An overview of 7 gardening methods and ideas we use each garden season.
There are different methods of gardening and you don’t have to use just one at a time. You can combine different ideas to meet your needs.
You don’t have to use every aspect of each method, though those gardeners that are die-hard one method over another would disagree. There are many other methods, these are just a few we incorporate into our garden each year.
If you find any of these methods intriguing enough to try, please search the web for more in-depth step-by-step instructions.
Garden Ideology: How you grow.
1) Organic Gardening.
We garden in an organic manner. This may sound funny because all gardening works with organic material. We look at ourselves as soil gardeners, not a specific type of gardener. In order for any part of your garden to be a success, your soil must be healthy for you, your plants, and your animals.
Growing organically means only organic seeds which are always non-GMO. We prefer seeds we’ve saved or swapped with like-minded friends. Any seeds we do purchase are from small seed companies we can talk to directly if need be.
We grow with nature and watch nature. No synthetic pesticides or chemicals. We use compost in the garden and cover our beds with bedding from the barn, fallen leaves, and compost throughout the season.
We don’t use bleach or other chemical cleaners. Instead, we use 35% peroxide, which is diluted depending on the application.
2) Biodynamical Growing
Biodynamic gardening is a method of gardening developed by Maria Thun, which includes holistic and sustainable farming approaches. Gardening activities coincide with lunar and cosmic influences for all aspects of gardening. This gardening method relies on the moon and planetary cycle for sowing, planting, transplanting, and harvesting for storage.
Biodynamical methods build microbial activity in your garden, which allows for better soil and food. It includes crop rotations, companion planting, and preparations. It’s a connection between man and nature.
There are many planners available for Biodynamical gardening. Plus, there’s information in the Farmer’s Almanac for taking care of animals as well.
We use The Maria Thun Biodynamical Almanac, which is a weekly calendar, giving us information regarding the moon and planetary calendar and when the best time is to plant, transplant, sow, harvest for food storage and more. This is the second year we are using the calendar to help guide our gardening.
If you’ve(you) hadn’t heard this term before, it may sound scary, but it’s not. According to Justin Christofleau (1925), “Electroculture is a method of applying atmospheric electricity to the fertilization of plant life.” Yes, it sounds like a science experiment.
The idea behind Electroculture is that you can bring energy from the earth and the atmosphere to the plant for better growth, pest control, and soil conditioning.
In a nutshell, you wrap copper wire counterclockwise around a piece of wood or tree branch. You then place the wood wound with wire around your plants and garden area. It works in any type of garden.
We used these copper antennas in our garden last year and found that the plants that didn’t grow well still didn’t grow well, but those that did, were more abundant than previous years.
This year we are adding copper rods to our strawberry bed to help with slugs. Supposedly, slugs hate copper, so we will find out and let you know.
Yes, we use a combination of all three methods for our garden.
We’ve played with organic hybrids as an experiment for fun. After two years of saving seeds, growing, saving, growing, we decided it was a fun experiment, but not something that would take up space in our garden. We will stick with organic, heirloom, open pollinated, and preferably our seeds or seeds from someone we’ve swapped with in the area.
We have created new varieties of squash and pumpkin that we love. We don’t set out to create a new variety, we just save seeds and plant two varieties close, then see what we get. Sometimes it’s on purpose, sometimes it isn’t.
We plant, transplant and harvest for storage according to biodynamical growing. We are learning about the energy of the earth and moon regarding growing. Which leads us into Electroculture. And yes, we have made quite a few mini antennas with wood and copper for all our growing areas.
It may seem like a lot, but for us it just all flows together, because we’ve done it bit by bit.
Infrastructure: Till or No -Till Methods
The infrastructure and method of moving your soil goes hand in hand. There are till and no till methods within your infrastructure.
Till methods mean you are rotatilling or deeply moving the soil every season and between plantings in your garden. This deep movement of the soil aides in adding amendments, nutrients, and gets rid of weeds. It disrupts the microorganisms and soil’s structure the most, making you need to do more work every season in order to balance your garden soil.
No-till methods refer to not disturbing your soil except for the top few inches as necessary. You have areas of your garden set up to grow but without tilling. They can be flat sections of your garden, raised beds, containers, etc. You do not till the soil in your garden with a rototiller or deeply by hand. Instead, the soil is gently moved y hand, rake, or shovel to plant or weed. Only the top few inches of the soil is minimally disturbed, which helps improve your soil health. By not tilling you are keeping beneficial organisms alive, have less erosion, and use less water.
As soil farmers, we believe that nature is best left as undisrupted as possible. This allows worms, good bacteria, bugs, insects, microorganism, mycelium, etc to do their job best. And when nature needs a little help, we add more nature to it. We believe in the no till methods and create our infrastructure to fit it.
4) Piling Method
There are many piling methods of gardening, such as Garden of Eden, Ruth Stout Method or Lasagna Gardening. All three methods encompass natural weed barrier methods such as cardboard, woodchips, hay, straw, etc. Allowing you to get started quickly.
You add organic material such as compost, leaves, bark, etc, to the top of the garden and let it decompose or mix it in lightly.
You’ll physically remove weeds or mulch over them for weed management. But be mindful, maybe that “weed” or what you think is a weed is really a wild plant that complements your garden or lifestyle.
5) Raised Beds
Raised beds allow you to start a garden on any surface, because you fill the bed with the soil and material you want. You have full control over the soil as you build the soil layer by layer. Plus, weed control is minimized, providing you didn’t dump a bunch of weed seeds into the bed.
You can control drainage through different methods, such as Hügelkultur, rocks, and other compost.
The difference between container gardening and raised beds is the bottom. A raised bed has an open bottom. A container in a garden has a solid bottom connected to the sides of the container.
The raised bed gardening set up is great for all ages,types of plants, and garden design. You grow your food in structures that sit above the ground level. There is no specific depth, lengths or width required. And you don’t need a specific type of material to make raised beds out of.
Yes, you can take containers and cut out the bottom, making raised beds out of old containers.
6) Container Gardening works for all gardeners.
Anyone can and should do some container gardening. Container gardening is just like it sounds. You’re growing your food in a container. You choose the container’s size depending on your space and what you want to grow. Containers allow you to grow herbs inside, tomatoes on a balcony, salad in a window, and more herbs in a garden.
One nice thing about container gardening is you can move the plant inside when the outside weather isn’t optimal for that plant.
We do this with our aloe plants, amongst other plants. Aloe does great on the covered porch all summer, but come winter, the cold would kill it pretty fast. We just move the plant, which is on wheels, into the kitchen.
Add covers to your raised beds and containers for a longer growing season.
Hügelkultur is a German word meaning “mound culture”. As in mound organic material in layers in order to make a bed for your garden. You layer wood or logs, leaves, other brush, anything compostable into a heap, including kitchen scraps. Hugels can be in any shape or size, there is no rule. I’ve seen some six feet high and several hundred feet long, and some that fit into a container pot.
Once you’re done piling your organic material, you add a top layer of soil which you grow in. As you’re planting and growing, your Hugelkultur or mound is decomposing, giving your plants important nutrients.
Hugels create better fertile areas, keep the season growing longer because of extra heat, help with watering issues, and help create composting areas while you grow. Hugels help regulate water to your plants. When it rains, the Hugel holds in the water, then if there is a dry spell, it releases more of the water into the planting area. The Hugel also keep the plants away from the excess water, for it runs underneath, not drowning your plants.
Hugelkulture mimics nature. If you go into the woods, you will find piles of fallen trees and brush, with soil on top of the wood and brush decomposing. You will find different plants growing from all areas of these mounds. Hugels are a natural phenomenon of nature and regeneration.
The Hugel takes time, sometimes years, to break down. It all depends upon what material you have in your Hugel, which means you gain access to the composting material’s nutrients for many growing seasons.
How we started and where we are in our garden?
I started with the throw seeds, pray, and hunt for food method of gardening. I wanted to garden, but didn’t think I had time every year. And yes, we got food this way, but there wasn’t any control or organization. Over the years, different homes created different results and struggles.
When I lived in Washington State, the soil was amazing. Anyone could throw seeds and get food. We had an assortment of beans, peas, and onion in between flowers with minor work. And a small square garden in the yard, that I literally dropped seeds onto the ground and pushed them in.
However, I became so sick of slugs in our garden and created a moat to catch them. Yes, some slugs and snails were caught in my moat, but mostly it became a fun place for the kids to play.
Our current home started with clay dirt. The growing season is much shorter, with unique weather patterns from snow to high winds. We now have a combination of pile no-till flat areas of the garden, containers, and raised beds. Most areas incorporate some sort of Hugelkultur within the growing area.
Each year, we adjust and add to or subtract from what we are doing. Some years we grow in the entire area and sometimes we don’t.
For 2024, we are hoping to incorporate a chicken garden into our garden area. Plus, figure out the cold frame greenhouse that appeared this past fall. We will keep you in the loop of our newest adventure.
It doesn’t matter how you grow, just grow something!
Grow Food – Eat Local – Gain Freedom