By Jennifer Poindexter
A traditional “in-the-ground” vegetable garden. Is it a thing of the past? It seems everyone is growing in raised beds or containers nowadays. However, there are still a few of us that till up our plot of land and plant each year.
The benefit to in-ground gardening is that it’s much cheaper than other types of gardening, and it doesn’t require special materials for growing. If you’re interested in a cost-effective way to raise vegetables, fruits, and flowers, around your home, you’ve come to the right place.
These are my secrets to growing a successful traditional garden.
1. Pick the Right Size
The first secret to raising a thriving traditional in-ground garden is to choose the right size garden for your needs. It must be large enough to supply the amount of produce you desire without being too cumbersome.
When you make a garden too big, you won’t be able to maintain it. Therefore, it’s better to grow a smaller garden that will maintain good health, and produce more, than have a large garden you can’t take care of.
2. Work the Soil at the Right Times
Everyone’s soil is different. I live in the south, so my soil is rocky and filled with clay. Even after being amended, I must work the dirt at the appropriate times to keep it healthy.
As an example, we till our garden in the fall to ensure any disease or pest, which might be hiding, is exposed to the elements during the winter. Once the ground thaws, we till it again, prior to planting, to ensure the soil is ready to receive crops.
3. Take Care of Your Soil
Along with the above-mentioned tip, it’s important to amend your soil. When, you choose to amend it, is up to you.
Some people will add a layer of compost during the fall, prior to tilling up the ground. Others choose to add the compost a few weeks prior to planting. You can also add it during both of these times.
It all boils down to preference. The main thing is that you add nutrients into your soil, prior to starting your garden, each year.
4. Wage War on Weeds
This is the biggest drawback to planting in a traditional inground garden. Weeds are something you must deal with.
You have multiple options for staying ahead of them. Some people apply weed barrier in their garden. Depending upon the size of your garden, this might be an option.
However, if you grow a larger garden this might be too great of an expense. Don’t be discouraged because there are other methods.
You can overseed to avoid weeds, pull weeds by hand, mulch around your plants, or use a tiller.
How you choose to destroy weeds is up to you. The main thing is that you remove as many of them from your garden as you possibly can.
5. Know How You’ll Maintain Your Garden
A traditional garden’s size can make a difference for a variety of reasons. Not only does it determine how much you’ll grow, but it also determines how you’ll care for it.
If the plot is larger, it might require a tiller or even a tractor with specific attachments. Consider how you’ll maintain your garden and what tools you’ll need to see it thrive.
Having the right maintenance plan can make all the difference when raising vegetables, fruits, or flowers in a traditional garden plot.
6. Protect Your Work
There’s a reason to protect every style of garden you have, but inground gardens seem to draw even more visitors of nature.
It’s important to consider how you’ll protect your harvest. Placing a secure barrier, such as a fence, around your garden might be a way to keep rabbits, deer, and other creatures away.
If you don’t want to install a fence, there are products on the market which help deter animals. I’ve started using one product which you shake on the ground.
It’s filled with natural ingredients that deer, skunk, rats, and rabbits aren’t fans of. So far it’s working wonderfully at protecting my growing areas.
You can use scarecrows, motion-activated sprinklers, or even pie pans to keep birds and other animals away.
However you choose to protect your inground garden, realize it’s something which must be dealt with or you’ll lose part of your crop.
7. Mulch is a Must
When gardening in a traditional style garden, mulch is a must. It serves a variety of purposes. The first reason to mulch is to keep weeds down in the grow space. This could greatly reduce the amount of weeding you need to do.
The second reason to mulch your inground garden is to retain moisture. Mulch keeps moisture around your plants. Therefore, reducing the amount of watering sessions you’ll need to have.
The final reason to mulch your inground garden is it improves your soil. Earlier, I stated that my natural soil is filled with clay and rocks.
However, I began adding a layer of mulch to my garden each year. It has improved my soil tremendously. If your soil needs some help, mulch might be a cost-effective way to improve your grow space.
8. Remove Debris
When you grow in the ground, you don’t have as much control over the growing environment as you do with other styles of gardening.
Therefore, when you till the ground, you may find rocks and roots beneath the surface. These things must be removed.
If not, your plants will struggle to form strong root systems because they’ll constantly run into the debris beneath them. Be sure to remove as much debris from the soil as you can prior to planting in this style of garden.
9. Plant During the Winter
No matter your planting zone, it might be wise to plant in your traditional garden all year long. Cover crops are a wonderful way to protect your soil and add nutrients for your next growing season.
Some gardeners will grow wheat or clover to protect their garden plot over the winter months. When spring arrives, you can till the crop back into the soil to add nutrients.
Clover is an excellent choice to replace nitrogen in your dirt. Every plant needs nitrogen. This is why there never seems to be enough in any growing space.
By planting clover over the winter, you’re not only protecting your garden plot but also adding a necessary nutrient back into it. It’s a win for everyone.
10. Plant in the Right Place
There are some things which are true no matter what style of gardening you do. You should always consider sunlight and a water source when picking where to locate your garden.
It’s also ideal to choose a level spot. When picking the right spot for an inground garden bed, be sure to pick a place which receives a minimum of six hours of sunlight.
The area should also be close to a water source. I live in a rural area, so my house is supported by a well. My garden is near our wellhouse because it allows me to hook a hose up to a water source and water as needed.
Picking a level spot will also work in your favor. Gardens which aren’t level tend to get washed away easily when a heavy rainstorm occurs. Consider these factors when picking an area for your traditional garden plot.
11. Provide the Necessities
No garden is successful without minimal care. You must be prepared to water and fertilize your garden. Keep in mind, different plants need different amounts of water and fertilizer.
You should also pay attention to what type of root system your plants have. For those with shallow roots, you need to water lightly on a daily basis.
For the plants with deeper roots, you need to water them deeply. Apply water to those plants, fewer days of the week, for longer periods of time.
Also, ensure you know how frequently each variety of plant needs to be fertilized. Some crops don’t need to be fertilized, aside from during planting. Lettuce has these requirements.
Yet, other plants need to be fertilized once or twice a month. Be sure you’re knowledgeable on how to care for what you’re planting in this garden plot.
12. Stay Alert to Potential Risks
One of the worst things a gardener can do is ignore problems. If you notice weeds are taking over your garden, don’t ignore them.
You must fight them and figure out how to deter them even further the next growing season. The same can be said for pests and diseases.
It’s wise to walk through your garden, daily, to look for any changes in your plants. If you notice any bugs or changes in the appearance of your plants, you need to act swiftly.
Most pests can be treated with an insecticide. Many diseases can be treated with a fungicide, by removing damaged parts of the plant, or by discarding the damaged plant all together.
Be sure to do your research about which pests and diseases commonly impact the plants that you’re growing. This will also give you a clue for the best plan of action if these issues appear in your garden.
Raising vegetables in a traditional garden plot has its challenges. You aren’t in as much control of the growing environment.
However, it’s also a more cost effective way to garden and can yield a fruitful harvest with the proper care. Take these tips into consideration when growing this style of garden, and hopefully you’ll have a gorgeous growing area to add natural beauty to your home.