Gardening is not just a process we use to grow our own food or décor for outside our home, it is a past time spanning thousands of years and celebrated by every culture on the planet. However, when you’re first starting out with your own home garden, how exactly are you supposed to do it? There has to be more than just soil, water, sun, and some seeds, right? Yes, and the processes and methods you can utilize are just as varied and unique as every plant we grow. Whether you have a smaller space or just need to save money, there is a technique out there for you!
Welcome to our first part of our newest Gardening for Beginners: Techniques!
Conventional Gardening is just that: the standard, traditional method of growing your own garden at home. This is typically the first method that most people are exposed to when they first start out. This approach involves your usual containers or garden beds (raised or otherwise) and any kind of fruit, vegetable, or herb you gardener prefer. No plant is off limits because conventional gardening uses chemicals, pesticides, and even weed killers. Because of the advantages resulting from these substances, the use of this method is easy even for complete beginners. Conventional Gardening is also the quickest due to the added hormones and unnatural materials, so harvest is sooner.
Some of the obvious downsides to this technique are often spoken about by the EPA in that the use of chemicals can be harmful to the health of you and your family, as well as the environment around your garden. The biggest reason for the extreme decrease in the bee population is due to the use of pesticides in commercial environments. That being said, Conventional Gardening could still hold some merit, but make sure to educate yourself first before picking up anything that isn't organic.
If you were put off by the idea of pesticides or chemicals in Conventional Gardening, this method may be for you. Organic Gardening is exactly what it sounds like – the act of gardening without the use of anything unnatural or inorganic. Instead, many fertilizing agents like compost and worm castings are used to provide extra nutrients instead of chemical compounds. This method has become significantly more popular among the home gardening community these days and is good for any fruit, vegetable, herb, etc.
The focus of Organic Gardening is on the long-term care of the larger ecosystem. Whether it’s a backyard garden or a massive corporate farm, this technique has shown to have an overall positive effect on the surrounding ecosystem when it is done so sustainably. It not only helps the health of the earth in the area used, it also helps the health of the plants and those that consume them – including the animal life in the region. Organic Gardening is easier than ever with the advancements in technology and the accessibility of organic fertilizers, as well as the wealth of information available online!
As you may have heard us mention in articles and on social media, there are certain plants that do well when planted with certain types of vegetables, herbs, etc. than others; the process of strategically sowing your seeds or transplanting your baby plants based on who will do well near others is called Companion Planting. Because of the nature of a plant, it absorbs and puts out different nutrients than others; when you take this into mind when planning, you can root plants near each other who will have a more mutually beneficial relationship and help each other grow bigger and stronger. One plant that normally attracts a certain kind of pest can be planted in between two others that naturally deter that type of critter. You can use this method to plan out your entire garden bed(s) at the beginning of the season - trust us, it will make your life so much easier!
A few examples of wonderful companion plants can include celery and garlic, bell peppers with eggplants, and squash with lemon balm. Some plants are even considered universal companions; oregano, thyme, and lavender lend a helping hand to anything and everything they share soil with. On the flipside, it is possible that two kinds of plants can be a bad pairing - like oil and water, they just don't mix. This could be things like carrots next to dill, potatoes next to chives, or even tomatoes next to corn.
Permaculture has been a buzz word thrown around the gardening world a lot over the past decade, but what does it mean? Well, the simple way to define it is a sustainable system for designing not just gardens, but any environment we live in. Bill Mollison was the Australian researcher, teacher, and ecologist who originally came up with the name (along with one student, David Holmgren) and system because he believed that commercial and traditional agriculture relied too much on eroding the existing soil of a space and pumping it full of external chemicals, rather than allowing the existing earth there to care for itself now and in the future.
To start your own Permaculture garden, you have to consider that you are setting up beds to survive for the long haul; while it may take a lot of work to start, you will have a lot less work later on and still see just as much harvest as you would traditionally. Consider your water system – both supply and drainage, then plan to incorporate some elements of other gardening techniques to start your soil. Finally, consider the premise of Permaculture (i.e., permanent) and think about what crops you can grow where you live that will thrive and even return the following year. If you can maintain a garden based on this method, you will have yourself a garden for your lifetime and hopefully many generations to come.
We have talked about Hydroponics and its merits on our website before, but it is worth discussing again here. Hydroponics is defined as a method of growing plants not in traditional soil but in an unconventional substrate and nutrient-enriched water that is carefully circulated through the root systems either through a computer-controlled environment or a homemade set-up. Many, if not all, crops can be grown this way!
Because of how intricate a hydroponic system can be, this is usually done 100% inside a shed, greenhouse, or wherever you have room in your home. The process requires the use of high, direct light areas or (more commonly) grow lights with large, industrial rigs being best but not necessary. If you prefer to garden outside, you can still take some cues from the hydroponic community. Create garden beds that have a watering system either suspended above on a trellis or inside the soil is one example! It’s even better if you can place this system on a timer and pack the water with nutrients to help organically fertilize your herbs and vegetables (saving you tons of time).
Related: Hydroponic Gardens: What They Are and How to Start Your Own
This modern take on the French Intensive gardening method is a wonderful way to avoid weed issues and use any small space you have available. The Square Foot Gardening concept is simple: a raised garden bed is filled with a special, soilless substrate and the garden bed is divided into 12” by 12” squares – hence the name. Each square is dedicated to one type of plant (whether it be tomatoes, peas, lettuce, etc.) and is seeded accordingly within its square foot of the garden bed. Trellises can be added to a square foot or two to allow for more growing space for vining plants, and a chicken wire/wood frame can even be added to avoid the need for a trellis while also keeping animals out.
These beds are easy to care for and easy to plan around – you absolutely don’t have to sacrifice your entire yard to start growing your own food. While the initial construction can be financially and physically intense at first, Square Foot Gardens are still a fantastic option for those that are beginners, gardeners without a ton of space, or anyone else looking to try a new method.
Vertical Gardens are those that are created when someone does not have the traditional, horizontal space available. These can be constructed out of anything - shipping pallets, wooden bed frames, simple 2x4's, and so much more. You can either create mini garden beds, like in the picture here, or you can take your normal garden bed, install a trellis, and train your climbing vegetables to use it to grow. This pairs so well with the Organic Gardening technique, because we believe that if any two techniques were to work well together, it would be these two. While these can be very labor-intensive at first, they can be very rewarding in the long term, especially for those living in apartments or small homes that don't offer room for a large garden.
These are also a wonderful choice for the disabled community; many of us that cannot kneel or bend down can still garden using the Vertical Gardening technique. Crops that do well with this method are those that either have a shallow root structure (think broccoli, lettuce, and microgreens), or are vining (such as peas, beans, and tomatoes). In Vertical Gardens, automatic watering set-ups can be included to make the process even more streamlined. Depending upon the construction, these can also be brought inside during the colder months to continue with Winter vegetables.
Is there any gardening subject you have questions about or would like us to cover? Let us know in the comments or message us on our Contact Page. We post more articles every other week, so check back for more tips and tricks every month!