When I first started gardening I took every bit of information I read very seriously. Whether it was from the seed packet or a gardening magazine I thought for sure that it was imperative to follow every rule to the letter. If a seed packet said to provide 12 inches of spacing between plants, I got out a ruler. I even tried to measure the seed to the exact depth specified, even if it was 1/8 of an inch. But in short order I found out that there are several gardening rules – either official or rules that have been passed down through the generations – that were simply made to be broken. Based on my own experience here are the five gardening rules you should break right now.
Pay Attention to Seed Depth
Now I’m not suggesting for a moment that seed depth doesn’t matter. However, if you’re reading a packet that tells you to plant the seed a fraction of an inch below the surface, put your ruler away. All it means is throw a small layer of dirt on top of it. Some people might disagree with me on this one, but that’s exactly what I did in an experimental section of my flower beds, and I have quite the harvest starting to come up. If it’s under an inch, put a thin layer of soil over it; if the seed packet specifies over an inch, throw a little more.
Use Accurate Seed Spacing
This one is my favorite rules to break, and I have the peas to thank for that. When I first started gardening I had no idea what I was doing so I took some seed packets, went out to a patch in the flower beds, threw some pea seeds in the dirt without so much as Miracle-Gro to cover it up, threw dirt back on top, and let the sprinklers water it. Quickly I started to learn about gardening and figured those plants would never see the light of day. They are still growing strong and I’m expecting quite the harvest from them. Surprised, I started doing some research and found a few blog articles from others stating that they plant their pea seeds literally touching each other in the ground. What’s more these plants not only survive, but they thrive and produce far more peas than the properly spaced plants. I am finding this to be true with a great many vegetables.
Be Rigorous About Row Spacing
Rows are so 1846. Okay so maybe you still plant in rows, and that’s fine. I plant my corn in rows along with some other plants. But I’ve started to simply mark out rectangular sections of my flower beds – as though you were slicing up a burrito – and throwing the seeds quite unceremoniously in each rectangle. I keep a spreadsheet telling me which crops are growing where, but as they come up it becomes pretty obvious. I don’t even plant in rows most of the time anymore. And you know what? My garden hasn’t suffered a bit. On the contrary it’s actually done better.
Plant in Moderation
Plant in moderation? Don’t plant too much at once? Take it slow? Please. If you’re limited on space I can understand heeding this advice, which is repeated all over the internet and throughout many gardening books. This year is my first year of gardening and I have over 30 crops growing. Taking things slowly isn’t really my forte. I tend to dive right in, and I think you should, too. Sure I’m going to have quite a busy summer harvesting, but watching all the different plants pop up and grow is much more fun than waiting for one or two cherry tomato plants to bloom. I say plant to your heart’s content!
Pesticides are a Necessary Evil
Have you heard it said that only the chemical pesticides will work? I heard that, too, but I’m skeptical by nature. And in the case of pesticides, I’m glad I was skeptical because I have found several natural alternatives. Nematodes are a pain, but marigolds will keep them away (and make your garden look beautiful). Got slugs? If you’re a coffee drinker, that’s not a problem; simply put your used coffee grounds around your plants and, if you have enough, around the perimeter of your garden. Slugs have tender skin and can’t crawl over the coarse grounds. I use it on all of my plants and my slug problem has all but disappeared. There is almost always a natural (and safer) alternative to chemical pesticides, and I suggest you always take the time to seek it out. Your pets, plants, and the health of everyone who eats your veggies will thank you.