I wouldn’t exactly call myself a “gardener”, but I do what I can with the time I’ve got. In the past I’ve had lots of herbs growing and on occasion a vegetable or two (tomatoes, peppers, lots of greens). Also, I can’t say I’ve ever been adventurous enough or patient enough to start from seed (me = zero patience). But again, I do what I can, and in the future: I’d like to do more. Here are some tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way to having a small &simple organic backyard garden.
Start small. Wouldn’t it be nice to look out your back (or side) (or front) window and see an acre size garden growing perfectly all at once? Hm, yes. I want this: now. I tend to get way ahead of myself in everything. I am a dreamer to the fullest extent. (I cant help it, I’m a pisces.) But with gardening, unless you really know what you’re doing, it might be better to start small. I mean, if you want to go ahead and plant a million things all at once and learn as you go, that’s your call… you will find regardless of garden size or difficulty, it will mostly be: ‘a learn by doing’ process. And it might be better to have a few items flourish instead of a whole garden destroyed by one overlooked mistake. As each season comes and goes you can learn to tackle something new. My new vegetable is artichoke. We’ll see how it goes.
Raised bed garden. This is by no means necessary, if you’ve got the land, soil, and time then by all means: garden in the dirt. In my last three homes I was left to garden on a balcony, porch, and/or small patio. Like many apartment renters: this may be your only option. Raised beds are easier because you are in full control of the soil your plant is growing in. Here, on the Florida coast, the soil is non-existent… it’s rocks, dirt, and crap. Raised beds also provide: a little bit of extra pest and disease control, less weeds, and they look cute. Yada yada.
Learn when you can. Like I mentioned, a lot of my own small gardening was learning from experience and trial and error. Through my school I visited organic gardens and was able to see what worked for that farm in their environment and I put my new information to work in my own home. I went to a local hardware store and bought wooden dowels and chicken wire and starting hammering away in my “backyard” (the small alloted space my landlord lent me) to create a netted canopy for my cherry tomatoes. The plant grew up, I helped the stems through the fence holes, and the tomatoes had a place to safely hang. I was pretty impressed with what I had created, scratched and bruised, but impressed. I also learned a lot of tips and tricks at a local botanical garden. I had a membership and would attend gardening seminars to learn more. Botanical gardens provide a lot of information and are a great place to purchase local &organic starter plants too!
Not all bugs are bad. Pesticides kill
all bugs everything, including a lot of needed nutrients in your soil. Some ‘pests’ will actually benefit your garden by: good bugs eat harmful bugs, bees spread pollen, etc. Search your garden and identify the pest problem you might have and find a specific solution from there. Like, simple picking off caterpillars. There’s no need to spray toxins everywhere, sure its a quick fix, but digesting chemicals? No thanks.
Slugs like beer. Got slugs? Drown them in beer. Dig a hole. Stick a cup in it. Make a beer swimming pool. Slugs dive in. No more slugs. Or be more vegan about it and go out every morning and evening and simply pick them off and relocate them to a new home. (The picking off method is great for cornworms too.)
Pepper spray is my favorite. I have no idea why I enjoy spraying down my plants in pepper spray, but I do. You can buy a pre-made organic pepper spray in the store, or like me, refuse to leave your house and make some at home. Use real peppers chopped/sliced up (hot ones: jalepeno, habanero, whatever), cayenne powder, or chili flake. Soak in water. Spray on plants (NOT IN EYES).
Know your ground. Gardening here in Florida is VERY different than gardening most other places. Our seasons are backwards. Our soil is different. Our bugs are different. It’s friggen’ hot all the time. Different plants grow well in different locations. Know what works best for your location and plant it. It’s silly to attempt to plant something that doesn’t naturally grow in your region.
Get creative. Right now I have citronella growing out of old tomato can. You can grow plants in just about anything. I’ve seen: old food mills, jars, boots, toilets, whatever. You don’t have to spend a lot of big bucks. Use what you’ve got around the house or head to a thrift store for some old pots and pans and plant your garden.
Books to check out:
–Grow Great Grub: Organic Food from Small Spaces
–Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening: The Indispensable Green Resource for Every Gardener
–The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Pest and Disease Control: A Complete Guide to Maintaining a Healthy Garden and Yard the Earth-Friendly Way (Rodale Organic Gardening Books)
–The Sustainable Vegetable Garden: A Backyard Guide to Healthy Soil and Higher Yields
–Grow Vegetables: Gardens – Yards – Balconies – Roof Terraces
Spring is here and summer is approaching. I know many of you of have been working on your home gardens (that are much much better ones than I have or have had or will ever have *Ahem: Aura, Carey, Dusti*, I see the photos on your blogs and simmer with jealousy— loving-happy-for-you jealousy). What do you like to grow? Do you have tips and tricks? What do you plan to grow in the future? Most importantly, do you have awesome gardening outfits? I need one. haha.
Happy gardening <3
ps! Thank you so so so so much for all those that voted for Marlowe’s room. They will be posting the results in the next week (I think). Hopefully we made it to the next round! 🙂