Having a sustainable garden means very different things to different people. Some folks are led to believe that a sustainable garden must use only organic materials, because someday the commercially-available mineral nutrients may not be available. To me, this sounds somewhat like the suggestion that we should all ride bicycles because someday gasoline may not be available.
I suggest that a sustainable garden means one that can be used productively over an extended period of time, and would necessarily involve several elements, including the following:
Growing food you want to eat, so you are motivated to continue growing, Growing economically, so that it is worthwhile doing, and taking care of environmental issues, so that the ground will continue to support growing healthy crops. You can grow a sustainable garden using organic gardening, container gardening, hydroponic gardening, or soil-bed gardening. The Mittleider method encompasses them all.
Growing Food You Want to Eat The plants to be grown should be chosen primarily on what your family wants to eat, and what will grow in your locale. The Garden master CD, available at www.growfood.com in the Store section, has an excellent vegetable database, which will give you all you need to know about which veggies you should plant, as well as when and where to plant them, and how much you can expect to harvest. I could take this whole article to rave about the GM CD, but you can look that up in the Software category.
After that, consideration might be given to using heirloom seed rather than hybrid, if you are very concerned about losing the ability to replace seed each year from commercial sources. Growing for seed is easy if you’re growing heirloom corn or tomatoes, but very difficult and time-consuming if you’re wanting non-fruiting vegetables like onions, carrots, lettuce, etc.
An easy and inexpensive alternative to trying to harvest your own seeds is to buy the Garden-In-A-Can. This is a #10 can full of 15 varieties of triple-sealed heirloom seed, available at www.growfood.com. Storing it in a cool dry place will maintain a high germination percentage for up to ten years, and makes me grin (because I don’t have to do it) every time I think of the folks trying to grow for seed in their own backyard.
Growing Productively and Economically
Using the best-known growing practices will assure you the greatest yield of healthy vegetables from the smallest space and with the least amount of labor and financial inputs per unit of production. By doing this a family can be self-sufficient in their food requirements from proper gardening of a small fraction of an acre. I promise those we teach that they will have twice the yield on only 25% of the space they’ve used traditionally.
This is the greatest evidence of success in achieving a sustainable garden. Good examples of excellent, high-yield gardening methods that have been proven effective worldwide are found in the gardening books and CDs at www.foodforeveryone.org. And many pictures of successful gardens using these methods can be seen at the free gardening group MittleiderMethodGardening@yahoogroups.com.
Caring for the environment
Gardening should always be done without injuring the land, but rather should improve the land so that it will continue to support healthy plants indefinitely. Therefore, pesticides and herbicides should be used very judiciously, and only in extreme need.
Wherever possible these issues should be handled by cultural practices, such as those taught by Dr. Jacob R. Mittleider in the Mittleider Gardening Course and other books, CD’s and software at www.growfood.com as follows:
Eliminate all weeds from the garden area before planting and during the growing season. If not weeds will steal most of the water and nutrients from your crops. Prepare the growing area to be ideal for plant growth, but inhospitable to bugs and diseases. Water only the plants’ root zone. This saves over 1/2 the water usually used. Begin plants in a protected environment for a fast, healthy and strong start. Feed plants balanced natural mineral nutrients to assure fast and healthy growth. Harvest all plants at maturity to avoid allowing pests and diseases to multiply. Discard any bug or disease-infested plant parts away from the garden, and incorporate healthy plant parts into the soil to improve soil structure.
Following these sustainable gardening procedures will assure your family a great yield of healthy vegetables, give tremendous satisfaction, and even give you pleasure for many years to come.