Back To Basics Gardening

In the spirit of the New Year I am waxing reflective today. I recently was asked to join the inspiring Team at Groovy Green, and posted some of my “Green” resolutions there, but wanted to spend some more time on them here.

Last year was a fantastic year for us in our gardens. Our initial Rain Garden came on in full bloom, attracting both butterflies and hummingbirds to its blooms while providing drinking water for robins and doves between rains. In the drier times, the bountiful sedge seeds provided food for a family of voles. We installed a second, much larger rain garden, installed a small 600sq ft prairie, and built another 200 sq ft bed of native perennials. Our raspberries gave us their first fruit, and the strawberries peaked at 2 quarts/day during June.

However, spending so much time installing new gardens, left little time to manage the less established annual gardens-in many areas the weeds won. Also, in a spectacular way I made a common rookie mistake by planting my veggies way to tightly, completely smothering several crops. So this year I am vowing to get back to basics ad hopefully accomplish more with less.

  1. Plant less cultivars Last year I had 6 kinds of tomatoes for Pete’s sake! This year I want to practice some seed saving to start fine tuning the genetics of my site. In open pollinated crops like Tomatoes that means I either need to go to extreme measures to isolate the crops, of only plant one kind. We were extremely impressed with Amish Paste last year. Good enough for salads, and great for sauce. Up close to the house will get some Yellow Pears for the kids.
  2. Deep Mulch I am not going to give up my compost bins-they serve too many other purposes for me as I take waste from some local businesses, but the veggie gardens are getting a 6-8″ layer of mulch as an ally vs the weeds. Also the soil in my beds still needs massive work (I started with subsoil backfill) and the organic matter will be a huge asset. We had 6″ of mulch on our flower gardens with virtually no weed issues, why I didn’t so this in my veggie patch is beyond me!
  3. Sheet Mulch I intend to start at least 2 Fruit Tree Guilds this year, and have vowed to leave the sod lie as much as I can. Chunks will come up to plant the trees and some core perennials like Indigo and Comfrey, but the rest will wait a year as the sod turns into humus under a thick blanket of cardboard, coffee grounds, and straw.
  4. Seed Beds/Seed Saving As Someday Gardens ramps up, I will have need for (hopefully) hundreds of transplants. So I am dedicating at least 2 beds for perennial starts to keep my over head low. I can start dozens of plants for a few bucks vs $4 each at the nursery. In many cases I have already saved seed from our native plants, and split others, like the Comfrey to keep it as local as possible. It also seems that everywhere I turn, I am coming across more reasons to save my own vegetable seeds to strengthen my plants.
  5. Successional Planting Last year I planted several varieties of each vegetable to spread the harvest out. I may still do that in some cases (i.e. spring & fall spinach), but in other cases such as lettuce, corn, and carrots I plan on sowing smaller amounts over a period of weeks to achieve the same results.

Non of this is groundbreaking, but learning from experience and nature is what this is all about. Hopefully losing some diversity in my vegetable garden will help make it more manageable in the long term allowing me to increase diversity in my perennial food beds.

The over all thinking is to do less-but to do it well, before doing too much and failing or falling behind which is discouraging.

Happy New Year!

3 Responses

  1. Great to see you have joined groovygreen! I like your resolutions. I hope to learn from you.

    Oh, I didn’t take 94 back to MN… It wasn’t me honking. Next time I travel through I will! (smile)

  2. I liked your resolutions. They are inspiring. I especially liked the fact they are specific. Wishing you the best.

  3. Welcome to Groovy! You have great content here, a lot to soak up.

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