One of the most hopeful things we can do in troubled times is to plant a garden. It gives the kind of solace that our present situation cries out for. If you are finding that anxiety over the pandemic is becoming too much to bear, head outside for a nature fix. Plants are universal to the human experience and touch something innate in all of us.
Why garden, you ask? If you’ve never tasted garden-fresh vegetables (lots of people haven’t!), you will be amazed by the sweet, juicy flavors and vibrant textures. There’s absolutely nothing quite like fresh veggies, especially if you grow them yourself—which you can!
On this page, we’ll highlight the basics of vegetable gardening and planning: how to pick the right site for your garden, how to create the right size garden, and how to select which vegetables to grow.
I’ve always found the use of seasonal rains by native peoples very fascinating. From the diversion of floodwaters in earthen berms to irrigation via “aquaduct,” it seemed incredible that people were able to irrigate their crops in the deserts without the use of electricity. Here in southern Arizona, the indigenous peoples used flood waters directed by earthworks to irrigate their seasonal crops, immensely contributing to their production of food beyond the other farming methods that included limited springs and a very few seasonal and year-round streams.
Keep in mind, this is southern Arizona; we average about 12 inches of rain per year, of which 4-5 inches come in July and August. If we can do it here, then most BHM readers should be able to accomplish this with a variety of other crops in most any area of the country.
We talk about it often, but in addition to being extremely easy to maintain, one of the biggest benefits of a Raised Row Garden is that it handles both drought and excessive rain with ease.
Soggy, wet soil does more than create a mess. It also destroys the soil structure. And it certainly also keeps plants from getting nutrients from the soil too.
The no-till philosophy always allows us to plant our garden in the early spring, no matter what the weather. The cover crops planted the previous fall really help keep the soil underneath in-tact and ready to go. And with the tapered rows of a Raised Row garden, it helps to shed off massive amounts of rain.
Truly a survival food. Foraging is growing in popularity. There are many edible “weeds” that we like to include in our diet. There are also lots of books and websites to help identify edible and poisonous plants. One good thing about edible “weeds” is that most of them self seed. They will always be in your garden happily cohabitating with your fruit and vegetables.
Dandelion is my favorite “weed”. The young, tender, slightly bitter leaves are excellent steamed with other greens and in salads. They also have medicinal properties. When the dandelion plant gets a bit old, especially after flowering, we chop off all the old bitter leaves and new tender ones emerge from the root again. Eventually, the root can be dug up, scrubbed, roasted and ground as a coffee substitute. Caffeine free and delicious! Other edible weeds in my garden are chickweed (for salads), sheep sorrel (adds a citrus tang to salads), milk or sow thistle, amaranth, nettle, fat hen, to name a few. Here are some great ways to eat your weeds!
Container Gardening is a popular trend that provides unique and attractive alternatives to today’s gardener. A container garden is capable of growing almost any vegetable or fruit, and the variety of containers is limited only by the Gardener’s imagination.
Gardening in containers generally requires less work, less water, and less pest management, but can produce excellent results in a small space. And, is a wonderful way to introduce children to the rewarding life of a gardener.
This Table is adapted from Texas A&M Extension. It shows the number of plants that should be planted in relation to container volume.
For the last four years, we’ve been renting. I composted quite a bit, but not nearly as much as I wanted to. And I certainly didn’t get to set up a humanure composting system.
Now that we’re on our own land, that has changed. Quite a few people have asked what we’re doing for a septic system or where our septic tank is going. Nowhere! I think flush toilets are a big waste of resources, both in water and potential soil fertility.
There are 11 members in my family and we’re sharing this outhouse without difficulty. It’s a sawdust and bucket system, as Joseph Jenkins outlines in The Humanure Handbook. It’s the same system I write about in Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting
Back when we first started raising our own garden which was, *cough* 20 years ago. I didn’t really understand as much as I do now. I especially didn’t know about what seed variety that grows the best in my area and climate. It’s one of the reasons that we really didn’t have good tomato crops for a number of years. I struggled to grow peppers too. I also had years where the crops were ok, but I would only have a week or so to harvest before the first frost would hit. All of this was a result of me not knowing how to read the seed packets correctly.
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