If you’re new to gardening then it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the different gardening methods and numerous approaches to growing your own.
Thankfully, this site is all about making gardening accessible so we’re going to explain some different gardening methods in plain English so that you‘ll have a better understanding of what it all means.
Hopefully it will also help you to decide which gardening approaches interest you most.
You’ll notice that many of these gardening approaches share similarities so feel don’t be afraid to experiment to find a good mix that works for you.
This site is brand new so we have loads of informative posts to come. Join our new Beginner Gardener Tips Facebook group for regular gardening updates.
Organic gardening means gardening without the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
Organic gardeners place importance on nurturing a healthy ecosystem.
They look at their space holistically and understand that every aspect of their space is intertwined from the crops they harvest to the microbes in the soil.
To sell produce as “organic” the growing site must be properly certified but many home growers follow the principles of organic gardening too.
Permaculture is all about working with nature rather than against it.
Gardeners often use perennial and native plants to create a self-sustainable system that will thrive for generations.
This method of gardening grew out if a sustainable movement in Australia in the 70’s.
At the heart of permaculture are three ethics: care for the planet, care for people and take only a fair share.
You can read more about the 12 principles of permaculture here.
The No Dig Method improves soil quality and reduces weeds in your beds.
Mulching is an essential aspect of No Dig Gardening as it is used to smother weeds, retain moisture and add important nutrients back into the soil.
It takes some time but within a year even the most persistent weeds like bindweed will be weakened and easy to pull up.
Forest gardening is a sustainable system that is based on woodland ecosystems. It is a low maintenance way of growing edible crops.
A forest garden is made up of mostly edible or useful perennial plants (plants that come back every year) Nut trees, herbs, vines, shrubs and vegetables are planted in layers similar to how woodland layers grow.
Biodynamic gardening is a combination of many ancient techniques from several cultures.
Similarly to organic gardening it treats the garden as an indivisible whole and uses no synthetic chemicals.
Biodynamic gardeners use cover crops, green manures and crop rotation.
Biodynamic gardening is perhaps most well known for its gardeners belief that planting and sowing according to phases of the moon is beneficial.
There are other aspects to this type of gardening like using certain minerals and fermentations to treat crops and earth.
One example of this is the use of ‘horn manure’ (cow manure placed in a horn which is buried and left to ferment) which is applied to the soil in the evening. It is believed to encourage healthy roots.
Although there is no scientific evidence that this type of gardening is especially beneficial, it does no harm to those who choose to garden in this way.
Hydroponics is gardening without soil and involves growing plants in a continuously circulating liquid fertilzer (organic or chemical).
Plants commonly grown in this way are tomatoes, strawberries, lettuces, cucumbers and peppers.
One advantage of hydroponics is that it uses less water to grow crops in circulating water than it does to water plants in soil.
Square foot gardening is the practice of dividing your growing area into small square sections measuring one foot -hence the name!
The idea was introduced by Mel Bartholomew in 1981 and his orderly raised beds have been popular since.
Its focus is getting the most out of small spaces by growing plants closer together.
This technique minimizes weeds and makes full use of succession planting to increase yields.
Mel advocates filling beds with a mixture of vermiculite, peat moss, and compost to plant in instead of garden soil and compost.
However, anyone considering this method should first read about why gardeners should not be using peat to grow their food.
“I urge you not to buy any peat products for the garden. Look for alternative potting composts. Make your own. Every time you use a peat-based compost in the garden, you are deliberately participating in the destruction of a non-renewable environment that sustains some of our most beautiful plant and animal life. No garden on this earth is worth that.”
This method was developed by Dr. Jacob R. Mittleider who ran a successful plant nursery for 20 years before travelling the globe teaching his techniques.
The Mittleider Method focuses on plant nutrition, and uses techniques that make is easier to grow food anywhere, regardless of soil or climate.
His method is based on scientific principles and uses a specially-formulated fertilizer mix that is designed to give plants all the nutrients they need to grow.
3 of the 16 nutrients plants require come from the air (carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen). The other 13 plants get from the soil. Which is why poor soil equals poor crops.
His special fertilizer blend supplies all the nutrients in exactly the amounts needed.
If you like the sound of this method but prefer to avoid commercially produced fertilizers then it can be adapted to use a manure tea fertilizer or other organic natural fertilizer.
Aquaponics is a similar approach to hydroponics but there are fish living in the water. Fish waste is actually a really beneficial natural fertilizer and they can also be farmed so it’s a very efficient method.
Aquaponic set-ups range from large scale farms to fish tank size which means that you cam try it out in even the smallest space.
This gardening technique uses straw bales to grow in instead of dirt and it dates back to ancient times.
The concept is simple: The straw begins to break down and turns into a rich, compostable planter which is perfect for growing vegetables.
Wheat straw bales are ideal but you’ll need to purchase them a few weeks before you’re ready to start planting.
Hugelkultur method involves laying various layers of compostable materials and planting on top of them.
Start with woody materials like logs and branches. Cover them under a mix of soil and leaves. Add a layer of semi composted organic materials like veg peelings before topping with compost and soil. Plant it up and watch it grow.
It can be built as a mound or you can fill a raised bed in this way so it’s great if you’re lacking top soil and compost. An added benefit is that the wood layer acts like a sponge so stops the bed drying out. As it all decomposes it provides plants with valuable nutrients.
A keyhole garden is a two-meter-wide circular raised garden.
It gets its name from the keyhole-shaped entrance that allows gardeners to add compostable vegetable scraps, greywater, and manure without disturbing the plants.
I hope this post has helped to clarify these different gardening methods. Don’t be afraid to try something new and have some fun with it!