Many, many years ago, close-knit communities would spend hours together in the course of a year sharing from their own experiences what worked and what didn’t when it came to gardening and farming. Much of that old-time, best gardening advice and wisdom has been passed down to younger generations, but unfortunately, most have been lost. One really quick and easy way for you to learn more about where you are in your gardening journey and what areas you most need to grow in (pun intended) is to take my Gardening Self-Assessment. Pair the knowledge of this quiz with the advice of these awesome preppers, and you’ll be ready to tackle your next gardening project in no time.
When I asked the preppers who follow my Facebook pages for their best gardening advice, it was almost like sitting around a general store or a quilting bee, chatting and exchanging gardening stories and tips for creating a garden that produces fresh-tasting organic produce. Here is the advice they are passing along to you.
Know how long you have to grow (length of your growing season) and get seeds accordingly. You can’t grow something that has a maturity date of 120 days if you have a short season. Mulch. DONT have your compost pile up against a building. It can start a fire. (Lost my house 9 years ago due to our compost).
Always put some Epsom salt in with you tomatoes when you first plant them, and add more in each month, they love it.
I use the fresh grass clippings from the mowed lawn as mulch when we get into the really dry summer months. It has made a huge difference in keeping the soil nice.
Almost all veggies you buy from the store have seeds. Save them and plant rather than buying seed packets. Same with what you grow, just recycle the seeds. Read this for advice on saving seeds.
Compost is amazing for good soil and for cutting down on trash because most scraps end up in the pile.
My best gardening advice is, I don’t garden my garden. It gardens me! In years past, there were strategies for what grows, where, when, what time to plant etc., but the last few years, I have found that a little humor in my garden makes it enjoyable. I pick my favorites for a quick grab salad and stay with what works best for the conditions I have to work with. I watch the weather, what delights the bees, and hummingbirds, and make a makeshift evaluation, of what I can count on for a few seasons.
When I first moved in, I found fifteen clay pots, amongst the detritus, in a mostly rocky backyard. I decided to pick out the most giving veggies, that I could keep munching on, well into the summer, in the heat of the South West. Next round, after you go for the easy win, try above-ground gardening. Forget the rows. Broadcast seeds using a string, on highly mulched prepared medium, and stay tuned. Keep coming back to your garden and it will teach you a thing or two.
My mother always told me that “You have to be heartless to be a really good gardener”, and I have come to agree with her. Thin those rows fearlessly! Prune those bushes and trees! Divide those perennials relentlessly!
Mulch is your friend.
Make your own compost bin using a plastic trash can. Use a 2-inch paddle bit and drill holes throughout the can and lid spacing the holes out about 6-10 in. apart around the entire container. Drill holes in the bottom, too. I throw everything in mine (food scraps, leaves, coffee grounds, etc.) and use a pitchfork to mix it about once per month. Makes beautiful compost.
Try keyhole gardening. It was designed for developing countries and it’s very effective. Compost in the center then you can plant around it. Good for herbs, tomatoes but anything could be planted in it. Instructions here.
The two best words of gardening advice are “Try it!”
Companion planting. It does actually help. I keep the book Carrots Love Tomatoes on hand for reference.
I just started using my veggie water when I boil to add to the garden. I have chickens but still go to the donut store to get their empty eggs on Saturdays (360 egg shells) and make my own bone meal. I also collect the chicken and rabbit poo and add it to the compost to add to the garden soil. I rent a chipper when I trim my trees and use it for compost and mulch. Oh! I just made raised beds and to save on dirt, I got a bunch of free boxes from (Randalls) grocery store…they were already folded and had no tape on them and I filled the bottom of the raised beds halfway up before I added in the dirt and compost. The boxes will be a weed barrier and eventually be part of the decomposing process. saved a lot on dirt!
Prepare to be humbled. There is nothing like a squash bug to deflate your sense of pride in growing your own food.
Cindy and others highly recommend:
DIY worm composting is awesome!
Cindy B. has quite a bit of advice:
Plant your taller plants on the West side of your gardens or beds. They will shade the other plants from the blistering sun.
Shop vacs are your friends. Use them to suck up those pesky squash bugs.
Sweet potato leaves and broccoli leaves are edible.Once you harvest the large broccoli head, the plant will produce small broccoli offshoots.
Cabbage and Cauliflower produce only 1 head no offshoots.You can plant the plants closer together than the books say.
For us Southern gals…you can plant tomatoes by the first of March and again around the first of July.
Pumpkins for Fall decorating and eating — that’s a July planting also.
Plant marigolds with your tomatoes. The marigolds keep the Tomato Moth away.. and a lavender border keeps away a lot of other bugs. Basil keeps away flies, supposedly, but I never really noticed a difference. but lemon basil, if you even just brush up against smells amazing and is good in salads and soups. Bought mosquito plants last year at Home Depot (I don’t remember the name of them) but it did seem to help keep the mosquitos out of the standing water near them.
I am not a hardcore gardener by any means, but I have learned over the years that when the label says “full sun” it doesn’t usually mean full TEXAS sun!
The biggest help to me over the years has been to learn from master gardeners and take classes from local extension offices and gardening groups. They know the climate, the microclimates, what grows and what doesn’t.