Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Gardening is probably one of the most frustrating, yet rewarding things I’ve ever done. Although I have grown herbs and vegetables for nearly all of my life, it was only in the past two years that I’ve grown a truly substantial garden. Even though I’m always working to make my garden perfect, like most things, there is definitely a learning curve with gardening. In two years, I have made countless mistakes on my garden. Fortunately, I have gained knowledge from these faults to improve my future gardens!
• Weeding an area, but not planting or mulching immediately afterwards: Weeding is certainly a waste of time if steps are not taken to prevent them from growing back. Many undesirable plants can be prevented from reappearing by placing a few layers of newspaper down and covering them with a mulch of your choice. This will block weeds from coming up for at least a month and make it much easier to remove them in the future.
• Letting weeds go to seed: Once weeds have gone to seed, it becomes increasingly more difficult to control them. A single plant can produce hundreds, or even thousands, of seeds, multiplying the weed problem. Also, the additional time to grow allows their roots to grow stronger and deeper, making them much more difficult to remove in the long run.
Now, if I’m too occupied to thoroughly weed an area, I use a weed whacker to shorten the plants nearly to the ground and burn them with propane flame torch. This kills the plants allowing them to compost into the ground. If you cannot ‘flame’ your weeds, weed whacking will at least prevent the plants from going to seed for a week or so while also making it easier to remove them. If your weeds have already gone to seed, do not weed whack these plants, as this will only distribute the seeds, encouraging more growth.
• Not using a garden planner: Last year was the first time we had a substantial garden. We carefully mapped out what varieties we planted and the location we planted them in. This spring, we didn’t bother to map out our garden; even after planting. What a big mistake! At planting time, I believed different varieties of beans would be easy to identify. Apparently not! A few months after planting, the plants were bushes about 1½ feet tall, nearly identical except for the subtle differences in the beans. It was a struggle, even to identify the dry beans from the bush beans. Certainly, we don’t know which varieties have done the best or are the tastiest for the purpose of planning next years garden.
• Starting out too large: The garden I started last year was by far the largest garden I’ve ever had. It took a week of hard work just to dig up the soil into mounds and a few more days to lay down newspaper and straw and plant seeds. Even now, I find its size overwhelming. Although I have always dreamed of having a beautiful large garden, its upkeep is a struggle. Weeding alone takes many hours a week just to prevent crabgrass from completely consuming the garden beds. I now wish that I had established my garden at a much smaller scale, only expanding when necessary.
Despite how difficult gardening can be at times, I continue to enjoy and appreciate the constant produce that it provides. The food I have harvested from my garden is incomparable to produce found in a grocery store. Crisp, fresh and flavorful vegetables make all the digging, planting and weeding worth it!
I am a young farmer and photographer dedicated to growing organically and protecting the environment.