn clippings, straw, wood chips you will be building great soil for the future.
Another important benefit to mulching is keeping the soil covered. I do this through natural materials around my plants and black landscaping fabric in my walkways. To say it in as few words as possible, if you don’t cover your soil, mother nature will. And I promise, she won’t cover it with things your hoping to harvest.
05 |Don’t be scared of bugs.
Plant food for pollinators and other beneficial insects. Ever wonder why nature doesn’t need a bunch of pesticides? Here’s the hard truth. Most of your pest issues will work themselves out if you plant things in a way that attract beneficial insects to your garden that will feed on the ones you don’t like so much. Will you loose a few things here and there? Sure, but it only seems fair to share a little of the abundance with the earth that provides to ability for me to grow it.
For instance, I let Coriander (Cilantro) self-seed itself in our garden every year. I leave it in the places I want it and let it flower. It attracts parasitic wasps that lay eggs on those green caterpillars that eat my broccoli. I’ve also watched large wasps consume whole caterpillars in a matter of seconds. I couldn’t get my camera out fast enough to take a picture of it. When I’ve had aphids, pretty soon the Japanese beetles show up to eat them.
I’m telling you, in the home garden, there is a way to grow your food without spraying it full of cancer causing chemicals.
If you still have pest issues, plan on using some form of row cover to keep them from your plants in the first place. They are an inexpensive and healthy way to protect your plants.
06 | Plant something just for beauty.
Nothing brings you back to the garden more than something beautiful to look at and a spot to sit and observe it. Now, get creative and use a little bit of your right brain. Simply by creative planning your garden will be beautiful. I’m here to help with that if you can’t wrap your brain around it. That being said, I truly believe one should grow something just because you find it beautiful. Even if you don’t like to eat it.
I know all this can seem a bit overwhelming. That’s what I’m here for. So get that paper out, everyone has to start somewhere.
So, need a quick recap? I thought so.
01| Grab a piece of paper and make your mistakes on there. No point in planting a garden only to find out that it’s in shade most of the day.
02| Know your growing conditions. Plant accordingly.
03| Diversity is key.
04 | Mulch, mulch, mulch.
05| Bugs are your friends.
06| Plant something beautiful.
Did I mention that you should use mulch?