After realizing where you want to plant your garden, which we covered last week on how to design your garden..naturally it is important to explore what method you would like to apply to your garden. Luke and I created a chart that weighs out the pros and cons of many popular gardening methods. What we think is most important is to not overwhelm yourself and to be realistic with what you feel would fit in your budget and schedule. I was a new gardener too, and found myself wanting to grow everything and anything! I quickly found myself a bit discouraged because I was trying to learn it all! There is no harm if you have that ambition, if you do, go for it! However just be prepared and things will go much smoother. Below we explain some popular methods, so you can best pick what you want to do.
IN GROUND GARDENING –
PROS: Cost effective, easy to start, easy to change methods if needed.
CONS: Good soil is hard to come by, weeds will be your number one enemy, slow to start in the spring since it is often muddy, can be wasteful on water, tilling kills worms and soil life, and open soil is left bare to be exposed to solar radiation.
What to do if going with this option…
In-ground gardening poses one of the best ways to get started gardening, however can be one of the most challenging to maintain. First you must pick a spot, rip up the sod, till the soil, and continue to work in compost and soil amendments until the soil is at your desired level of fertility. Here is a video we did on how to turn an established lawn into an in-ground garden.
Aquaponics is the process of growing plants with the use of fish. The fish waste (poo) will be broken down by bacteria, turning the nitrates into nitrites that the plant can use as food. It is an organic form of hydroponics and allows for the ability to grow 2 crops at once (fish and plants).
PROS: conserves water, allows for soil-less growing, organic version of hydroponics, grows 2 crops at once
CONS: Can be expensive, lots of space needed to house fish tank and plants, dependent on fish food to feed fish.
The process of growing food using a nutrient solution. Hydroponics uses water soluble nutrients to feed the plants right at the source. This leads to fast growth and the ability to grow without soil.
PROS: Grow without soil, grow indoors or outdoors, fastest growth of any gardening method, all nutrients are 100% plant available.
CONS: Can be expensive to set up, indoor lights are pricey, dependency on synthetic fertilizers costs money, no organic options.
RAISED BEDS –
Garden beds made from wood, timbers, bricks, or mounds that elevates the soil higher than the original level. Our current choice, but we use it in combination with a few other methods. This method offers easily the best production and the
PROS: Elevates the soil to dry it out faster, allows for better drainage, reduces strain on the back from reducing how far one must bend to weed, plant or harvest, better soil quality, reduces compaction of the soil because you are not stepping in the bed, weeding is easier due to the uncompacted soil.
CONS: Wood can be expensive, once the beds are in and built it is a commitment to keep them there.
– BACK TO EDEN – WOOD CHIPS
Placing 4-6 inches of wood chips on the soil to cover the soil and act as protection for soil bacteria, as well as retain moisture, and mulch weeds. Most often you can get wood chips for free just by contacting your local municipal tree company. They have to pay to throw out the wood chips, so if you call they will usually drop off more than enough for free.
PROS: Retains moisture, amends soil over time, protects the soil from solar radiation and weathering, and suppresses weeds.
CONS: Wood chips will take nitrogen from the soil if mixed into the soil leaving plants with nitrogen deficiencies, hardy weeds will still find a way to grow, so weeding is still something that has to be done, moving wood chips can be labor intensive and tiring. Planting seeds is also a challenge since mulch does not delineate between weeds and your vegetable plants.
STRAW BALE GARDENING –
Planting in straw bales that have been conditioned to allow for the breakdown process to provide a growing medium for plants to grow in. Straw is used since it is cheaper than hay, and hay is also loaded with weed seed since it is used for animal feed. Many can also find free bales at the end of Thanksgiving and Halloween at the road.
PROS: Cheap gardening method for those who want raised bed gardens, but do not like the weeds and the building of the beds. Straw bales are relatively lightweight and can be moved around, if you change your mind about a gardening method, they are not permanent, free straw bales at the end of the fall holiday season.
CONS: Dries out fast, takes lots of time to break down the center of the bales (condition them) so that there is something to grow in, many farmers spray hay with weed killer and this can be harmful to consume and may even inhibit plant growth.
– CORE GARDENING
Our #1 preferred method of gardening. We use this in combination with raised beds to provide the most amazing growing conditions for our plants. It is a method adapted from the people of the sub-Sahara desert region who use Sahara grass in ditches that they then cover with soil and top with nitrogen rich manure to grow directly in. The soil holds on to water like a sponge for weeks at a time (once charged), the grass breaks down quickly feeding the soil, the nitrogen prevents any nitrogen from being taken from the soil during the breaking down of the grass, and the organic material adds good drainage, porosity, and loamyness. Here is a video of us setting us a core garden bed and one of us explaining what core gardening is.
PROS: Easy to set up, retains water, amends soil quickly, doesn’t mound soil like hugelkulture, breaks down faster than hugelkulture, loosens soil, increases drainage, and allows for microbes and fungi to colonize the straw and interact with plant roots.
CONS: Takes some water to charge the core initially
CONTAINER GARDENING –
Growing in pots is a great way to maximize space, increase productivity, or use a spot that normally would not be able to have plants grown. From balcony gardens to patio gardens, this method is popular and fun! All the benefits of gardening can be had in square inches, rather than square feet.
PROS: Small footprint, great for people that do not have a ton of space (apartment / condo / patios ) mobile
CONS: Constant water upkeep since soil tends to dry faster, pots can be expensive, pot size limits growth
What to do if going with this option: Make sure to have a steady watering schedule with your plants, so they will not dry out on you. Also if you are looking to container garden for a long time, invest on good quality pots. Clay pots tend to crack, so look into other alternatives.
The sooner you see this as an investment and as a way to have FUN! The less of a chore it will fell to be a part of gardening.