From the bean, and dirty hands, of Green Bean.
1) Healthy Soil
Two years ago, a friend and I attended an edible garden tour. Each garden we visited so lush, so healthy and each had the same underlying theme - long time gardeners, amending the soil year after year. We have only been in our current yard for four years but got a jump start the first year with sheet mulch. (Learn about sheet mulching here.)
In addition, I have always composted but last year, I got serious. We built a three bin compost system and celebrated one year later with this black gold!
Finally, mulch is nature's method of building healthy soil. In the fall, we let leaves lie - or haul them from neighbor's trees. If the summer, we add leaves, straw or grass clippings to reduce the amount of water needed. All those organic materials break down over time, enriching and enlivening the soil.
I have no doubt that 30 - nay 5 years - from now, my soil will be just as healthful, my garden just as fertile as those yards on the edible garden tour.
2) Mix Up Your Plants
I do not to have companion planting down but I do always intermix flowers and edibles. Flowers bring in the pollinators and deter pests. Plus, many flowers - calendula, nasturtium, borage - are edible.
In my old garden, we successfully protected young seedlings from roaming deer just by adding flowers. At our current home, flowers interplanted with edibles have helped deter insect pests. Above is a typical raised bed in our garden - it contains peppers, tomatoes, sunflowers, nasturtium and marigolds. I also have planted perennial pollinator-plants amongst my raised beds.
3) Rotate Crops
Crop rotation involves growing different crops in different locations from year to year. While I have tried to follow a three year rotation, the best I have been able to do is one year on, one year off. For instance, I plant tomatoes in these two beds this year and those two beds next year. I feel like it is better than nothing but I'm still working on this. Maybe I need more raised beds!? ;-)
4) Know When to Throw in the Towel
Sometimes, I just decide that enough is enough. For instance, by the time the aphids take over the kale, collards or chard, those greens are usually on their last legs. They are getting ready to bolt. Their leaves are getting tougher. At that point in time, I usually just yank the plant and let the chickens feast on it - bugs and all.
5) Hired Help
Sure, this Phoebe looks sweet but, have no doubt. It is a stone cold killer. This fellow has been a resident since we moved in four years ago but this year, he attracted a mate. Between the two of them, they have rid the chicken coop of flies. This is the first summer since we have had chickens - 5 years - where I've not had to put out some sort of fly trap.
We invited birds into our yard by making our garden more wildlife friendly. (Here is how we did that or check out these 10 helpful tips). The birds and beneficial insects we have attracted have repaid us ten-fold. For instance, I found harlequin bugs on some squash earlier this year. I hand picked two and then hit the internet in a full-fledged panic attack. When I resurfaced that evening, I spotted a pair of wrens busily flitting amongst the squash plants. I've not seen a harlequin bug since.
This post is part of the Homestead Barn Hop, Backyard Farming Connection, Maple Hill Hop, Green Thumb Thursday and Tuesday Garden Party.