24 September 2020

Small life hacks for a vegetable garden

Someone said that the only work done in paradise was gardening. I do agree that done with a light hand, keeping a vegetable garden comes close to paradise: healthy, delicious food, healthy exercise, better carbon footprint, lighter environmental impact. What’s not to like?

Our only significant light is in our front yard, so that’s where we grow our vegetables (and some fruits — that’s another day). The front beds have grown over time and now cover about half the front yard. We play around a bit, enjoying the hortoporn of the Fedco catalog and trying new varieties or new plants. It’s not serious; there is no way to fail at it. A few decades of gardening has given us a number of tips to share.

  1. Plant several plants of many things, rather than lots of plants of a few. This gives you more range to extend your season, confuses the predators, and reduces the amount of canning and preservation needed (unless you like that sort of thing)
  2. Onions are rewarding. Start with onion sets and get lavish amounts of scallions. When you’re hooked on them, start them from seed as well and you’ll get three passes at green onions: from the sets, from the seedlings, and from the onions you missed harvesting the year before.
  3. Composting doesn’t have to be complicated. A pile of leaves in the back corner where you bury the kitchen scraps will give you beautiful compost over time — it just won’t be as fast as the fancy systems.
  4. Mulching can avoid the need to compost altogether: rhododendron clippings go on the raspberries or other fruits, raspberry canes can mulch the tomatoes, and so on. Just put the trimmings somewhere away from their source to avoid diseases.
  5. Judicious choices can make a nine month garden: April brings aspargus, dandelion greens, and arugula, while by November the kale, parsley, and Brussels sprouts are still delicious.
  6. Cattle panels cut in half make wonderful trellises for tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, and beans. A farm store will cut the 8’ x 4’ panel in half for you. Mount on garden stakes and enjoy vegetables at a height comfortable for picking.
  7. Amish Paste tomatoes are a heritage strain with a good taste, decent pest resistant, and decent yield. If you’ve found an even better heritage strain share in the comments.
  8. A variety in the garden balances the risks of weather. If some plants like hot and some like wet, you’ve got a better chance to have some yield. 

And yes, you can grow artichokes in Iowa. If you’re curious I’ll explain in the comments.

So much deliciousness comes from a vegetable garden! Share your favorite hacks in the comments.

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