Gardening Tips for Self-Sustaining Homes

The ability to grow your own food means that a lot of worries fall away. You may need to concern yourself with compost, but you can skip the worries about your grocery bill. With a properly designed garden, you can enjoy delicious, organic produce each season.

Build Soil Over Time

If your soil is sandy or too hard, consider planting daikon radishes to fix nitrogen, add organic material, and drill down deep. These hearty roots can be eaten, but many gardeners choose to plant these hearty root crops and allow them to rot in the soil, increasing the organic material in the soil and breaking up heavy soils.

Other cover crops include

  • clover, to feed the soil and the bees
  • annual ryegrass for a quick breakdown
  • buckwheat

If you can plant these in the fall and your winters are cold enough, you will enjoy better quality soil each spring.

Time Your Harvests

If you have a coworker who gardens, you may have been the reluctant recipient of a wealth of cucumbers, tomatoes, or zucchini squash. When in season, any plant can turn into a flood of produce. As possible, spread out your planting schedule for continuous harvest to avoid waste.

The right tools and proper timing can also extend your harvest. For example, cold weather greens may survive the winter in a plastic hoop house. If your summers are hot, you may be able to grow onions and garlic in the fall or get in one more crop of radishes before frost.

Keep Thieves Out of Your Garden

Depending on where you live, you may find that you are an unwilling host to pests who like your garden as much as you do. If the deer are eating all your raspberries or corn, an aluminum pool fence may be necessary and can be used around the edge of your garden.

For those who want to grow fruit trees, consider putting a stovepipe around the bottom of any trees with ripening fruit. Raccoons will happily scale your pear and apple trees, both stealing your crop and damaging the bark. However, they are a bit heavy in the bottom, so they often cannot climb the stovepipe.

Track the Sun

If you are just laying out your garden, keep an eye on the path of the sun. Early morning shade is lovely for sipping coffee, but leafy plants may develop mold if exposed to dew for too long.

For those with heavy soil, try not to plant anything with a broadleaf construction that will get morning shade. Slugs love to linger in cool, damp soil and will chew up all your lovely spinach and chard.

Should you be in the early stages of your garden planting, take care not to put your garden too close to any windbreak you have planted. Those trees will protect your homestead from the wind, but they will also block the sun at some point in the year. Do your best to give your garden full sun all day. If you find some veggies or fruits that need a bit of shade, you can find a spot for them among your fruit trees.\

Climate is Key for a Garden

Every region has plants that just will not work. If you live somewhere with a short growing season, melons will be hard to coax to harvest. If your summers are dry and hot, your tomatoes will need some watering help. For those who live in the plains, plants that do not tolerate wind will likely suffer.

Extend what you can and look for hybrids developed for tough conditions. There are peach trees that thrive in Michigan and blueberries that can be grown in the desert. However, if you grew up in Wisconsin and must have peonies in Texas, it may take some work to get them cold enough to bloom for you in the spring.

Gardening will be much easier overall if you can work with nature instead of fighting her. Tomatoes need a set number of hours of sun to bloom, so be prepared to make a sauce with the flood of ripe fruit. Be ready also for regular checks of your crop. It only takes one pear left to rot on the ground to draw a lot of nasty wasps. Spend time in your garden and observe.

Author: Sheryl Wright

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