I have a lot of gardening books. As I put in my new garden, I often reference certain books to find out how it is recommended that I plant something. Here’s the problem. A lot of books offer conflicting information. Even more of an issue, some books offer suggestions that are in complete disagreement with each other with the evidence of my own experience. Here a few examples.
One popular gardening book advocates planting crops close together. Intensive planting is supposed to block out weeds, conserve moisture and keep the soil cooler. I have tried this and had terrible results. The weeds still came but I could no longer get at them. It did conserve moisture but to the point of mildew and fungus problems. yields were reduced and I found it to be a lot more work. I like to give my plants plenty of room and air circulation. I get bigger root crops and better overall production. Harvest is easier too.
Some people plant by the phase of the moon or do companion planting. There is nutrient dense planting, organic gardens, permaculture and gardens based on chemicals and petroleum. You can grow in water or in raised beds or in containers or up-side down. The sheer volume of advice and information is overwhelming and everybody giving you advice will swear that their way is only way.
Well, I am going to jump into the fray and give you the Harrison Gardening Method. I call it the I-Garden, the companion to your I-phone and I-pad and I-whatevers. It’s individual and all yours. The only equipment you need is a pencil and a notebook.
Each year, I go back to my records from the previous year. I can tell you what plant varieties did well and which did not. I know the dates I planted and whether or not I lost crops to frost. I know which bugs and diseases were problematic. I know what works and what doesn’t.
This does not mean that I don’t experiment. I am trying nutrient dense soil amendments this year and I am planting my onions in a whole new way. I had a good harvest last year but the onions were smaller than I wanted. I planted in trenches this time with deeper trenches filled with soil amendments in between each row. I also spaced each set much further apart. I am hoping for bigger bulbs which could double my poundage with the same number of plants.
We have found that the trouble of building raised beds is more than offset by ease of planting, weeding, amending and harvest. When Bruce found 12 foot long, untreated 2×6 boards for $2.00 a piece, he bought a huge pile of them and we worked all weekend building new beds. I had been wanting to do this since I realized that, without the frames, heavy rain washed soil (and nutrients) away and left roots exposed.
This year, I am trying 2 new varieties of carrots but I am also planting my old faithful Scarlet Nantes too. Because of my record keeping, I will know if the experiment will result in a new favorite without sacrificing the security of known winners.
The news this past week has been pretty bad. It is probable that we will be looking at much higher food prices going forward. My garden is not a hobby. It feeds my family and I can’t afford to risk our food security by jumping on every new idea that pops up. My individual garden works for me.