There are three important foundations to a thriving garden and in this article, we will discuss how to easily master all three! Plants all need varying amounts and qualities of each, but, in essence, if you get these three things right, your garden will have the best chance at being wildly successful.
Healthy soil grows healthy plants
Soil is, in my opinion, the KEY to a successful thriving garden. If you want to grow healthy nutrient-dense food, you need healthy nutrient-producing soil. Healthy soil is ALIVE with a web of beneficial interconnected relationships that support life.
Dirt is what happens when soil life dies.
The soil is what is going to feed and nourish your plants, so it is so important to grow and nurture your soil just as much, if not more than your plants. If you grow and support healthy soil, your plants will grow much easier, stronger, more pest resistant and will need a lot less work and influence from you. Ease and flow!
How to grow and nurture your soil?
- Compost – this will help add organic plant matter and fibre to improve moisture retention and add valuable nutrients to feed your plants and soil microbes.
- Protect – cover and protect the soil from the harsh sun with cover crops, chop and drop, mulch or plants. Even weeds are better than bare, exposed soil!
- Increase Diversity – each kind of plant will deplete different nutrients and provide different nutrients and benefits to the soil and microorganisms.
- Hydrate – healthy soil will eventually retain moisture better and require less water. It is also important to water your soil even if you have removed all of your plants. Keeping your soil alive until you replant your garden or containers. Otherwise, your beautiful, healthy soil will be left to become lifeless dirt and you will have to start again!
- Go Natural – avoid using nasty chemicals or pesticides, as these will kill off all the beneficial bacteria and microorganisms that feed your soil.
Composting is not only great for the fertility of your soil and the secret to AMAZING vegetables but it also stops waste going to landfill. There are a whole bunch of ways to do this depending on your living situation. You can make your own compost bin out of recycled wood, find a second-hand tumbler online or purchase one. You can also simply dig a hole in the garden and bury it (be careful of attracting pests). There are also some new ways for people with no land to connect with others that do and give them their compost scraps. Community gardens, local Facebook groups or now in Australia there is even an app! Sharewaste
Care for your soil and your plants will grow with more ease, abundance and it will feel less forced. Working with nature and not against it.
We will get stuck into more details about how to start composting soon, but for now, below is a handy info card.
Sunlight is another key factor when growing a successful garden. All plants have different amounts of desired sunlight hours and will grow at different rates depending on what they receive. For example, sweet potatoes prefer full sun to semi-shade but will still grow in the shade at a much slower less productive rate.
How to Work with Sunlight in your Garden?
The first and most important thing to do is to OBSERVE your garden. This may take you a full year to complete as the sun tracks higher in the sky during summer and lower during winter. This casts more sun or shadow on your gardens throughout the year. Take note and write down which parts of your garden get the most sun or shade during the day. Having this information will transform your ability to grow more successfully! You will be able to plan what to plant depending on how much shade or sun there is.
During winter my back garden receives very little sunlight. The sun is lower in the sky and the neighbour’s trees and fences shade out my garden for the majority of the day. However, the front garden gets a good amount of sun. So in winter, I grow shade-loving plants in the back garden and the plants that need full sun – semi-shade in the front garden. In summer this completely switches. I also know which parts of my garden receive midday full burning hot summer sun. I can then plan and plant that accordingly.
Finding out this information can drastically change the amount of food you’re producing. I once planted a lime tree in my back garden and it received very little sun. For years it never produced any fruit and constantly looked sick. I decided to transplant my sun-loving citrus to a sunnier area and surprise surprise! bam!! It doubled in size in just a few months and produced the first flowers.
You can track the sun in your area with some online sites but I find observing is the best method. You will have external elements such as sheds, fences, neighbouring trees etc, that will affect the sun and shade.
Water is a crucial part of any thriving garden. The more you work on growing with nature and building your garden from the soil up, the less water you will need to use. WIN-WIN.
Poor soil structure and badly planned planting will require more effort and water. If it feels hard and forced then that can be a clear sign something needs to change.
Not all water is made equally. You may find that your seedlings are struggling and seeds just aren’t germinating correctly. This can be because there are things in the water that are adversely affecting them. System or municipal water (tap water) can be treated with chlorine or have high levels of certain minerals that may affect your delicate seedlings. Start setting up ways to collect rainwater or simply pour your tap water into a bucket or watering can and leave it overnight. This will let any of the chlorine gases escape and be gentler on your small seedlings.
Slow and Steady
The best way to get your plants to effectively absorb the water is to slowly distribute it and allow the plant time to absorb it. If you simply pour it on and walk away, a lot of water will spread and run away across the surface and not be drawn down to the roots.
Observe and react
Again, observing your garden and mapping out your topography can help you decide how to react to best utilise water. Are you getting large runoffs or water pooling during a downpour? Do you have raised areas of your garden where water runs straight off? Identifying these can help you slow down, spread, and direct the water to other areas of your garden.
Getting these foundations right will help your garden grow with so much more ease, flow, and abundance. This will also free up more time to spend in other areas such as, establishing new gardens, sowing seeds or just enjoying your harvests. If it ever feels forced or hard, stop and really think about it. Questioning and problem-solving is an incredible way to learn.
If you have any questions at all, leave a comment below.