There are many, many, gardening books out there, and they all seem to have a strategy for "good" gardening. I've utilized many of those strategies over the years, but some have stuck with me more than others. I thought I'd share the strategies I've found particularly helpful as I've been gardening. Others are new strategies I'm employing this year.
Companion Planting: I started companion planting last year after reading Great Garden Companions . I'm not sure if companion planting actually helps keep bugs away. We don't seem to have many harmful bugs swarming our garden. Aesthetically, however, it was just lovely, and it made planting much easier. It also helped to prevent the growth of weeds. Perhaps my favorite tip was to plant petunias around onions. The petunias spread really wide, so they don't compete with the onions for water. However, by spreading wide, they prevent weed growth. This year, I need to plant the petunias earlier. Last year, they went into the garden as an afterthought, and they didn't spread before the weeds arrived. Also, the book also encouraged me to fit more into my garden, as I could include small plants around those that were larger. Now, I stuff my beds full of plants, and it helps me to fit more in. Of course, I still run out of room every year.
Cover Crops: Last year was the first time I attempted to use a cover crop. I bought some crimson clover, and spread it around my garden beds in the fall. It didn't really grow to full maturity, but still it did provide some thing for my beds to do over the winter. One of my goals this week is to go through the garden beds, and gently turn over the clover to turn it into some "green manure" before planting. One can also remove it from the beds entirely, and throw it into the compost pile. Eliot Coleman discusses the use of cover crops in his book Four-Season Harvest , and Susy shows how to utilize them on her blog Chiot's Run.
(young rhubarb sprouts)
Perennial Additions: Perennials are your friends folks. I love having perennials in my garden because they provide a jump start to spring, and I don't need to do much to keep them going. I currently have strawberries, chives, thyme, oregano, rhubarb, walking onions, and a small amount of asparagus growing. This year, I plan to add sun chokes (Jerusalem artichokes), horseradish, more herbs, and greatly expand my asparagus bed. (If you know of any good perennials, please suggest them!)
Actively Aerated Compost Tea: Susy (Chiot's Run) recently recommended Teaming with Microbes , and then my husband surreptitiously bought me the book at the same time. This book has drastically altered the way I think about gardening. Firstly, it bans roto-tilling, because the roto-tiller destroys the soil food web in the garden that has built up over the previous year. I'll still be tilling my soil on the surface, and lightly aerating it each year, but there will be no more roto-tiller. Secondly, the book proscribes a way to make aerated compost tea. They argue that the tea improves the strength of the good microbes in the soil, and successfully combats fungus and quack grass. I'm starting my first batch of tea today, and I'll be utilizing it through the summer.
Compost: Perhaps most importantly, this year I need to be less of a lazy composter. We have all the elements needed for compost in our yard, and yet we don't turn our compost enough, nor monitor our pile at all.
So that's where I'm at right now. What strategies are you uitilizing in your garden?