How Does Your Garden Grow?
I have been reading about all the ways to make a garden & each of these ways seem to have their strong points & weak points. So, when in doubt, I always turn to the knowledgeable Chow folks to tear into a subject & come up with clear solutions.
Here are the subjects I have pursued so far.
Straight row gardening
Mulching everything with straw
There are others too, but why don't I just let you gardeners chime in & let us know what works for you? Thanks in advance for your input.
Mulch is your friend, whether you are gardening in the ground, in raised beds, or even in containers. It keeps the soil moisture in, weeds out, and helps prevent some diseases. Tomatoes especially benefit from mulch--it almost completely stops blossom end rot and cracking, and keeps blight from getting started..
I use cardboard boxes, newspaper, office paper, and hold it down with straw.
I live in an apartment, and garden on my balcony. After several failed attempts at container gardening, I built an Earthbox knockoff. Amazing. I actually managed to get a few tomatoes, despite the less than ideal temperatures (not hot enough at first, then suddenly way too hot). Once the box was set up and seedlings planted, it's really easy. I just pour in 1-2 gallons of water a week. The tomatoes have outgrown the space now, so I'm going to have to pull them this weekend. I'm looking forward to growing easy greens in their place, and will definitely set up more boxes for next year. While I enjoyed building my own, I will probably buy some of the knock offs sold and Lowe's or Home Depot in the future. I don't think I saved any money building my own, and it took a lot of extra work to build with only a hand saw and a power drill.
I just started getting into making sub irrigation planters. First with old chlorine tablet buckets and water bottles. Really any junk i could find around my house that could be put to better use than lining a land fill. My most recent ones were with a $7+ plastic bin and perforated corrugated drain pipe. Just made a big 0 with the drain pipe inserted a fill tube (old water bottles) and an overflow drain tube which went into the drain pipe so I wasn't draining off mud. A lot of the designs I saw online were over engineered.
Just filled with your favorite planting mixture and that's that. An 8 foot piece of drain pipe was just over $5. So for under $15 I made a SIP like an Earthbox but simpler.
Please add lasagna gardening to your list. Some call it sheet composting. I used to use a rototiller but we have tough sod here. Make beds. Don't walk on them unless you have to and the ground stays nice and loose. If I had a huge budget, I would like framed beds that look perfect all the time.
I use containers for some plants. Right now I am starting some basil in medium size pots but will transplant them to the garden later.
I don't mulch although I should. We have enough water although this year it hasn't rained much. Check your soil. I have one bed where the water table is high and the soil is moist even though the bed hasn't been watered. Meanwhile, it's dry as dust in another area. Mulching helps preserve moisture and slows down weeds. But by the time it's warm enough to mulch my tomato plants, they have already gotten big enough to shade out most of the weeds. I did not mulch some blueberry bushes last year and ended up with a weedy mess. This year I decided to plant cucumbers and marigolds between the bushes. This is working out great. I needed the space and the blueberries aren't being choked by weedy grass.
Just start experimenting to see what works for you given your location, budget and time. This year I turned a weedy perennial holding bed into a winter squash bed by simply (and finally) removing the plants I wanted to save, weed whacking everything else, covering the areas with a thick layer of wet newspapers leaving a planting hold for a squash hill. Covered the newspaper with fresh grass clippings. Dug a hold for each hill. Added composted horse manure. Planted seeds. It doesn't look like the weeds got a start. The squash are beginning to run and set fruits. I was out of time and running out of money.
I did more container gardening when I lacked space for beds.
I keep my beds about 3-4' wide. If I make a new path, I put down wet newspapers covered with grass clippings.
Get yourself a good weeding hand tool and a pair of cheap gloves with rubberized palms and fingers.
I'm only gardening for 2 with some to share and I'm not growing corn. If I was growing something that needed a lot of room and tilling, I would probably want at least a mini tiller.
Okay, for in-ground gardening, I do go for raised beds, but I don't like the constriction of permanent or even semi-permanent rigid sides. What I do are free-form beds. I just mound up the soil into whatever shape or configuration of beds I want. I find this has many advantages:
It allows me to make beds as deep as the particular vegetable I plan to grow there needs - aka deeper for root veggies; more shallow for greens.
Piling up the free-form beds leaves me with pathways that - even when filled with mulch - catch water & supply it to the garden where it belongs - at root level.
Allows me to change the shape/configuration of my garden every year; making it super-easy to rotate crops to prevent disease.
I also do container-gardening on my deck. My recommendations there are the bigger the better (container-wise that is). And keep in mind that even in containers you still need to protect some of your plants with floating-row covers, etc., to keep pests at bay. And container gardens need diligent attention to both watering & feeding. I think those are two of the biggest problems container-gardeners face.
I grow my garden mostly the same way my dad did and he learned from his mother and grandparents. Just typical row style. He was a reader of Organic Gardening back in the 70's and he adopted mulching which I also do. I do like to grow herbs and salad greens in containers on my deck.
I'm blessed with plenty of space and a vintage Troy Bilt tiller. Cursed by deer.