PHOTO: Christina B Castro/Flickr
June 2, 2016

Vegetable gardening is satisfying, rewarding and fun. At least—it’s supposed to be. But sometimes we get bogged down in the nitty-gritty details of gardening minutiae and that “fun” part gets lost in a wave of pH levels, watering guidelines and weed-pulling. Sometimes you need permission to veer from traditional gardening guidelines and create your own rules. Here’s where you can start.

1. Follow Spacing Instructions Exactly

Why this garden rule is OK to break: Those spacing instructions on seed packets are good advice, there’s no doubt. And if you follow them precisely, you are putting your best foot forward in your vegetable gardening and setting yourself up for success.

But unless you’re planting a ginormous garden with ample space and plenty of elbow room, it may not be entirely practical to allow 4 feet between each row of cucumber hills or 2 feet between rows of beans. While proper spacing is effective for reducing plant disease and allowing room for proper growth, you can get away with nudging the rows a bit closer to fit your crop to your garden space.

2. Pull All The Weeds

Why this garden rule is OK to break: Don’t let your gardening life be dictated by the presence of some random weeds and errant blades of grass. Be bold! Ignore them! Does this mean that you should let your garden beds get choked out by weeds? Absolutely not. By all means, keep your weeds under control, but you don’t have to worry endlessly about weeding the garden every single day. Strike a happy balance between keeping weeds at bay and maintaining your own sanity. Investing in a helpful tool, like a scuffle hoe, can help you get the job done in a shorter amount of time, but embracing the beauty and helpfulness of weeds can go a long way garden enjoyment.

3. Buy Fresh Seed Every Year

Why this garden rule is OK to break: Now, I’d be the last one to tell you to not buy seeds (what’s more fun than poring over seed catalogs and buying seeds?), but if you have leftover seeds from last year, chances are good that you can still plant them this year with reasonable success. Will the germination rate be as high as it was last year? Maybe not, but it will still probably be high enough that you won’t notice a significant reduction in germination. (An exception: parsnips. Always buy fresh parsnip seed; they won’t grow well without fresh seed.) You can save some money by using up leftover seed from previous years, which is great for the budget and will help clean out that ever-growing shoebox (or, um, Rubbermaid tub) of seeds.

4. Grow Only As Much As You Can Handle

Why this garden rule is OK to break: Hey, this one’s important. Dream big! Don’t worry that your garden will be too much to handle or too big to care for. You’ll only regret the things you didn’t plant—you won’t regret the ones you did. So toss in an extra row of radishes, buy four more tomato seedlings, go ahead and plant that new variety of cucumber that you’ve always wanted to try. Will it be extra work? Maybe. Will you reap the rewards of your garden? Absolutely! If you end up with more produce than you and your family can use, then preserve it in some way—can it, freeze it—or sell the excess at a farmers market. Or share the garden bounty with family, friends, neighbors or a community soup kitchen. A garden is a blessing to everyone it touches, directly or indirectly.


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