There are many ways of enjoying organic food at home. Having an edible garden is one of them. By growing a vegetable garden, you save money on your groceries, reduce your environmental impact, and improve your and your family’s health (most fruits and vegetables are low on the glycemic index and help regulate blood sugar, thus improving health); you will always have fresh fruits, herbs, and vegetables at hand, and it can be a great activity you and your loved ones can do. However, we know it is easier said than done; that’s why we gathered up experts on the traditional and untraditional gardening fields that will give us advice on the best techniques, tips, methods, and more. Be sure to follow the recommendations provided by the experts through this Q&A.


What are the best vegetables to grow for beginners? 

Homegrown vegetables fresh from the garden taste better than store-bought and are often more nutritious. But many beginning vegetable gardeners find themselves wondering what to grow.  

Start by making a list of vegetables you like to eat. Then find varieties that are disease-resistant and have a good track record in your area. Your local garden center or university extension service can provide more specific information for your region.

New gardeners often have success with the following: 

  • Lettuce is a cool weather plant that’s easy to grow from seed
  • Bush beans don’t need support and are fast-growing
  • Summer squash is great if you want a big harvest
  • Peppers are productive and easy to grow
  • Cherry tomatoes are the easiest type and do well in pots

For your first garden, narrow your wish list down to just a few varieties. Keep it simple so you don’t become overwhelmed.

Seeds or Starts?

Beginning gardeners will have the most success with warm-weather crops such as tomatoes, peppers, and squash when grown from starter plants bought at a garden center. Varieties such as lettuce and beans are easy to grow from seed and can be directly sown in the garden.

-Sarah Hutchinson at Garden Design


What are the best fruits to grow for beginners? 

Fresh, vine-ripened fruit is such a delight; and certain fruits are fairly easy to grow. Of course, what are the best fruits to grow for beginners depends on your climate, other growing conditions, and what you like to eat. Even if a fruit is easy to grow or prolific where you live, if you don’t enjoy eating it, it’s not the best choice for you!

Most fruits require full sun exposure to mature to their sweetest flavor. But don’t despair if you only have semi-shade conditions to work with. Raspberries, blackberries and other “brambles” (plants in the Rubus genus like marionberries, black raspberries, wineberries, etc.) Some other shade tolerant fruits include elderberries, plums, and gooseberries.

Some fruits grow on smaller plants that can be treated like annuals (planted and harvested in the same year), others grow on shrubby bushes, and still others, of course, grow on long-lived trees. For quick harvests, it’s best to stick with small plants and some shrubs; tree fruits require much more patience.

Strawberries can be planted and harvested in springtime, and are fairly easy to grow if you have rich soil and take care to keep these low-growing goodies weeded. The above-mentioned bramble-berries (raspberries, blackberries, etc.) won’t fruit much the year they’re planted, but will produce significantly within a couple of years, and for many years to come. Blueberries can be another almost-instant-gratification fruit, if you can afford to buy fairly large potted plants.

A unique quality of blueberries is that they not only tolerate, but require acidic soil in order to thrive. This means they’re a fantastic and easy option if you’re working with acidic conditions; however, it means more work and amendments are needed to acidify the ground if you’ve got neutral or basic soil.

As far as easy tree fruits, one incredibly versatile, high-yielding, and delicious option is often overlooked: the mulberry. Mulberry fruits are delicious and abundant, and the trees grow quickly and can thrive in many different conditions. Plus, this tree gets bonus points for having foliage that’s high in protein and enjoyed by chickens, goats, cows, and even, when they’re young and tender, humans. Apples are a close second for easy tree fruits. It’s important to remember that tree fruits (along with the brambles) require regular pruning, so it’s not just a matter of keeping the tree healthy and waiting for harvest time.

Whatever type of fruit you choose to grow, be sure to select a variety that’s well suited for your area. Examples of apple varieties include fuji, Mcintosh, golden delicious, etc. All fruits come in many varieties, which can be quite different in terms of size, shape, taste, and needs. Ask around at farmer’s markets and local nurseries to determine what varieties might do well for you.

-Chloe Lieberman at Online Gardening School


What is your best advice for organic gardening for beginners?

  • Choose the right location with adequate sunlight. Although some leafy green vegetables and herbs can thrive in low light conditions, plants that produce fruits or vegetables from flowers need adequate sunlight. Before you plant a single seed or transplant a seedling, take at least one day to monitor the sunlight in the area in which you intend to start your garden. You can even track how the sunlight moves through your growing space by recording where the sunny and shady spots are every hour of the day, from morning until dusk.
  • Start your garden off strong with the right soil preparation. This is probably the most important step in starting your organic garden, and it’s, unfortunately, one that many gardeners skip. Taking the time to prep your soil by amending it with compost or organic matter and ensuring it has adequate drainage will help you create an organic, healthy, thriving garden. Having healthy soil also means your plants will develop strong immune systems to fight off or resist many diseases and pests.

-Kelly P at Green and Prosperous


What are the best fruits to plant in spring? 

Spring is my favorite season, and hope many of you also like this season much. The Spring season is called the king of all seasons. But do you know why is the spring season is called ‘king of all seasons’?

Many cultural events take place and also the weather becomes quite pleasant as it indicates a new commencement of life during spring. Leaves fall off trees and the environment becomes green and fresh. The air becomes warm and welcoming and is depicted by cheers from people and their happiness.

Spring is the season where nature is in full bloom and looks pretty with blooming varied colors of flowers, buzzing bees, and butterflies hovering over flowers for pollination. The season also spreads around the fragrance of flowers attracting insects. Birds start singing and all these bring a pleasant and pleasuring atmosphere all around. Spring is a joy for the eyes and delight for the hearts.

The spring season is a favorite season for poets, as the beauty of nature inspires them to weave the words of nature in poetic form. All these things happen during the spring season, hence it is called the King of all the seasons.

What are the best fruits to plant in spring?

The sunshine and the temperature outside are in the right condition for growing new plants. Spring is the best season to plant your favorite delicious fruits that will be ready to harvest in the common weeks.

If you like fruits, then you are probably wondering what to plant in the spring. Right? Here we are trying to list some fruits which require less maintenance and grow pretty easily. Even beginners can also start growing these fruits.

Apricot: Dried apricots are available throughout the year. Bot the fresh apricots are found during spring. Apricots are high in antioxidants and low in calories and they are highly beneficial for human health.

Avocado: Avocado is another fruit that you can plant during spring. Avocados are a great source of good kinds of fat and they are good for maintaining heart health. It is also high in Omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, and beta-carotene. It is also a good source of vitamin C, K, E, and B-6.

Blueberry: Blueberries are wonderful fruits that you can enjoy fresh. You can plant blueberry plants in early springtime.

Cherries: Cherries are a great choice for your garden during spring. Cherries are a very good source of vitamin C and dietary fiber. These small goodies can also help with those battling insomnia, hypertension, and cardiovascular problems.

Dwarf Lemon: Dwarf lemons are great for small gardens. You can plant dwarf lemons during spring.

Grapefruits: Grapefruits generally grow well in warmer regions, you can plant them in spring. Grapefruits are high in nutrients and low in calories.

Honeydews: Honeydews love warmer soil and grow well during springtime. So, it can be a great choice for you to plant during spring.

Mangoes: Most people love to enjoy mangoes during summer. They are an excellent source of vitamin A and C. Mangoes are good for your stomach and will help with digestion.

Oranges: Oranges and other citrus fruits such as lemons are great for springtime. Oranges are a great source of vitamin C and they can help with the immune system and can also help to prevent skin damage.

Papaya: Papaya is a great choice for planting during springtime. The papaya plants grow faster and become ready for fruiting earlier. Papaya is a great fruit that is rich in fiber, vitamin C and also has antioxidants.

Strawberries: Strawberry is another fruit that you can plant during spring. They are juicy and sweet fruits and rich in vitamin C and vitamin B9.

Roy’s Farm


What are the best vegetables to plant in spring?

If you live in the north, your growing season is shorter, and it isn’t unusual for the spring garden to overlap the summer garden. You can gain some time by starting your cool-weather vegetable plants indoors and transplanting them into the garden when the soil is ready.

Peas are one of the best cool weather crops. The seeds will germinate in soil temperatures as low as 40 degrees and pea plants can tolerate even being snowed on.

Spinach is so cold tolerant that you can sprinkle the seeds on frozen ground and they will germinate as soon as the ground thaws

Lettuce likes cool temperatures but is more sensitive to cold. Be prepared to cover the lettuce if you have a late cold snap. You can plant directly in the garden as soon as the soil can be worked, but, in the North, you may want to start the seeds indoors to be safe.

Radishes. Radishes are one of the first vegetables you can harvest after sowing. Plant two to four weeks before your last frost when the soil can be worked.

Broccoli. Broccoli is a cool-weather crop that doesn’t grow well in the heat of summer. Direct sow the seeds or start indoors and transplant outside about two weeks before your last frost date.

Cauliflower. Growing cauliflower is much like growing broccoli. Additionally, once the cauliflower head starts to form, you will need to protect the head from the sun to keep the head pure white.

Beets. Beets can be sown in early spring as soon as the soil can be worked. They are a root crop; however, you can also harvest some of the leaves to add to a fresh salad.

Swiss Chard. This is a cold-tolerant plant, but it doesn’t like the frost so be prepared to cover it if necessary. Swiss chard is so beautiful it is worth growing just to look at. The cool weather makes it taste even better.

Kohlrabi. Kohlrabi forms an edible bulb above ground. This is another plant that prefers cool weather and, in fact, the sweetness of the bulb is enhanced by the cool temperatures. But keep the protective sheets available because kohlrabi cannot tolerate frost or freeze.

Cucumbers. Get these in the ground about two weeks after the last frost so you can enjoy them as early as possible. Make sure to treat your soil with fertilizer and choose a sunny place in the garden. Tip for new gardeners: Give them space in rows about six feet apart because they will spread. 

Carrots. We’re cheating a little bit here. Truth is, you want to plant these before the first frost, but if you didn’t get around to it, you can plant your carrots early in spring.

Potatoes. There’s nothing better than potatoes and they can survive a frost or two, so get them into the ground as soon as it’s easy enough to do so. Once the stems are about eight inches, cover them or your potatoes will taste bitter and have a bit of green to them.

Herbs are, technically not a vegetable, but herbs like parsley, mint, and even oregano typically come back year after year, making them a great addition to a spring garden.

-Susan Humphrey at Park Seed Blog


How can I successfully grow microgreens at home? 

Broccoli, Peas, Radish, Lentils, Mustard, you name it… are just a handful of the veggies that are not only very easy to grow as a microgreen at home, but their early shoots are super tasty and have incredible health benefits.

And besides that, cultivating your own microgreen patch is perfect if you only have a small space at home and it is just so much fun to do!

When growing any vegetable or microgreen at home, you will need to nurture them well if you want them to thrive, but don’t worry, if you follow these simple steps, you’ll grow your own microgreens successfully in no time! 

Quick Step-by-Step Guide on Growing Microgreens

  1. Decide on which microgreens you’d like to grow and get the seeds. Soak the seeds in water according to the package directions (generally around 6-8 hours).
  2. Grab a small container and line the bottom of the container with a couple of inches of planting soil. You want to make sure your soil is moist but not soggy.
  3. Carefully scattered the seeds over the soil and cover them with a thin (1 inch or so) layer of soil and flatten it.
  4. Cover the container and place it close to a window. Keep watering them daily until the seeds sprout.
  5. Once they have sprouted it’s preferable to mist the sprouts instead of watering the soil.

Make it a habit to check them every day to ensure they have everything they require in terms of enough water, sunlight, and good soil. At the end of the day, microgreens are generally easy to grow, if you just follow along with the steps and tips above.

However, depending on the seed type, you may need to provide them with additional care or special growing conditions. For more information, I’d recommend our in-depth microgreens growing guide here.

Planted Well


What are the easiest vegetables that can be grown hydroponically? 

Lettuce, tomatoes, and soft herbs are the easiest vegetables to grow hydroponically, with all three actually benefiting from the process. I’ll talk about the benefits of each in a second, but if you’re hesitant about hydroponic growing because it seems inorganic, consider that it can in fact save water and that by growing herbs, tomatoes, and lettuces in our gardens we are already altering nature. Hydroponics is just a more efficient way to harness nature.

Hydroponic crops store better too, with roots that are left on harvested lettuces even in the fridge which helps them last longer without wilting (you can even keep them in a vase until you’re ready to eat them).

Lettuce: By far the best vegetable to grow hydroponically is lettuce, as it’s the only vegetable where the soil doesn’t impact its flavor, and it’s incredibly easy. You can even grow lettuce as a DIY hydroponic at home without any hydroponic kits, provided you change the water every two days, or every day in summer.

Lettuce is being grown as a hydroponic crop without natural light in underground farms all over the world now, with other leafy greens beginning to catch up too, like spinach and cut and come again salad crops like mustard and rockets too.

While iceberg and butterhead lettuces are the only salad crops whose taste isn’t affected by their soil, other leafy vegetables work just as well, and while they lose some flavor, they make up for it in crispness.

Tomatoes: While salads are the easiest veg to grow hydroponically, tomatoes grown in controlled hydroponics are generally more resistant to fungal root infections, so for any tomato growers looking for new ways to grow, consider growing cordon tomatoes as hydroponic crops next year. They don’t taste as rich as soil-grown tomatoes, but they are more disease-resistant.

Anyone who has ever grown house plants from cuttings will know how quickly the water-based roots come out of the base of tomato stems, and if you’ve tried rooting tomato shoots too, you’ll be familiar with the white stems that grow quickly to adapt to water rather than soil. These roots are incredibly disease resistant, and capable of taking diluted nutrients out of the water, so you can feed hydroponic tomatoes as normal.

Soft herbs: Soft herbs can be grown just like lettuce, you can either grow them in complex hydroponic troughs or just make sure to keep changing their water frequently. Start them off as seeds in paper towels so they have a chance to grow handleable stems, and when they are big enough to handle, simply drop them into small containers and change their water regularly.

By pruning out the growing tips of soft herbs you can encourage side shoots with more leaves too.

-Ann Katelyn at Sumo Gardener 


Can fruits be grown in an aquaponics system? 

Yes, there are many examples of fruits being grown in aquaponics systems. Tomatoes are the most common, and easiest, fruiting plant grown in aquaponics, followed by chilies, cucumbers, eggplants, luffa, and zucchini. The flavor and growth of fruiting plants are amazing, as long as there is adequate nutrition for the plants to grow.

If the climate allows, more extravagant plants can be grown such as:

  •       Banana and mango trees
  •       Passionfruit vines

All fruiting plants in Aquaponics can be grown in media beds filled with clay balls, or even in deep water culture floating raft systems. The key to growth is making sure the flood and drain cycle, or the aeration, is consistent, even when the plant is a large tree.

When it comes to growing with Aquaponics, adding different varieties of plants is easy once the system is up and running. You may be surprised at how many different types of tomatoes are available for you to grow – from cherry tomatoes to the huge delicious beefsteak tomatoes. 

Plants support / how to grow

For some tomato varieties, a plant support mesh or stakes can be set up in the aquaponics grow bed to support the limbs. Alternatively, eggplant or cherry tomato plant doesn’t need any support at all. A cucumber plant grows differently again, sprawling out over the ground alongside the grow bed, and taking up minimal space inside the grow bed. Ensure to keep the fruit off the ground – outside of your grow bed there are many many more bugs that want your yummy fruit!

Expert tip: look out for those roots! Fruiting plants have invasive roots, so it is best to place them inside a fabric pot to ensure the roots don’t wander. This will inhibit growth, but the alternative is to let the roots grow free and keep an eye on your drainage system to make sure it doesn’t get clogged by them. 

-Chris Faast at Aqua Gardening


Is it better to plant seeds or seedlings? 

I’m afraid there’s no simple answer to whether it’s better to plant seeds or seedlings. Planting seeds is cheaper and creates stronger plants, but planting seedling gives you a head start and saves space. Both will inevitably give you a reliable crop, but there are a few factors to consider when deciding between seeds and seedlings:

  1. Sowing anything from seed, directly into the garden in the position where it is to grow, will always give you the best results, and stronger plants.
  2. For some plants (including beans, peas, and onions) you can get a head start in the garden in spring by buying prepared seedlings which have been growing since mid-autumn and will provide crops much earlier.
  3. Planting from seed yourself means you have complete control over the shape of your plants and can decide between a lot of small fruits, or a few big fruits, depending on how you prune and feed in the early stages.
  4. In terms of price, a pack of 100 seeds is usually around $2, while 5 seedlings in a pot will cost up to $5, so seeds are definitely cheaper.
  5. Seeds are more fun.
  6. Seeds are better for the environment unless you buy seedlings from bespoke plastic-free and peat-free nurseries. Almost all seedlings are started in peat composts, which is a destructive and non-renewable material, and the black plastic you buy seedlings in isn’t recyclable by 99% of councils.

So there’s no one size fits all answer, but personally, I’d say seeds are always better than seedlings because they’re more fun, and create stronger plants, but there are definitely times where planting from seedlings in spring can speed up harvests and help make the most of your space.

Aussie Green Thumb


What vegetables and herbs can grow together? 

When growing a garden, it’s important to plant the foods you enjoy eating. The following herb and vegetable companions offer a variety of nutrients that can feed a growing family. When planted together they create a harmonious growing environment that stimulates growth, repels pests, and attracts pollinators.

Carrots are a crowd-pleaser. Rosemary and sage are two versatile herbs that grow nicely with carrots along with beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, chives, and peas.

Nothing quite compares to garden-fresh carrots. Most would agree that store-bought carrots just don’t measure up in terms of taste, texture, and freshness. Besides, carrots are fairly easy and quick to grow (most are ready in about 70 days from planting to harvest). Packed with vitamin A, they also keep well over winter.

Rosemary is a great herb to plant in your garden as bees love it. It’s a perennial with tender needles. Some varieties of rosemary such as Collingwood Ingram are upright and make good hedges. Others are trailers and look wonderful in hanging pots. 

Rosemary and sage both go well together to flavor chicken, stews, bread, and other savory dishes. When grown together, they provide a lovely aromatic garden. These two herbs also deter cabbage moths and cabbage worms—pests that love to feast on Brassicas (broccoli and Brussels sprouts). Sage works to keep carrot rust flies away.

While there are many types of sage, Clary Sage is a favorite for its aromatic leaves which can be used to make teas, add to soups, or as a mix for DIY potpourri. Clary sage flowers are also aromatic and great for teas, too.

When planting your garden, you can place rosemary and sage along the borders to form a protective edge around your carrots, beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and peas. Ensure you leave a bit of space between carrots and any other root crops you have nearby so they don’t compete for nutrients.

-Josh and Theresa at RusticWise


What herbs and vegetables should not be planted together? 

Companion planting is perfect for a small garden, as plants need to be near one another. The main benefits of companion planting are to provide a beneficial environment for both plants in soil nutrients, weed control, and deterring or attracting insects. 

Incorporating herbs into your vegetable garden can be beneficial for both decorative and culinary reasons. While the list of plants that can live and even thrive next to each other is long there are some that have been discovered to have a negative effect on each other. Fighting for soil nutrients, stunting growth, and a few herbs have strong aromatic qualities that can change the flavor of vegetables. These are some of the issues that you can experience by growing the wrong plants by each other. 

The most incompatible herb companions in the garden are: 

Parsley is a biennial and needs to be planted each year. The use of parsley can be found throughout the culinary world and is one of the most popular herbs. Although, when planted next to lettuce it can change the growing season by causing the lettuce to bolt, sending it to seed too early. 

Dill is an aromatic herb and adds numerous beneficial properties to your garden because of its ability to deter pests. It is a self-seeding annual and is mostly used for pickling. Although, when planted near carrots it can stunt the growth of the carrots and cause cross-pollination because they are both members of the same family. Tomatoes and Dill have a complicated relationship. While the dill is young it can help the tomato plant by repelling spider mites and the hornworm. When the dill reaches maturity though it can have an unfavorable effect by stunting the tomatoes’ growth and affecting the health of the root system as it exudes chemicals through its own roots.

Sage is an aromatic herb and has a savory, slightly peppered taste. It is a perennial and has many varieties, not all are used in culinary. Due to the strong aroma of sage, it has been known to not only stunt the growth of cucumbers but to change their flavor profile. Sage is also not a companion with the herb Basil, as the two plants will fight for nutrients causing both plants to be undersized. 

Understanding the needs of each plant can assist you in separating the incompatible plants and generating a balanced garden layout. 

-Brittney Grasteit at Wild Valley Farms


What’s your best advice for storing vegetables and fruits?

On average, Americans throw away 15-20% of the produce they buy because it spoils before they can use it. Most of the time, these fruits and veggies spoil faster because they’re being stored incorrectly. Help minimize your food waste by storing your produce properly with these tips.

There are 2 items that you can control at home that affect the freshness of your produce: temperature and humidity. Understanding which items thrive in the refrigerator, pantry, or on countertop is essential to keeping them fresh for longer.

Items that should be stored in the fridge include:

  • Apples, berries, melons, cherries, & grapes
  • Crunchy vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, carrots, peppers, celery, etc.

Items that should be stored on the countertops:

Items that should be stored in the pantry:

  • Onions, potatoes, garlic

Generally, you should wait to wash your produce until you’re ready to eat it. Washing it immediately before storing it can cause mold to grow and make your softer berries mushy. The only exception to this rule is for lettuce and other leafy greens. These should be washed immediately, patted dry, and stored in-between damp paper towels in a sealed bag or container.

To keep your refrigerated produce fresh for longer, we recommend using air-tight containers or sealed zip-lock bags. This helps protect their moisture and prevent them from dehydrating prematurely.

Keeping ethylene-producing items away from other fruits or vegetables affected by ethylene gas can keep your produce from ripening too quickly. For instance, onions are large ethylene producers. When stored next to potatoes, they can make them ripen or rot faster.

-The Markets at Shrewsbury


How can I improve my existing soil to grow food? 

Year one is the honeymoon period in your new raised food bed. Everything is perfect and you are thinking about writing a book about how easy it is to grow food in your front yard. Potatoes are large, tomatoes are plump and the lettuce never tasted better. The sun seems to shine every day. And then comes year two and the harvest starts to dwindle.

“One question [is] remediation of my raised vegetable box. I established it about 4 years ago and the first year [I] had an astonishing harvest of mixed vegetables,” said Sally, a typical gardener. “Since then [my garden] has never performed as well despite compost, mulch, and everything else I can think of. Last winter I planted a cover crop that didn’t perform either! I wonder if I should remove about a foot of soil and start with new soil? Any ideas?”

Sadly, Sally’s experience is common and has become the reason people never write that “easy gardening” book, and sometimes, they stop growing food altogether. It’s all downhill after that wonderful first season of success.

This is because soils are naturally imperfect. They are manufactured and mixed to be fluffy and rich with nutrients and compost in the first year. By year two, drainage and nutrients are failing. The growing plants gradually use available minerals, the rain washes other nutrients away and the soil slowly becomes compacted and difficult to work as the organic matter packs down. Plants “read” these changes and refuse to perform. Roots can’t penetrate the now-stiff soils and minerals have all been carted away in the town’s green bin program.


If you can’t sink your fingers into the soil easily, the soil is compacted. It needs to be opened and loosened. Tillage is a short-term solution but over time we have found rototilling soil causes compaction and gradually depletes organic matter levels. Suddenly the soil is stiff and hard to work. 

If your soil is tight, topdress it with 1/2” of living, microbe-rich organic matter such as worm castings or freshly made compost. 

Small farmers also use a broad fork to lift and open soil. Gardeners can copy this approach by using a garden fork, stabbed into the ground, and bent back slightly all along the length of the garden bed. The fork gradually lifts but doesn’t turn the soil. This soil opening improves drainage, opens soil structure, and allows roots to reach nutrients and moisture.

Improving Drainage:

Commercially sold Biochar, co-composted with the greens and browns in your compost bin will hold minerals and microbes within its structure and will also improve soil drainage over time. This means soil stays looser and plant roots are healthier. Biochar will not collapse over time or become compacted like other forms of organic matter. Instead, it aids drainage and holds nutrients, and gradually makes food available to plants. Thousands of years ago biochar was used in the Amazon and today it is being rediscovered and used as a lasting way to fix soils.

Adding Food:

Slow-release fertilizer, like General Purpose (4-3-9) Biofert Organic fertilizer, added at a rate of 3-4 kg per cubic meter of soilless mix or manufactured garden soil, greatly benefits vegetable growth.  Fertilizer replaces minerals used up and removed during crop harvest. Added in the spring, just before forking, fertilizer boosts plant growth.

This Spring:

Try both biochar and a low-salt index organic fertilizer this year and avoid tilling to fluff soil. Instead, lightly lift the soil with a garden fork just to release the pressure and allow moisture to drain through.

Specific mineral shortages may appear over time but nitrogen, the big mineral that makes plants grow fast, is always the first to leave the station because it is used by all plants and is easily washed out of compost and soil by rain and snowmelt. Building up a microbial population that holds minerals in their living bodies will give more stability to your soil nutrient levels. Adding biochar so the soil holds nutrients and microbes and drains better works with a good fertilizer program. 

Warning! If your soil is low in a specific nutrient such as boron, your carrots will crack at harvest. Simply making compost from the parts of the plants you do not eat will never replace minerals that were lacking from day one. Instead, the fertilizer you use needs to contain both nutrients and micronutrients. Fertilizers replace nutrients harvested with plants and are lost to leaching. If there are any minerals lacking in the soil to start with, those also need to be added.


Because a garden bed is so intensively “farmed” it only makes sense that food removed is added back to the soil with fertilizer and also that the soil is kept soft and open through organic matter additions, biochar, and broad-forking each spring.  

If you maintain your soil this way you will never have to consider the heavy and costly suggestion that Sally proposed in her letter to me. Removing soil and adding back manufactured soil is not sustainable over time. Instead, maintaining a fluffy, microbe-rich soil by applying living compost and organic fertilizer as plants and climate strip away what was there initially, is the only sensible solution to continued success in your food garden.

Donna Balzer


What is square foot gardening? 

If you love spending time in the garden but don’t have a lot of space to work with, square foot gardening may be the perfect solution; Square foot gardening is a simple method of creating small, highly productive vegetable gardens, and it’s a vast improvement over old-fashioned row gardening. With a square foot garden, you can grow a surprisingly large amount of produce in a small area. Keep reading to learn more about how it works and how to get started.

What are the advantages of square foot gardening? 

  • You can grow a lot more in a smaller space.
  • Less weed competition.
  • Prevents soil compaction.
  • Less time spent thinning.
  • Conserves water.

You’ll be able to grow more in less space than you ever thought possible. 

You can grow up to 4 times as many vegetables as you can in the same sized garden with “traditional” rows.

Because your plants are closely spaced in each square, they out-compete weeds by shading the soil.

It also makes it easy to stay off your soil.

  • Soil compaction is a problem in vegetable beds since there are paths between every row.
  • And if you’re constantly walking all over the soil, you’re compressing it.
  • Plant roots need water and oxygen, and the more the soil is compressed, the less oxygen they’re able to get.

And with square foot gardening, you won’t have to do as much thinning. That’s because you’ll plant less seed and plant it in a more targeted way.

It also saves water because you’re watering a smaller area, and the closely spaced plants help reduce evaporation.

Here’s how to get started: 

  1. Create wide rows, at most 4 feet wide, and however long you want. Then sub-divide those into 1′ x 1′ squares.
  2. You can start with a bed as small as 4 feet by 4 feet.
  3. Don’t create beds wider than four feet – you need to be able to reach the middle of your beds.
  4. Create paths between your beds that are wide enough to comfortably garden in. Make sure you can get a wheelbarrow or garden cart between your rows and have enough room to crouch, kneel, and spread out your tools.

Use proper square foot spacing in each of the squares.

The number of plants per square is based on plant size and how much room each plant needs to grow. For example, you’d plant 16 radishes per square but only one eggplant.

Square foot gardening is the perfect solution for anyone short on time or space!

Plus, it’s a great way to get started with gardening if you’re new to the hobby.

-Cheryl Spencer at Simply Smart Gardening


If you decide to take up the challenge and start your edible garden, consider the benefits of hiring a handyman rather than doing all of the work yourself, they can always help you add raised beds, trellises, assemble a greenhouse, test your irrigation systems, and more.