Five Ways Your Grandpa Fibbed To You About Gardening

Many gardeners garden the way they do because “grandpa did it that way.” We all have had conventional wisdom passed on to us from previous generations, and while many of the things they taught are time-tested principles that work, other things they believed are incorrect - particularly in regard to growing food at home.

Because of grandpa, many homeowners feel they need to keep their garden rows hidden in the backyard and have a perfectly-manicured xeriscaped yard in the front. Below are five common things taught in previous generations that are not correct.

Gardens must look like a farm
Gardens do not need to be laid out in rows in order to be productive. Commercial Growers Garden in rows to make it easy for their equipment to maintain and harvest the plants they grow. While it is important to make sure that the tools you will garden with work with your yard, many plants that produce good food can be used within existing landscaping that even the strictest HOA will approve.

In fact, yards landscaped with edibles can often be more productive and produce more food per square foot and many other farming methods. Many struggle to remove this idea from their mindset, but once you do, you can create elegant edible landscapes where food and landscaping come together seamlessly. Sorry grandpa, but you don’t need rows to grow your own food.

Water when plants yellow
Many of us have heard that we need to water when a plant starts to yellow. However, yellowing typically means that the plant needs more iron or more oxygen in the soil. If a plant is wilting it should be watered, but a gardener should not try to compensate for missed days of watering by overwatering. Depth more than frequency is more important in watering - most plants need regular deep watering to encourage healthy root growth rather than daily shallow watering results in water being evaporated quickly and unhealthy plants. What is needed is deep watering.

Add sand to clay
Clay soil often is the cause of poor drainage, while on the other hand sand drains quickly. It has been said that adding sand to clay will improve drainage. However, this is not correct. Clay quickly compacts around sand resulting in caliche - a soil that many feel is as hard as concrete. The best way to help clay soil become less compacted is to ,add organic material, such as compost to help the clay be less compacted. Even if plants are growing in clay already, adding a layer or two of compost around the plant will penetrate the clay over a 1-2 year period of time.

Xeriscaped yards require less water
Homes that have been xeriscaped often are done so to look uniform and be aesthetically pleasing. Most plants used in xeriscaping are called xerophytes meaning they have adapted to infrequent watering. These plants store water for long term use when it is available, and then use a more efficient form of photosynthesis when water is not available. Plants that do this - like mesquite trees - lose their leaves and become dormant when water is not available, becoming less desirable and beautiful. As a result, many gardeners water more frequently to keep the aesthetics of the plant, and according to several reports xeriscaped yards “used more water than their neighbors with traditional landscapes .” On the other hand, beans, tomatoes, squash and many root crops require less water than other vegetables.

Growing food is expensive
We’ve all heard that growing your own food is more expensive than just buying it from the store. For some fruits and vegetables, this can be true. Certain varieties of bananas, for example, may require a greenhouse or other special conditions to grow. But, for the majority of the items you purchase at the store, gardening is less expensive - even if you factor in the costs of purchasing garden beds, soil and starts. Food grown naturally at home typically is riper when picked, tastes better and healthier to eat. Gardening has other health benefits that may not easily be measured, but may improve your health, reducing long-term healthcare costs.

Grandpa may have not known he was fibbing to you, but don’t need to hide your garden behind xeriscaping anymore. The Agriscaping movement is helping homeowners have a beautifully landscaped yard, where vegetables and other edibles are healthy, productive and elegant!

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