So Many Different Gardening Methods, Which Is Best For You?
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So many people are excited about the prospect of growing their own herbs, fruits, vegetables, annuals or perennials. Naturally the question arises- “Where to begin?”. There are so many different gardening methods to choose from.
This is when overwhelm usually sets in and people tend to give up the notion and move on to something else. The good news is that simply learning about the many unique or alternative gardening methods is a great first step to determine what your needs are and which method would work best for you. If you’re new to the game this article is a great introduction to gardening.
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Different Gardening Methods, Different Circumstances
One reason why beginners feel so overwhelmed is because there are so many ways to have a successful garden. There’s no one size fits all when it comes to different gardening styles. Depending on what you’re growing, what kind of space you have, your budget, how much time you can commit, your physical capabilities etc. you’re going to pick what will work best for you.
Unique Gardening Methods For Unique You
The fact that there are so many options is fantastic news. Literally anyone can garden whether you live in an apartment or a 20 acre homestead, whether you’re hoping to make a living or do it as a hobby on the side.
Here’s 22 well known gardening methods to consider when just starting out or looking to change it up:
1. Traditional In Ground Gardening
This is what most people are familiar with. Think of years ago our great grandparents plowing the field behind their home, directly planting seeds into the ground. This type of gardening may require more physical labor as you must bend over to plant, weed frequently and tend to the plants. Some people use this method and use garden chairs on wheels or other devices to make the process physically easier. The benefit to this method is that it doesn’t cost much and is fairly simple, especially if you’re blessed with healthy soil that will not need amending.
2. Vertical Gardening
Vertical gardening is just what you’d expect it to be! It is really an innovative gardening technique, though nothing new- they date back to 3000 BCE. It wasn’t until the last century that vertical gardens started to make a comeback worldwide. Each vertical garden is drastically different from the other. Depending on what structures, trellis, walls, containers, buildings, stairs etc. that people use, these gardens are uniquely beautiful and functional. When space is an issue, why not go vertical? Certain crops do better than others when it comes to vertical gardening. It is a great way to intentionally use your space wisely.
3. Container Gardening
Another easy one to guess, container gardening is a good gardening technique for those who don’t have the in ground space, don’t want to hurt their back, or even want to grow indoors. Container gardening is also valuable for growing invasive plants such as mint because it will keep it from spreading all over your garden. Container gardening also allows for more control over pests and works to eliminate any issues you may have with your native soil. If you plant in large containers then you will not have to water as frequently.
4. Raised Bed Gardening
Raised bed gardening is extremely popular for a variety of reasons. Raised obviously means that the beds are raised above the ground through some kinds of structure (think wood, metal planters, rocks etc.). The soil warms up more quickly in the Spring which allows for a longer growing season, they tend to have excellent drainage when prepared properly, no tilling means better quality soil, they are easier to access physically, less weeds and pests. To top it off, if done well they tend to make a landscape look very pleasing to the eye. Raised beds are a clear favorite and one every gardener should try.
5. High Intensity Gardening
High intensity gardening is when you plant individual plants very close together to produce the highest yield possible. The benefit to this is that you are using your space wisely and intentionally- nothing going to waste. The other benefit is that by planting closer together you’re need for weeding goes down drastically. It should be said that this high intensity gardening technique still follows the minimum spacing recommended on the seed packet. This method tends to work best in raised beds or container gardening, though does not have to be. High intensity gardening and square foot gardening (below) are similar but not the same.
6. Hydroponic Gardening
Hydroponics gardening is a method of gardening that does not require any soil and has the capacity to nurture a wide variety of plants. Using water or a growing medium such as moss, a nutrient source, a grow light if indoors, an air pump (if growing directly in water) and a structure built out of a variety of materials in order to organize the water flow and hold the growing plants. Hydroponic systems can be indoors or outdoors, which essentially means year round growth. Crops tend to grow very quickly when hydroponics is used because of the efficiency of the use of nutrients of the plants and the ability to eliminate many of the typical garden pests. Hydroponic gardening has increased in popularity during recent years because of how efficient the process is. It’s used by commercial farmers and hobby gardeners alike.
7. Aquaponic Gardening
Aquaponic gardening is a blend of hydroponics (above) and aquaculture, or, the cultivation of aquatic organisms in controlled aquatic environments. Think of a garden bed that is raised above a tank of fish, and creating a system where the waste from the fish creates food for the plants, and then in turn the plants clean the water for the fish. This creates a self sufficient cycle of life and sustainability. This tends to have a better reputation than hydroponic gardening because it has it’s own plant food built into it, unlike hydroponic gardening which requires artificial food for plants. However, these systems still require imported fish foods and regular human upkeep.
8. Back to Eden Method
This is a method of gardening that focuses on growing fruits, vegetables and herbs in a way that nature intended them to grow. What does that mean? Basically a method where you do not till the ground and use the permaculture technique of simply covering the soil. Many people cover the soil with woodchips, leaves or grass and then plant seeds directly into the ground. This mulching technique creates nutrient rich soil that helps plants to thrive and also keeps weeds down. It’s considered a highly successful gardening method.
9. Square Foot Gardening
Square foot gardening is a method with the philosophy of growing more food in less space. Raised beds are used (typically 4’x4′ or 4’x8′ beds) and then 1’x1′ squares are mapped out in order to efficiently use all the space in the bed. This could be done using string, wood or other materials. These beds eliminate the need for constant weeding and are easy to access from all sides. This method can be a success for those with little space or those with acres of land.
10. Upside Down Gardening
Victorian gardening techniques are alive and well even today, upside down gardening is one of them. There are many advantages to this method of gardening. Because the plants are upside down there’s hardly any weeding involved and they will also be less susceptible to pests. For plants such as tomatoes it completely eliminates any need for cages or stakes. Soil or land does not need tilling and you have positive control over the quality of your soil. Upside down gardening is also just plain fun, adding variety and beauty to your garden.
11. Edible Landscaping
Edible landscaping has become a more common gardening technique over the last few decades. It is exactly what the name suggests- landscaping that you can eat. This is an appealing style of gardening because it suggests using every part of your yard (even the traditionally decorative front landscaping) for food production. This style also suggests that replacing lawns with fruits, vegetables and herbs can create a more practical, eco friendly and utilitarian space.
12. Window Box or Countertop Gardening
This is also a common home gardening technique. Countertops are a great space to have an indoor garden. With a sunlit window, grow lights or even without direct sunlight for some you can grow a variety of fruits, vegetables and herbs. Sprouting lentils on your kitchen counter doesn’t even require soil or direct sunlight. In addition you can install a window box on any sun facing window of your apartment or home. Both of these methods are excellent for those without much outdoor space.
13. Organic Methods
Organic gardening methods are extremely popular- from the family garden to the small farm level and all the way to large commercial farming. The basic idea of organic gardening is to not use synthetic fertilizers or pesticides and instead create a system that relies on fertilizers that come from nature. These natural fertilizers can be compost, bone meal or manure. In addition, organic gardening methods support the health of the whole garden, year round, season after season. Things like companion planting, mulching and crop rotation can help to create this thriving, natural ecosystem.
14. Green House or Cold Frame Gardening
Most people know what a greenhouse is- a structure similar to a house or shed (utilizing many windows) that is designed to shelter plants from more severe weather. A cold frame is a smaller version of a greenhouse, though just as effective, that serves to shelter a crop (think lettuce in January) in a simple structure that utilizes solar energy. Both of these are more commonly used by gardeners who live in more severe climates, or simply if they have a desire to grow plants not native to their area.
15. Keyhole Gardening
Keyhole gardening is an alternative gardening method to raised beds, or you could think of it as raised beds with a built in ecosystem. The idea is to create a round raised bed with an opening on one side. This opening makes it easy to access all of your crops, but in addition it allows for easy access to a compost basket directly in the middle of your circular, raised bed. This basket of compost will give nutrients directly to the plants and can also be a place to water them.
Permaculture is a philosophy that sees gardening as more of a closed loop system that involves a thriving environment, people, resources and land. All of these work together to support each other and create as close to a replica of the no waste natural environments we see in nature. When looking at a “garden” created based off of a permaculture philosophy, you will not see raised beds in rows and perfectly manicured lawns, you will see a diverse, low maintenance ecosystem intentionally created to sustain itself and improve the environment, people and resources that surround it.
17. Sheet Layering or Lasagna Gardening
This method of gardening is a layering method that does not require any tilling. You can create a bed on top of grass or weeds as long as they are mowed short. First you would lay down newspaper or cardboard, then a layer of nitrogen rich material (greens like manure, compost, food scraps, coffee grounds etc.), then a layer of carbon materials (browns like dried leaves, sawdust, pine needles etc.), all while spraying them down with water every couple layers or so. This process takes longer before you’re ready to plant (up to 6 months) but this method is easy to do and your beds will be ready to go when that time comes. An alternative if you must plant immediately is to add a 3-6 inch layer of compost on top and you’ll be ready to go.
18. Straw Bale Gardening
This gardening technique has also become more popular in the last decade. You can purchase your bales of straw, create whatever shape of raised beds you’d like and grow pretty much anything you want in the bales. All it takes is water, fertilizer, seeds and you’re good to go. As a bonus, at the end of the growing season you can break down your partially composted bales and create a nice layer to create healthy soil during the winter.
19. Ruth Stout Method
The Ruth Stout gardening method also uses straw or hay to create a nice thick layer over your garden. This suppresses weeds, adds nutrients to the soil and retains water beautifully. All of this is done without any tilling of the soil and no weeding. This method is much easier than many other methods and many swear by it. The downside compared to using the straw bale method is that gardening at ground level is harder to access and you still have to deal with certain pests that threaten the livelihood of plants such as cucumbers.
20. Core Gardening
Core gardening is a method very similar to Hugelkultur (see below) but it breaks down faster and tends to absorb more water. You basically dig a trench along the center of your bed and add organic materials to your core to feed the bed for the rest of the growing season and to help retain water. Those organic materials could be rotting straw, dried leaves, or compost etc. Once you cover the core, water well and “charge” the core, it should produce amazing results with minimal watering. Many gardeners swear by this method of gardening.
21. No Dig or Till Gardening
The whole idea of no digging or tilling for your garden is to first lay a layer of compost over the garden bed and then plant the seeds directly into the ground. Mulch around the beds keeps weeds down and simultaneously adds nutrients to the soil and garden around it. At the end of the season the waste from the previous garden will break down over winter and create healthy, happy soil for the following year.
Of all the different gardening methods the Hugelkultur one has increased in popularity perhaps the most over the last decade. Hugelkulter is German for “mound culture or hill culture”. This technique requires a lot more work and materials up front. The idea is to dig a trench for your bed and fill it with all sorts of organic materials to break down for years to come. Large logs, sticks, leaves, straw, compost etc., all creating a large mound that will then be covered with soil and ready for planting. The older the Hugelkultur mound, the better the harvest. Because of all the organic materials in the center of the mound there is minimal water needed after the initial soaking. No need to add fertilizer to your plants, they will have all they need.
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Choose From All These Different Gardening Methods
All of these different gardening methods can be efficient, fun and worth the try to see if it will be a good fit for you. Which one is your favorite and which one will you be trying next?
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