by Sharon Coates
Having taught gardening classes from beginners to seed-savers, I have a few “Gardening Musts” I’d like to share. These are even more important for those of us who grow organically, since we do not rely on herbicides, pesticides, etc.
1. A good gardening book
2. A notebook/folder/3 ring binder
3. Walk through your garden daily
4. Clean your garden(s) in the fall
5. Use rotation and sanitation
6. Plant flowers and herbs in your garden
7. Let your gardening evolve
8. Be Thankful as you walk, work, harvest and clean your garden
First, start with a good gardening book (Rodale). It should cover location, soil prep, planting, amendments, diseases, and insects. Colored pictures are helpful, for the weeds, diseases, bugs, and critters have faces you will want to identify. We do not want to kill or chase off the beneficial plants and insects.
Number two is a notebook, binder, or folder, and is very helpful. This will include yearly garden diagrams, notes on seed varieties, production, and any problems. The good and the bad are noted. This way you can choose seed varieties you prefer or that do better in your area. Any amendments, products, personally concocted formulas, etc. are noted for future reference. My notebook also holds receipts and lists of ordered things. This way you can find age, variety, name, etc. for any particular reason. I also find a list of companion plants helpful. Anything you may find helpful and want readily available is put in your notebook. Many people find a calendar helpful. Enter planting times or applications of amendments. I have used a card file some years. Listing each month’s projects to be done along with seeds to be planted under the month.
The third “Must” gives you some exercise. Walks in your garden help you find and act on problems as soon as possible. Be they viral, bacterial, insects, weeds, or four footed damage, you can deal with them promptly. Look at general appearance of plants. Do they need thinning, watering, or more height to the trellis?
Cleaning your garden after harvest is my fourth “Must.” This is going to depend on you, your garden, and existing problems. Debris and old plants can carry disease and insect problems. Your gardening method or other factors decide your choice. Lasagna gardens are not going to remove all the mulch, just the old plants. Others may need to remove and burn or compost plants and mulch. Those who till may choose to till most everything under.
“Must” number 5 is very important. Rotation and sanitation are needed to prevent disease and pest carry over. Your garden diagrams stored in your notebook come in here. Try not to plant the same thing in an area for 3-4 years. (We are talking annuals here). Never (if at all possible) work in your garden while plants are wet. You, your clothes, and tools can spread disease. This can be hard when picking produce for sale or trying to escape working in the heat.
For your benefit and your garden’s, I include “Must” number 6. Plant all types of flowers and herbs with big and small heads. Beneficial insects will visit and stay. You want these friends for pollination and insect and disease control. Flowers have a special gift for the gardener also. They are God’s Blessed spirit lifters.
Letting your garden evolve is the 7th “Must.” Don’t get stuck in a rut. Try new varieties, new methods, and especially time saving ideas. I personally have few conventional rows now. Raised beds, wide rows, terrising, and different types of trellis and fencing have become the norm. I use a hoe only to mark a couple of rows each year at planting. We mulch and use wide closer planted rows to prevent weeding. Be creative, break the rules, and do what works for you and your needs.
The last ‘Must’ is to be thankful. Believe me when you see multiple gardens washed many feet away after 4 inches of rain in 20 minutes, deep gullies where plants once flourished, or shredded plants after a hail storm, it is hard. There is strength to find and replant, to fill the gullies, and an instinct in plants to survive after being beaten. As the plants reset their roots and reach for the sunshine, we need to do the same and be thankful.