From the very beginning, there was a garden. Those who came before us learned – just as we must learn – that to efficiently live off the land and provide for our families we must grow our own food. It is not a new concept, by any means, but to some it still remains a foreign one. Fortunately, if necessity can teach us, it can teach them as well.
While every gardener dreams of a bountiful harvest, not every garden always grow according to plan. The reason for this is sometimes difficult to pinpoint since every garden faces its own unique circumstances and struggles. However, any garden may be improved with an added dose of knowledge and patience.
Long before you sow the first seed or try a fresh recipe, you should start with a plan. A properly designed garden is oftentimes overlooked, but it is an essential ingredient to a healthy harvest. It’s very important to know which plants will grow well in your area, what their characteristics and requirements are, and what their benefits will be for your family. If you want your kids to eat more vegetables, a proper garden layout will promote healthier plants and children. Those who ignore this valuable step pay a price. Overly-crowded crops, stunted plants, and disappointing yields are the guaranteed results of this unfortunate oversight. Not to mention the lost opportunities for saving seed. There’s no reason to garden like this. As I’ve come to learn – prepare first, then plant!
Creating some garden blueprints just takes a little attention to detail. Figure out your preferences early on. For example, if you’re hoping to preserve and save seeds for future seasons, you must be familiar with the correct harvesting and saving techniques. You must also know what types of seed will be sown and what space is allowed in your garden. There really is quite the checklist.
Selecting the right seed is essential. The altered genetics of Hybrid seed make it an incapable producer of continual true-to-type varieties, while Open-Pollinated Heirlooms are praised for doing just that. Once a farmer brings an heirloom to his table, he won’t want to grow anything else. Each one – with its great quality, taste, and reliability – is a treasure.
As for spacing, the question of where to plant requires organization in and out of the garden. If you’re planning on saving seed, you must learn to watch, as well as prevent, unwanted cross-pollination. When two plants of the same botanical family cross, their seed will not produce the exact same traits the following season. To preserve a particular strain, each botanical family will need their space. You must reserve each veggie their sufficient amount of room or else next year’s seed will not grow reliably. An organized layout will keep all such factors in harmony.
While making your plans, think of possible problems in order to prevent them before they happen. Let’s say the garden space becomes exhausted. If trellises are penciled in on the layout, they will fix that headache before it even arises. I love training my plants to climb up, instead of out, saving both the garden and my back from stress. Such vegetables including pole beans, small gourds, melons, and cucumbers will all flourish when grown this way. Trellises can be easily made from anything sturdy enough to offer support. Fence posts, cattle panels, bamboo, re-mesh wire, or even discarded volleyball nets will work for certain varieties.
Every garden design will undoubtedly have its share of variables, though. Location, for example, is certainly an issue for my family here in the Missouri Ozarks, where the soil contains mostly rock and red clay. Container gardening and raised beds are a great substitute and/or addition to such problems. When constructed first in the blueprints, they’ll also quickly improve the surroundings with unique style and color.
One other variable to consider when strategizing is the matter of companion planting. It is our job as the gardener to know each plant’s requirements and grow them as efficiently as possible. Companion planting is an essential step to sustainable living. For instance, tomatoes – a front runner in almost every garden – will thrive beside carrots and basil. We plant these three together to improve growth and flavor as well as for protection from harmful insects. We’ve also learned that growing corn or broccoli near tomatoes only introduces disease and crop failure.
Another reason to remember companion planting when putting ideas to paper is for your garden’s visitors – namely butterflies and other helpful insects – which are drawn to flowers and veggies. All sorts of creatures can benefit from our work.
There is no question that a well-designed garden speaks for itself. Living successfully off the land is so much more than simply carrying prolific crops to the house with a warm reception. It’s about the work and heart behind the glorious results. You have to have one to have the other.
That is why my family started our heirloom seed company. Knowing just what hopes are sown in the soil, we created a designing gardens program in order to help gardeners in this early, overwhelming stage. Of the pertinent information we include, there are planting instructions, seed saving guidelines, suggested companion plants, and a fully customized garden layout – all for free.
There are many steps to success – each significant in their own way. Through my family’s business – White Harvest Seed Company – we hope to help folks grow more sufficiently. Sowing with unanswered questions will not get a gardener anywhere, but sowing with a plan does.