Which alternative gardening method will feed your family?

Gardening is hard work but so rewarding and good for your health. Unfortunately, as lives get busier fewer people find the time for gardening. But if you find the investment worthwhile, try an alternative gardening method. These methods require less work and less space than a traditional garden. Therefore they save time and stress

Alternative #1: Straw Bales as an alternative gardening method.

Straw bales offer two different options as an alternative gardening method. My family uses this method with potatoes. Potatoes are rather easy to grow but incredibly hard to harvest due to digging. As a result, bales eliminate almost all of the hard labor. In this alternative gardening method, you cut the seed potatoes into pieces with at least one eye in each piece. Lay the pieces 2-3 inches apart on top of your soil. Cover the soil with one foot thickness of scattered straw.  If needed, water the potato seeds directly on top of the straw. Then watch the plants grow and bloom. Usually weeding is not necessary because the straw will keep weeds to a minimum.

In contrast, one drawback of this method is wind. If there is a considerable amount of wind, some or all straw can be blown away. If this happens, you want to put more straw on top of your plants.

When you think your potatoes are ready to harvest, you easily lift one end of the straw to check the progress. When potatoes are ready, remove the straw and pick up the potatoes! You can harvest your crop all at one time or a little at a time, as you need it. Just remember to get it all harvested before a frost.

Using whole straw bales reduces the need to weed plants.
Gardening using whole straw bales.

Another alternative gardening method is to keep the straw whole and place plants or seeds into the top of the bale. The depth of the seed or plant depends upon what you are planting. But almost any type of vegetable or herb will grow wonderfully in the top of a straw bale. Most noteworthy, corn is the one exception for this.

Which Alternative Gardening Method Will Feed Your Family?
Scattered Straw Gardening

Alternative Gardening Method #2: Pots or Containers

Even the smallest living spaces work with this alternative gardening method. A variety of vegetables, fruits and herbs planted and harvested from small pots, which are as shallow at 4 to 5 inches are perfect for small yards or apartments. Flat rectangular pots are good for quick growing plants that have roots that spread out rather than grow deeper. These include plants as lettuce and other salad greens, strawberries, chives, oregano and thyme.

Larger, deeper pots work for other popular plants. Tomatoes, broccoli, beans, peppers, onions and many more can successfully be planted and harvested in 6-8 inch deep pots. My niece and her husband use this method. They cut plastic barrels in to halves, filled them with soil and raised them on wooden frames. Leandra sent this picture from last summer showing a variety of plants they grow.

Raised 1/2 barrels can be used for a variety of plants and herbs.
Raised 1/2 barrels for gardening

Secondly, another advantage to using pots or containers is the ability to bring them indoors when the weather turns cold.

Method #3: Used Tires

Lastly, this alternative gardening method is useful for recycling old tires. And if you live in an area with poor soil quality, you can fill the tire with good potting soil to grow almost any vegetable or herb.

Depending upon your choice of plant, you may use tires singly or in stacks. Single tires are good for plants or herbs that will grow in 6 inches of soil or less such as those listed in the section for small pots or containers.

If you are interested in growing plants with larger root systems or root vegetables like potatoes, you can stack 3-5 tires for deeper soil. Of course, you will need more potting soil but not more ground space. Using this method for potatoes will also eliminate the need to dig the potatoes once they are ready to harvest. Simply remove the tires from the top of the stack and harvest the potatoes as they are revealed!

Certainly, one drawback of this method is strong winds. If you use several tires in a stack without anchoring the tires together, they may be blown over during wind storms which could result in the loss of plants.

Alternative Gardening Method #4: Tower Garden

Finally, if you are serious about your gardening and you’re ready to go to the next level, you need to consider the Tower Garden. There are several advantages to having a tower garden like using a small amount of space, growing a variety of plants and alternating plants for different growing seasons. Plus, it can be moved indoors to continue growing vegetables and herbs during the winter months. Above all, the best aspect is that it is aeroponic which means that is uses no soil.

My friend, Jan has been blessed with a tower garden for the past 5 years. Here is a picture of her garden with a quote telling how grateful she is to be able to have fresh vegetables all year round.

Alternative Gardening Method
Jan says, “I was able to “play” in my garden today, even with the wind chill way below zero here in Indianapolis. My Tower Garden was a present for my 60th birthday 5+ years ago, and it really helps during the wintertime when I get “cabin fever”. I gave the tomatoes a drastic “haircut, and found a lot of lettuce and basil waiting to be harvested.”

So the tower garden isn’t the cheapest alternative gardening method. The website lists the price at $42.25/month with 12 monthly payments. This does include a 12-month guarantee that if you don’t like the tower garden, you may get a full refund. But I’m thinking that once you use the garden, most people will not be returning it. Likewise, after just a few short months of harvest, the tower garden pays for itself many times over.

For more information about the tower garden, visit Jan’s website at https://janworman.towergarden.com/shop/growing-system

What Is Your Choice?

Now is the perfect time to engage your green thumb. Select the alternative gardening method that fits your time schedule and space available. If you need help selecting plants to grow, comment below. I hope you enjoy a bountiful harvest!

Which Alternative Gardening Method Will Feed Your Family?
Example on one month of growth in a Tower Garden.
I'm a wife and mother of four adult children. I have about 11 years of experience teaching school and 23 years of running my own bridal salon. I am currently heading towards retirement from the business and looking forward to my next adventure.

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