Hello again friends! Today I am launching a new series all about plant-based homesteading. In this five-part series I am going to share a few things you can do to get your vegetarian, vegan, or plant-based homestead off the ground. Today I am sharing the most important step, starting a garden, with FIVE tips for starting a garden.
Five Tips for Starting a Garden
1. Diversify what you plant.
The first tip for starting a garden, is to diversify the crops you grow, and the varieties you grow of them. Bringing diversity into the garden is going to provide so many benefits. It’s going to provide YOU with so many nutrients. A balanced diet is so important, and what better way to create balance than by implementing diversity in your garden?! Diversity will also be better for the pollinators, prettier to look at, and better for pest control! It’s a win-win-win!
When you’re planning your garden, don’t forget about the flowers. Flowers are so important for an organic garden. They deter pests, attract pollinators, and add so much beauty to your space! We love to plant zinnias, poppies, and marigolds.
2. Plant what you eat.
The second tip for starting a garden is to plant what you eat. There is nothing more depressing as a gardener than wasted food. The best way to avoid this? Plant what you eat! Do you enjoy butternut squash soup? Plant plenty of winter squash. Or maybe you prefer spinach or kale over other greens.
Plant the things you enjoy eating, and then plant beyond that to encourage expanding your palette. I’ve learned so much about what I enjoy eating by trying new things. So while I absolutely recommend planting what you are already eating, I like to also encourage planting new things that you might not like, but are willing to give a shot. We will be planting Okra in addition to more summer squash this year, and I’m looking forward to trying new things and finding fun ways to cook with produce.
3. Plant foods that can be preserved & learn how to preserve them.
It is very important to consider how you can preserve foods if you are wanting to have a plant-based, vegetarian, or vegan homestead. That is why this is my third tip for starting a garden. If you’re in a northern region like I am, or maybe even a desert region where it gets too hot much of the year to grow a lot of food, regardless of where you live, preservation becomes important. There are so many ways to do this, depending on the crop and how you want to use it. Freezing, canning, dehydrating, fermenting, pickling, and growing foods that have a long natural shelf life are some of my favorite ways.
4. Maximize your space.
Tip number four for starting a garden is all about maximizing your garden space. If you take anything from this, I hope it is this: you CAN homestead no matter where you are! Whether you have acres of land to farm, or a table in your home where you can grow some microgreens indoors, homesteading is a mindset shift, a focus on connection with your food and your impact. That being said, when starting a garden, utilize the space you do have. It might be a patio where you can have some raised beds, like my girl Natalie at Hey It’s A Good Life, or it might be a ¼ of an acre. Whatever is it, use it well.
It can be a lot easier to be more intentional with smaller spaces, but I encourage you to maximize your space no matter where you are, to reduce waste, and support a healthy garden. Plants do much better if there is less room for weeds to grow up. One way to maximize your space is through vertical trellising, which means using a physical support structure to grow plants off of the ground. That way you can grow other plants around and below the trellis and expand your space vertically.
Another way to maximize your space is to succession plant. When you pull up radishes and carrots from the garden, don’t leave that space empty, plant new seeds right after so you can always have new veggies coming up.
One permaculture method of gardening, that truly embodies maximizing space, is using one crop as a natural support for another crop. For example, you can grow pole beans that rely on corn as a support system. Then you can go in and plant squash around the beans and corn to act as a ground cover and suppress weeds. This method is called Three Sisters, but there are a lot of ways to use crops as natural supports for other crops. This is pretty awesome!
5. Utilize your full growing season.
Finally, my last tip for starting a garden, is to use all the growing time that you have, wherever you are. You might be surprised how long you can stretch the season by doing things like adding row cover, mulching heavily, or maybe even putting in an inexpensive greenhouse, like a hoop house made out of cattle panels. My Michigan friend, Josh at the Citystead, did this, and it will allow him to grow greens earlier in spring and later in the fall, that I am able to grow without one.
A common thing here in Upstate NY is for people to wait until May 31st to plant anything at all. This is silly in my mind. You can plant so many things in April, like carrots, beets, onions, radishes, greens, spinach, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, you get the point… There are so many things that are cold tolerant and that can go in the ground before the first frost, and can also be grown in the fall, and even after the final frost. It amazes me that so few people know this, and plant their tomatoes, peppers, greens, and root vegetables all at the same time. Think of your garden in three stages instead of one: 1) spring garden; 2) summer garden; and 3) fall garden. If you’re really lucky you may even get to add a fourth stage on to that, a winter garden!
Get ready friends. Next week I will be sharing the second item on the list for getting your plant-based, vegetarian, or vegan homestead off of the ground: planting an orchard and perennials! I can’t wait to share this with you. Make sure you are subscribed to our email list so you get notified each time I share another post.
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That’s all for now friends!
All my best,