Gardening. One word that has been the focus of much research and experimentation since about 10,000 years ago when humans first discovered the benefits of keeping plants close to home. The history and current practices of gardening are very interesting, kind of like reading a mystery novel, sometimes you just don’t know what is going to happen. Anyway, I plan to focus on plant farming or gardening, not farming as a whole because that would take up my entire life. Also I don’t know enough about livestock to speak about it with confidence.
So, you want to have a garden. What do you do? examine the plots that your neighbours have placed? go to some gardening workshops if those exist? All valid ideas. But, be aware that there are a lot of ways to go about gardening. Be open to all the ideas proposed to you and gather all the information you can. Then, spend some time among plants, follow a gardener, volunteer somewhere. Or just, build a little sample plot, put in some seeds and watch what happens. The best way to know what a plant needs is to experiment with a small batch. If the plant looks like its wilting, add some water. Doesn’t help? try some fertilizer. Observe your garden for the first year at least. Don’t do much, just OBSERVE. You might not feel like you’re learning anything but its amazing what you pick up.
I have tried this and I’ve learned a lot after my first summer of running a garden. People can say what they want but practicing an art is not the same as just learning the theory. Granted, I spent about 5 years looking at how to make a garden, different methods of doing so and trying to learn from professionals through books. It was exhausting.. I didn’t really know what they were talking about and I thought that planting a garden was something very difficult to do and best left to farmers. This turned out to be false. Creating and maintaining a garden is frightfully easy. And really overwhelmingly satisfying. Also, you get a nice tan.
Some issues that are frequently proposed by folks who are starting gardens are in regards to pests, fertilizer, watering, plant varieties, soil type, amount of sun, and when to harvest.
There are many ways to handle these questions, but first, as I said, observe your garden, find out what pests are coming your way, if your plants are doing well in one area and not in another.. just look at what is happening.
Then, research the pests, find out what eats them. Or what plants repel them. Put in some of those. Look at your plants, do they seem weak? ask someone why that may be. The best way to handle these problems is to educate yourself on what the natural world is doing. Perhaps planting that marigold allowed for a certain little creature to venture into your garden and eat other little creatures that were enjoying your peas. Sometimes planting something somewhere gets in the way of some natural process that has been occuring in that area. Say, you planted something in the middle of a bug highway. The bugs in all their rage will maybe set about destroying your lovely stand of carrots. This will teach you to not put plants in that area. I maintain that there are always ways of dealing with garden problems that do not involve searching for the easy way and whipping out a can of ‘kill all creatures in the area in the hopes that the things you want to kill will die’. Why you say? because a can that kills pests will also kill your beneficial insects and naturally your plants will not do as well.
Anyway, some other time I will continue that rant. Right now I want to introduce some wonderful gardening alternatives, hints, tips and tricks 🙂 Enjoy.
- Huglekultur: Mound culture, Pile up branches and logs that are already mature or decomposing about 4-8 feet, Toss on compost or compostable material, Moisten up pile with water until moist like a sponge, Add some soil about 3″thick and then add a nice thick layer of sawdust or wood chips. Seed in some plants like potatoes or melons. Anything really, I’ve found that 100% of the time everything grows better on a mound because the mound keeps moisture in longer and decomposes slowly so you can use the same mound for many years without exhausting the soil. See: Sepp Holzer, he has made these and provides greater details.
- The key to a flourishing garden is to OBSERVE everything such as topography, shade, weather, moon cycles
- Moon cycles: New moon- good for planting root and leaf vegetables growing moon, all energies go DOWN, full moon- all energies go UP good for seeds and fruits. For example: Planting on a full moon leads to a smaller weaker crop usually- radishes show this easily. Generally each moon cycle is 7 days long, 3 pre and post each phase, there are 4 phases. Equinox is a great time for transplanting, especially on a full moon.
- Examine your soil type. Clay soil means that lots of nutrients are present but it is very compact, needs plowing to aerate, it expands and contracts with moisture
- Overtilling leads to a loss of micronutrients and microorganisms in topsoil
- Biodynamics is an agriculture method that really works with nature, more so than any other system I think. For example there is emphasis that its not just moon phase that is important but also its ascendance and descendance across sky which changes everyday.
- Three sisters planting is guid planting, so arranging together plants that work together. A traditional method uses three sisters: squash (or melon), maize (aka corn) and beans (or peas). The reason these work togther is that not only does the height of corn allow peas or beans to venture skyward which then allows melon to take over the ground but also peas/beans bring nitrogen into the soil which corn really needs in order to grow and melon or squash shades the area allowing moisture to remain which benefits all involved. Amaranth is sometimes considered to be a 4th sister. This is similar to companion planting for which a good rule is this: if you like to eat them together, chances are they like to grow together too. Example- tomato and basil. But not just flavours, also fruit, also about space like carrots and lettuce. Fast and slow harvesters.
- Herb Spirals. I’ve made one, its fabulous, all the herbs you need for spicing up food in one space, and on a mound, so you don’t have to strain your back trying to pick things. Also, if you place it in a good location (close to the kitchen) then you have fresh herbs within easy reach 🙂 Here is how to make it: make a huglekultur mound (see above) but make it to fill in a 3meter wide circle rather than a long mound then add: 3-5cm of soil, rocks about fist sized to make the spiral shape on the mound. Tips: use herbs you use everyday, subsoil layer first and then topsoil, Layer 1: downed woody debris, highly decomposed and flaky. Border: big head sized rocks, Layer 2: compost. Lots. 3 feet high at least. Big mound. Average rock border moving up, Layer 3: earth, will sink, add lots. Example herbs: oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage. These enjoy heat and dryness. Thyme gets big, needs lots of space- take this into account. Basil= needs lots of sun, Mint- some varieties like sun, some do not. Spreads. Put rosemary on the very top, grows slowly, likes lots of sun and not too much water. The driest and sunniest spot in on the peak of the mound, detect which ways are North, South, ect. Chives and parsley can be on the bottom, Oregano, sun bottom because it creeps. Parsley- bi-annual, plant anywhere.
- Pests attack weak plant. A natural bug repellant is this: bug juice or water from drowned bodies of bugs, cover it but not airtight, leave 24 hours in the area where you found the infestation. The negative energy scares off other bugs. Can also dilute with water and spray on plants. White soap, grated with water, is good for fungus and helps remove slugs, slugs also like beer. Garlic, rubbing alcohol and water blended is good for removing small beetles. Wood ash good for snails and ants and potatoe bugs, damages their exoskeletons
- Seeds should be fully dried when stored, best to leave in well shaded spot
- Put paper bag on seeds that blow in the wind to collect
- Ask people around you what their gardening techniques are
Best way to learn about gardening is to just do it, talk to people, older people, indigenous people, local folk