When it comes to growing food, flowers and herbs, making sure you know how to do the tasks below will help you be more sustainable, build confidence, save you money and keep you growing year after year.
- Composting – Learning how to compost will help you feed your soil. Feeding your soil is in my opinion the most crucial step in growing amazing food, flowers and herbs. Making your own compost helps save you money and is more sustainable than buying bags of compost each season. It will also save you money if you order your compost for delivery. Plus unless you go see the compost in person, you never know the quality you might get. With so many new gardeners in 2020 and 2021, many compost suppliers had a tough time keeping up with demand and less than awesome compost was the only thing available, unless you made your own. If you can only make a small pile of compost, you can then take that finished compost and make compost tea with it, this allows you to feed more of your garden.
- Starting Seeds – You can definitely buy seedlings and transplant into your garden after hardening them off or you can start your own seeds. There is something so magical about starting seeds on your own. Watching and waiting for germination is a lot of fun, seeing that tiny little sprout pop up is wonderful. I am amazed each time I sow seeds, knowing that from this tiny little seed we will get a large plant that we can harvest from to nourish our family. Starting seeds in not as hard as it seems, but like anything with gardening there is experimentation that needs to happen and a small learning curve. Seeds want to become plants, so they will do their best to grow for you when you provide them with what they need.
- Soil Blocking – While starting seeds there are many approaches you can take, I prefer using soil blocks. I feel like my plants are happier when transplanting them using this method. I also love the air pruning that happens and not having to worry about plants becoming root bound. This is also the method I suggest if you are going to start seeds of those plants that usually prefer to be directly sown in the garden. I see less transplant shock with soil blocks. In my setup I use 2 inch soil blocks in a stainless steel steamer tray that sits in a baking sheet pan. I can easily sanitize the trays and they are much sturdier than plastic trays.
- Saving Seeds – I absolutely love looking through seed catalogs, ordering seeds then not so patiently waiting for them to come in the mail. I still save seeds though. They are like an insurance policy, a just in case stock is low or out. I suggest saving seeds for your favorite varieties too. You want to make sure that they are open pollinated or heirloom varieties and not a hybrid. You can technically save seeds of hybrids, the plants you end up growing from those won’t be exactly like their parent plant. They will still produce a plant and in a pinch you can grow them if needed.
- Use a No Dig Approach – No dig gardening is one of, if not the best way to build/keep soil health and vitality in my experience. When we use the no dig approach we are allowing the sacred soil matrix teeming with microbes and fungi that support plant growth and nourishment, to remain intact. The goal is to have the least disturbance of the soil. When you dig or till a garden space you are not only disturbing the soil matrix, but you are bringing to the light weed seeds. (Definitely not something a gardener wants, unless its seeds to useful garden weeds.) If you really want to know more about this approach to gardening look to Charles Dowding. As I have said before soil health is the foundation for healthy gardens, plants and people, no dig gardening is a fantastic approach to maintaining healthy soil.
Learning how to do these garden tasks will up your sustainability in the garden, give you confidence that you are indeed a great gardener and ensure you can grow what you need to, when you need to. Please keep in mind that these are great goals to aim for, but not being able to do them shouldn’t stop you from gardening. Gardening is for everyone and can be done in anyway that works with what you have. Do the best you can, and when you can do more, do more. Enjoy the journey!