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People have been growing and managing garden spaces for many, many centuries. During this time, new gardening methods and tricks have emerged that have improved the harvest. In our modern world we spend time studying and experimenting with different garden styles. Deciding what garden style or method is right for your backyard is different for everyone depending on how much space you have, what your climate is, and what you’re trying to grow.
The information below is designed to give you a snapshot of some of the different gardening styles and methods – if you are looking for more information, click on the links to explore each method in more details.
How to Select the Best Garden Styles for your Backyard
Deciding what garden styles or methods works best for you in your own vegetable garden can be difficult. It takes time to research the different garden styles and experiment with what does and doesn’t work. If you are brand new to growing your own vegetables, I would recommend creating a few raised beds or laying out a small rectangular garden bed. Permaculture is a set of overarching ideas that looks holistically at setting up a complete yard system and is worth exploring when you are getting started. I recommend reading the book Gaia’s Garden if you are interested in this method.
If you are interested in expanding your knowledge of different growing methods and gardening styles, you can move on to explore some of the ideas like square foot gardening, straw bale gardening, and hugelkultur to name a few. No matter what garden style you choose (or combination of styles) it’s important to keep the whole picture of your backyard farm layout in mind.
At the heart of every gardening method is creating the ideal situation for growing fruits and vegetables. This means placing your garden where it will get at least 6 hours of sun (or if that isn’t possible, where it can get as much sun as possible). You will also want to create a water management system, or make sure your garden is close enough to your water source. Building healthy, rich soil is critical to a strong harvest and every method listed below works to improve garden soil. Finally, it’s important to make sure you have the right gardening tools for good harvest.
The first garden style to explore is permaculture. I started with permaculture since it is less a specific methods and more a design process or philosophy. It is both a design-process with specific methods and also a worldview of living holistically with nature.
Several of the principles at the heart of permaculture include:
- Creating close-loop systems where waste become a resource (think composting)
- Planting lasting garden systems that include perennials
- Focusing on multi-function of items in your system (keep chickens for eggs, but also move them for weed management)
- Work with nature and study the systems to mimic what works naturally
- Conserve resources such as water within your yard
One of the easiest garden styles to get you started, especially if you are new to vegetable gardening is to create a raised garden bed – or a series of raised garden beds. This allows you to add and build healthy soil from the start and maximize space and your harvest. Raised beds can be built on your own or purchased as a kit. Your raised garden bed adds an attractive element to your yard and help to contain your garden. There are also benefits including less soil compression, easier access, and you can even put them right on a patio or deck.
Building a hugelkultur raised bed uses some of the principles of Permaculture. These tall raised beds are creating using a selection of wood, leaves, grass clippings and other yard waste. This material is piled up and covered in dirt. Over time the material will decompose creating a rich and natural garden bed. With some care, you can plant directly into your raised hugelkultur bed as it matures.
Growing your garden vegetables directly in Straw Bales is a relatively new garden style. You can create a whole garden buy lining up straw bales, adding water and some nutrients and planting directly into the straw. This is a great space saver and a good method if you don’t have great soil (you can even use this method directly over pavement). Most crops that you grow in other places also grow well in raised straw bales.
Similar to permaculture, organic gardening is an overarching garden method that can be used no matter what garden style you are adopting. If you are gardening in a traditional garden bed, using organic methods will help you build up the soil leading to a better harvest. Selecting organic methods also ensures that you are making beneficial choices for the environment. If you are going organic, you will need to come up with some methods of pest management and improving the soil, but the benefits far outweigh any challenges.
Lasagna or No Dig Gardening
The more we learn about soil and the importance of soil structure, the more attention is given to how we manage our garden soil. Traditionally, it was common to deep dig your garden beds and turn the soil often between growing seasons. While this method has it’s place, there are many ways to improve soil without digging. The lasagna method using layers of materials to suppress weeds and add layers of compostable materials. With a little time the garden will settle and you can plant directly in the soil.
Growing vertically is a wonderful way to save space and to make use of small corners and spaces in the garden. Vertical gardening includes every way garden design that takes plants up (or in a few cases down). This means you can garden in a small space and your plants will benefit from more sunlight. Examples of vertical gardening include using a trellis, training vines up a structure, tiered raised beds, etc.
Square Foot Garden Style
This method lays your plants out in a grid system for easy management. This method uses a different plant spacing method instead of growing your crops in rows. With this method, you create a grid in your garden and based on the plant, you put a certain number of plants within each square. It is a simple way to organize your garden space and create an organized garden system.
If you are short on space you may want to consider container gardening. Even with our larger garden, we always keep a few things in containers on the patio. This enables us to keep our favorite herbs right at our finger tips to make it easy to get our vegetable and herbs when we’re cooking.
Hydroponics and Aquaponics Gardening
Both these methods or garden styles use water for gardening and nutrients are added to the water for helping to grow the plants. This method can be used in a large scale or with a few crops in your home. Unlike hydroponics that simply add nutrients, aquaponics uses fish as part of the growing system. By circulating water through your plants and fish, you are passing on the nutrients from the fish to the plants, and using the plants to clean the water from the fish.
Garden styles that extend your growing season include growing vegetables in a covered space such as a hoop house, greenhouse, or cold frame. These methods need specific irrigation plans and need access to sunlight. It’s also helpful to select crops that can handle fluctuations in temperature. These structured can be used as the primary place to grow your crops, or as a supplemental space to start vegetables earlier.
Edible landscaping is one of my favorite ways to add food to the garden. Simply tuck fruit tree and vegetables into an existing garden. The original cottage gardens are a great example of edible landscaping. You can also use tricks like creating an edible hedge or using fruit trees in place of ornamental trees. Edible landscaping is one of the more attractive garden styles and is perfect to add just a few edibles to your garden.