Whether it's growing corn, alfalfa, or our infamous potatoes, Idaho's fertile soil is one of the best in the country. And due to the popularity of natural foods, many Idaho homeowners are turning their plots of land into gardens for all sorts of plants. Gardening is not only a way to maintain a sustainable lifestyle, but a way to enjoy Idaho’s temperate climate and relax against the stresses of urban living. However, even the most seasoned of gardeners may be surprised to learn that there are better methods to growing and maintaining their flower or vegetable patches, making their plants healthier and much more productive. It’s time to get back to our roots - here is a list of tips that can make your gardening even more effective.
Though not as typically impressive as growing fruits and vegetables, growing herbs is an easy way to save your garden as well as money. Planting herbs around certain areas of your garden will be able to repel pests that could do heavy damage to your crop yield. For example, rosemary and sage are excellent slug repellents, and mint and coriander can ward off aphids. Furthermore, by growing these herbs, your wallet will thank you - many recipes call for fresh herbs, which are expensive purchases in most markets. Growing your own will cut down on this cost. Some flowers can have the same desired effects, so if you aren't as interested in herbs, try petunias and marigolds to send unwelcome guests to your garden packing.
Space is limited, and a garden’s worth is only as much as its acreage...right? Wrong. Vertical gardening is a lucrative way to make the most out of your outdoor space. Plants with taller stalks like tomatoes are not the only plants that benefit from wire cages - ground plants like cucumbers and eggplants are picked easier when supported, and are less prone to rot or being eaten by garden pests this way. There are many vertical gardening tools available, like cages, hanging pots, and even wall planters - which can be stacked to form an entirely vertical garden!
Most people, whether familiar with plants or not, have heard of the terms “annual,” “biennial,” and “perennial.” These refer to how long it takes for a plant to complete its natural life cycle - one, two, or more years respectively. By planting longer-lasting species, like asparagus, berry bushes, or nasturtiums, garden owners will have to do less work in the next planting season. Some plants are not technically perennials, but nonetheless grow year after year thanks to their seed dispersal methods. Pumpkins and other gourds are excellent examples of this.
A problem that many first-time gardeners fall victim to is ineffective planting. Every plant has an optimum growth schedule based on local climate and terrain. One of the most important things to know is the USDA planting zone that your garden is located in, which can be found by searching online via your zip code. The Boise Metropolitan Area falls between the 5B and 7B range of the zones. By planting at the right point of the year, crops will be healthier and more plentiful. Furthermore, combining this by planting crops in successions - planting sections of the same crop one at a time - will allow you a longer harvesting period of the same plant. For those who really want to extend their gardening time, greenhouses or seed planters are excellent ways to grow plants out of season
Grow to Store
Gardens can’t always be used year round, but that shouldn't mean their harvests shouldn't. Harvestables that aren't immediately eaten after picking are wasted if not stored to preserve them for longer. There are several methods to keep food, such as drying, pickling, canning, and freezing. Each method comes with its own benefits, and each plant responds to them in different ways. Some foods, like potatoes and squashes, are more hardy and will last without special storage so long as they are kept in cool, dry environments where they can’t rot. As a gardener, it is important to understand the best methods to preserving your food in a natural, cost-effective way which will allow you to enjoy healthy produce out of season.
Grow for Others
Being a solitary farmer may have its perks, but you don’t have to get your trowel dirty alone. Local gardeners often work together to grow and trade produce amongst themselves, allowing everyone to enjoy more food than before. Being a part of these organizations gets you access to excess produce that would have gone to waste, and others can use your surpluses in the same way. If you’re looking to market your produce, Idaho has a lot of seasonal farmers markets during the warmer months as well as local co-ops.
As anyone who’s had to water a larger lawn will tell you, water can be expensive. Make the most of it in your garden by being smarter about your hydration habits. This can be as simple as collecting used fish tank or cooled cooking water, both of which are nutrient rich for your plants. But you can also use irrigation techniques to make sure your garden utilizes its water without wasting a drop. One of the best ways to save is through the usage of drip irrigation, which is a series of tubes that delivers water straight to the root zone of your garden via small drips, reducing water expenditure. This also ensures it is absorbed into the soil rather than turned into runoff.
Whether you are gardening for a hobby or for a profession, for produce or for flora, there’s no reason not to implement stronger and smarter gardening strategies to assure that your plants live happier and healthier. In turn, you and the people who enjoy your garden can reap the same benefits you sowed.
For Further Reading: