Saturday, July 21, 2012

What Would Nature Do?

Anyone can garden. I used to think that it required too much planning, and they certainly do require a bit of hard work, but I love that my garden takes on a life of its own now. I'm almost more of an observer than an active participant, which is what works best for me. You might not be able to farm acres of land, but with a little experimentation, you WILL find something that works for you.

There are so many different styles and philosophies when it comes to gardening, how do you know what advice to follow? Ultimately, it boils down to what is best for you and your individual situation, and what information seems to ring true for you. I have chosen organic gardening because my mind simply could not rest once I learned what conventional methods consisted of, and I am fortunate enough to have plenty of space and time, which makes a big difference. I like to take a very laid-back approach, which works for me because I have been gardening enough years now to know what I can get away with. I try to only interfere with my plants when I have too, preferring to let things grow the way nature intended them to. I don't fertilize at timed intervals, I don't pinch plants for maximum output, and I'm not looking for the highest volume of tomatoes per plant or perfectly straight carrots. My philosophy has always been that the happiest plants... and the happiest soil, comes from letting nature do its own thing.

In many of my pictures (like the one above), you will notice that there are always weeds in the garden beds. I don't weed my garden very often. I'm careful to not let the weeds go to seed, but for the most part, they help the plants like any other mulch would. They help keep the soil cool during the day, and warmer at night. When I do weed, it is selective... mostly just the largest ones,  or any that are getting ready to flower. Weeds are much easier to pull when they are a bit larger.

I do not fertilize my growing plants AT ALL! I feed the soil every fall with homemade compost and steer manure, which sits on the top and continues to break down over the winter. In the spring, I lightly turn the soil, plant the garden, and focus on building next years compost pile. That's it!

I have started to develop non-edible flower beds, which is really a new thing for me. The very first thing that I discovered was that perennials were a MUST because the annuals were to much work and required too much space. Now, instead of worrying about a bunch of little seedlings every spring, I simply remove the leaf mulch from a few lucky plants that won my sympathy, and watch as everything comes back to life, all without so much as a nudge from me!

My garden works for me because I have designed it to only require the amount of work I am willing to put into it. What about you? Does your garden defy convention, or do you do it by the books? What works for you?

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