How to be self-sustaining in the midst of a pandemic.
Spring is just around the corner and the first thing on our minds is getting the garden ready. What this entails is dragging the tiller out and digging up the land. Using the garden rake to make perfectly straight rows for those delicious vegetables you will harvest in a few months. All this work creates the question; is there another way?
To answer that question, yes! Alternative gardening is quickly becoming a popular way to grow your own food without the use of a tiller or the back-breaking task of weeding. Let’s look at some alternative gardening methods and get you started on the path to sustainability.
To start our discussion off, we will look at alternatives that are more advanced. They will require a little more work in the field of science rather than the field of dirt.
1. Aquaponics: the process of growing vegetables with the use of fish. The natural process of fish waste breaking down turns nitrates into nitrites. It is an organic form of hydroponics.
Pros: no need for soil, conserve water, and produce two crops simultaneously (fish and vegetables)
Cons: expensive, need for lots of space, and required fish food
2. Hydroponics: growing food in using a water-soluble nutrient solution. Growing vegetables with this method are productive as hydroponics has the fastest growth rate of any gardening method.
Pros: no soil needed, indoor/outdoor option, the fastest method
Cons: expensive, no organic option for nutrient solutions
These are great alternatives for those looking to grow vegetables on a larger scale for selling and sustaining their families.
Alternatives for Less Weeding
Weeding is the most time-consuming part of gardening. This is a never-ending job that can destroy a garden if not taken care of. The delightful news is that there are ways to lessen your time weeding and more time enjoying the deliciousness you have grown.
1. Raised Beds: This method involves building garden beds using wood to frame, and the bottom is created from cardboard or newspaper. Essentially, it is like a box to grow crops in. We can grow most vegetables in raised beds. Corn would be the exception. Personally, I have grown corn in raised beds and had okay success.
Pros: soil is elevated, giving you better drainage and reducing strain on your back when planting, harvesting, and tending. Weeding is easier because the soil does not become compacted because of you not walking on it.
Cons: Buying the wood can be expensive and once construction of the bed is complete, there is a commitment to its upkeep.
2. Straw Bale Gardening: Using straw bales for a garden is a great way to grow your own food no matter where you live. It is also cheap, as you can sometimes find free straw bales at the end of Halloween or Thanksgiving. If you decide gardening is not your cup of tea, then you are not out a lot. We use straw instead of hay for the lack of weeds in straw.
Pros: Cheap, essentially no weeding, and can move bales to get the right amount of sunlight. They are not permanent.
Cons: straw bales dry out fast and need to be conditioned, which can be time-consuming.
3. Container Gardening: Apartment and condo dwellers can have the most fun with this method. If you don’t have a lot of space, place containers on your patio or even in your home.
Pros: Takes a small amount of space and is mobile. No weeding.
Cons: You will need a constant watering schedule as containers/pots drain fast. Limited growth will happen because of container size and containers can be pricey.
Traditional Meets Alternative
If you are one who enjoys tilling up the land and planting your seeds right in the ground, then this method is perfect for you. Long known for its weed control and moisture retention, mulch may seem not so alternative. We derive the alternative nature of mulching from the distinct types of mulch used.
1. Wood Chips — These precious jewels are found easy and cheap. Spread them along your garden rows at a depth of 4 to 6 inches. They are great for retaining moisture and keeping weeds at bay.
2. Pine Needles — Plants that need an acidic soil to grow will thank you for using pine needles. Mulching with pine needles allows your soil to breathe because it does not become dense and compacted like other mulches. As it decomposes, pine needles give off calcium, phosphorus, and nitrogen.
3. Cotton Burrs — These are the dry husks that surround the cotton ball on a cotton plant. We usually leave them in the field. As a by-product of the ginning process, they are gathered and used as mulch or compost. They retain moisture well and aerate the soil.
Gardening is a labor of love filled with sweat, blood, and smiles. Using any of the techniques above, you will become a gardener that fits your lifestyle. So, get your gloves and get started!