Tending the Earth: Our Guide To Gardening
“A person who is growing a garden, if he is growing it organically, is improving a piece of the world.”—Wendell Berry
Spring fever is upon us. In the bustling energy of springtime, gardening conditions are perfect. The sun is shining, days are getting longer and the soil is primed for digging. In the garden, spring is all about prepping beds, sowing seeds and planting.
Each season ushers in its own gardening practices, and each season’s activities are dependent upon the prior season’s efforts. There is a natural cycle that occurs—new life in the spring; growth and harvest in the summer and fall; and death and the beginning of the composting cycle in the winter.
Gardening, like anything, has been heavily commercialized. Organic agriculture does not use chemical fertilizers, pesticides and antibiotics. Instead, farmers work to build soil and maintain healthy ecosystems, sustaining the land so it will support the lives of future generations.
While biodynamic farming may observe organic faming practices, this method goes one step further. Biodynamic gardening or farming is both a practice and a movement—it is a holistic approach to growing food and nutrition that considers the social, ecological and economic factors of communities.
Each production method offers incredible wisdom for home gardeners.
Discover simple gardening practices that will support abundance all year long.
GARDEN BY SEASON: SPRING OVERVIEW
Adapting gardening practices to weather patterns and the seasons is fundamental to both organic and biodynamic production methods. Summer marks the beginning of harvest and another round of sowing seeds for winter gardens. Fall is the quintessential harvest season. And late-fall /early-winter is when we wrap up the garden by harvesting winter squash, cover cropping, and winterizing the beds.
Spring is the time to sow seeds, prep the soil for planting and put plants in the ground. During spring, greenhouses and heat mats help protect seeds from frost. Meanwhile, testing the soil and water helps us to determine the micro and macro nutrients that will keep the soil in perfect balance- then we can amend the soil with compost, minerals, natural fertilizers and organic matter from cover crops.
April and May are ideal planting months.
Tend to the wild by creating habitat for insects, birds and wildlife.
• Plant butterfly plants and native gardens to attract beneficial insects. Try milkweed (for monarchs), lupine, calendula, lavender, or zinnias. For more ideas, click here.
• Build boxes for owls, carpenter bees, bluebirds and bats.
• Put out food and water for birds. Birdseed and a hummingbird feeders add so much beauty to your spring garden while supporting birds during their nesting season, ensuring a healthy future for your local bird population.
Spring is the time to sow seeds for your summer garden! The beauty of the summer garden is you can grow absolutely everything so long as you have access to sunshine and plenty of water. Tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant, summer squash, winter squash, beans, corn, basil, and tomatillos love the heat. If you live in a mild climate or build a shade house, you can continue to grow greens, carrots, beets, cilantro, peas, and brassicas.
• Use a heat mat indoors to start tomatoes, peppers & eggplants. Start plants by pouring a packet of seeds into a 4 inch pot and covering with vermiculite. Once the plants have true leaves (after 4-6 weeks), divide them out so each plant is rooted into a single 4 inch pot.
• Sow peas, potatoes and root crops (carrots, radishes & beets) directly into the ground or garden box. Or buy plant starts (lettuces, braising greens, kale) and plant them directly into the soil. Cover seeds and baby plants with row cover, a white cloth that allows sunshine and water through while protecting the seeds and baby plants from birds, insects and slugs.
• If you have a large garden space, sow bigger seeds (cucumbers, squash, beans, corn) in 6-packs or 4 inch pots and place them in a greenhouse (if frost is a concern) or covered area (to protect from birds, rodents, insects & slugs). If you have a small garden space, purchasing individual plant starts at your local farmer’s market can provide the diversity you are looking for without having to start more seeds than you need.
• Plant strawberries and raspberries in the early spring and get rewarded with delicious red berries before the season is over or at the beginning of summer.
Experienced gardeners focus 90% of their energy on growing the soil and 10% on the rest. With healthy, balanced soil and sufficient water, you can grow anything your heart desires. Although gardeners build soil all year long by planting cover crops adding compost and rotating crops, spring is the time to focus extra energy on prepping garden beds for planting.
• Test your soil to determine the specific micro and macro nutrients that will benefit your soil type.
• Add compost and organic matter.
• Amend your soil with minerals and natural fertilizers (fish emulsion, guano, bloodmeal, etc.).
• Map your garden and practice rotating your crops. Crop rotations can be defined as planting dissimilar crops in each bed year after year to maximize soil fertility and prevent soil born diseases. Learn more: click here.
• If you have a small enough plot, try hand-digging your garden beds with a digging fork or a broad fork. This adds air to your beds and breaks up the clumps, leaving you with soil that provides an ideal home for roots and easy drainage. An added bonus is hand tilling works with the life in the soil (worms, insects, bacteria, etc.) rather than disturbing the life in the soil (which happens with motorized tillers and tractors).
PLANTING & WATERING
Once the beds are prepped and the risk for frost has passed (usually during April or May), it is time to plant your summer garden.
• Choose a sunny spot in your garden to plant your summer crops. Allow plenty of space for each plant and consider building a trellis for your vining cucumbers, squash & beans. Corn loves to be planted in a patch, which helps support pollination.
• When the plants are still small, apply a compost mulch to maximize your water usage and keep weeds at bay. Learn more about mulching: click here
• Set up a drought-tolerant watering system. Taking time to set up an irrigation system with a timer saves water and hours of your time. Water your garden in the early mornings to maximize water usage and promote plant health.
ENJOY YOUR WORK
The beauty of gardening is that all of your hard work comes with big, often edible rewards. Perennial plants such as fruit trees, raspberries, and strawberries begin to bear fruit and in the spring. Asparagus and rhubarb are also ready for harvest. Celebrate this beautiful season with asparagus salad and strawberry rhubarb crumble.
- Nature Conservation,
- Self Cultivation,