Gardening Tips 16-20



TIPS, HACKS & RESOURCES FOR BEGINNING (& EXPERIENCED) GARDENERS


Tips 16-20

16. Buy plants or Start seeds? It depends

17. Companion Planting (Interplanting)

18. Succession planting

19. Extending growing season

20. Learn to cook, store food & save seeds

16. Buy plants or Start seeds? It depends


PLANTS

If you are a beginner and you can get young plants, start with plants, not seeds, for two reasons. One, you want to start your gardening experience with as much successes as possible, and minimize the failures so that you learn the joys of gardening, not just frustration. Second, if your family is depending on food from your garden you need as much success and as little failure as absolutely possible.


Starting seeds is a skill set in addition to gardening. It can be problematic for the beginner. Starting with plants instead of seeds decreases the number of failures between the seed and the food. This means you will have more success as a beginner than if you begin by starting seeds.


Get a plant from a gardener you know if you can. This way you get not only the plant, but their experience. Buy them if you can’t get them from a friend. But, buying plants not only costs money, it may also introduce a disease or pest into your garden that wasn’t visible in the store. You might not see the eggs until the bugs hatch out.


Box stores in particular, are known for offering low quality plants and spreading pests and disease. Locally grown is better. You will be getting plants that have already acclimated to your geographic area. Ask where the plants you are buying were grown.


Support your local growing community to ensure those resources remain in your area. The farther away your resources have to travel to get to you, the more things can go wrong so that you don’t get what you need when you need it. . . or at all. Buying from far away not only relies on the supply chain, but it makes profit for middlemen that are not in your community.


SEEDS

Starting plants from seeds and transplanting them into the garden is generally not beginning gardening. Some seeds are really easy, like poking a bean seed into a paper cup and keeping it “moist-not-wet.” But starting seeds is a separate skill from gardening.


If you only have access to seeds, start with really easy seeds like beans. Seeds are easier if they can be directly grown in the garden, skipping the transplanting stage. Learn which plants can be transplanted and which need to have seeds sown directly into the soil. You need to know this at the planning stage. If a plant cannot be transplanted, then you will not be able to buy them in a store to put out into your garden. Carrots, which are edible roots, would be one example.

If you want to try seed starting techniques as a beginner, plan carefully. Your region will have set dates to start the seeds in trays indoors. Learn what gardeners do in your specific area. Information can also be found in Almanacs. The Farmers Almanac is a long-standing institution in North America, with an issue printed every year. There are many other good ones. Be sure to get one for your part of the globe.


Stagger the seed starting in case of weather disasters, like a late frost, or seedling or transplanting errors. For example, if you should start your tomato seeds on April 1st, then start one third of them a week before, one third of the seeds on April 1st, and the last third a week later, or something like that.


Seed starting is a skill. Learn to grow a plant first if possible. If you can keep the plant alive then learn to start a seed. And then you can learn how to save your own seeds.


17. Companion Planting (Interplanting)

In Nature plants grow in communities, not as solitary specimens. In the garden we want to follow the patterns in Nature because we know that works.


· Vertical integration and non-competing roots maximize crop yields in the same space

· Disease and pest control

· Deterrent: Many plants have smells and chemicals that keep pests & disease away.

· Confusion of pests: Diverse plantings making food (your crops) harder for pests to find.

· Plant cooperation for enhanced growth: Many plants do best in communities.

· Beauty can be increased with diverse planting, far more than rows of monocrops.


There are many books and online information on which plants do well planted together, as well as plant combinations that should be avoided. Look at this information in the garden planning stages.


18. Succession planting

If you grow as much lettuce each week as your family eats in a week, then you will have fresh lettuce all season long.


You don’t want to grow everything at once, have to harvest everything at once, and then have too much food all at once. Food can be preserved in many ways, but it’s best to have fresh crops available as long as possible.


Plan your garden to offer food on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Alternate crops by season, growing cold tolerant plants in spring and again in fall and into winter, with heat tolerant crops growing in the summer.


A big side benefit of succession planting is that it forces you out into the garden on a regular basis. You will miss less harvests, and you will have less serious weed problems because you will always be checking in. Bottom line, it will force you to be a more successful gardener.



19. Extending growing season

In temperate climates, in the dead cold of winter, plant life either dies or enters a state of hibernation called dormancy. When plants are dormant they do not grow and cannot provide food. Even in warmer climes, the seasons can be too extreme to grow food. In hot dry climates food production stops in the searing heat of summer. The times of year you can grow and harvest food is called the growing season. You may have more than one.


There are many ingenious ways to extend your growing season

· Succession planting & companion planting

· Rotate crops by season

· Finding microclimates in the garden

· Raised beds & trellises

· Mulches

· Floating row covers

· Cold frames & hoop houses

· Greenhouses

· Indoor growing

· Cloches


Glass cloches, invented in 1623 in Italy, are glass domes, usually hand blown, that act as individual greenhouses for individual plants and look really cool.


20. Learn to cook, store food & save seeds

It is important to make sure that none of the food you grow goes to waste. You are responsible for their lives and how they are ultimately used. All life is sacred. This is why all cultures have some form of blessing food before eating. All food comes from plants and animals that have been sacrificed to become food. This is how Nature works. All food for all beings comes from something formerly alive. Gardening will connect you intimately with your food, and let you honor the life that supports you and your family.


Learn to cook and eat the food you grow. Some of the very best foods are fresh produce, direct from the garden, eaten whole, out of hand, warmed by the sun. Arraigning freshly harvested produce on a plate can be some of the most beautiful and tasty meals.


Taking the harvest into the kitchen will provide you with the freshest, most wholesome ingredients. They can be made into simple meals without much experience in the kitchen.


Learn how to store food you cannot eat right away for a time when you don’t have fresh food in the garden. Food can be frozen, canned, dehydrated, freeze-dried, smoked, salted, pickled, and fermented.


Grow seeds that are open-pollinated so that any seeds you save will grow the same crop next time. Learn how to collect seeds from the plants you grow, and the proper way to store them. When you plant the next generation, the plants will be more acclimated, not just to your region, but to your specific garden. Saving seeds will ensure you have food year after year.

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