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Each year, I resolve to be more organized when it comes to homesteading.
Without fail, every year I find my garden organization skills lagging behind – despite my best intentions. Some of this is due to being busy. I get it. You get it. We’re all busy.
But most of it is because I have very few ideas about how to start a garden in a way that is efficient and organized. Beyond that, I don’t know how to maintain an organized garden once I put solutions in place.
In other words, the carefully implemented small garden ideas quickly fall by the wayside.
My garden becomes huge, unruly, and incredibly disorganized.
1. Maintain basic garage or shed organization
I’ve heard from a lot of readers that I’m not alone in this problem, so this makes me feel at least somewhat better! However, I know I need to up my game, so I’ve begun to incorporate the following garden design and organization tips to help keep my space neat, tidy, and productive.
So, confession here – we actually don’t have a garage. Or a shed. Instead, all of our garden tools end up being stashed in our basement.
This turns into a huge mess, which leads to a lot of tripping and swearing and general annoyance with each other – I mean – the disorganization.
Now, we have resolved to keep a neat home and garden by organizing our storage areas. Here are some ideas to keep your space tidy:
- Hang a magnetic strip to hold your small tools (remember that aluminum won’t stick)
- Place a few nails in the wall to hang spades, garden clippers, hoes, and other equipment
- Invest in free-standing tool cabinets to hold small tools as well as nails, screws, and other small pieces
- Organize your tools with PVC pipe
- Make use of extra studs by hanging tools and utensils vertically
- Hang your bins and ladders
- Store seasonal equipment in totes
- Label EVERYTHING
2. Build raised garden beds
A raised bed is so valuable for so many reasons. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out my earlier blog post about all the benefits that planting in a raised bed provides.
Remember that raised beds help you keep everything contained in one space, making it easier to weed and control your plants without having to dedicate a lot of space for planting.
You can plant most of your vegetable garden in raised beds, and even flower gardens function nicely in a raised bed. Even if you still find yourself having to weed a lot, the optical illusion that raised beds provide at least make it look like everything is neat and trim.
If a raised garden bed isn’t for you, you might want to consider planting in containers. Most vegetables can be planted in containers, and container vegetable gardening is a great way to do the following:
- Controls the success and growth of your plants regardless of your climate
- Expands your growing season
- Eliminates weeds
- Adds extra space to a limited garden
- Makes it easier to store seeds
- Allows for maximum portability
3. Take some time out for some quality garden edging
A nice clean edge has the visual effect of making it look like a gardener takes good care of his garden – even if he isn’t great about other aspects of maintaining a vegetable garden, like weeding or fertilizing! Edging helps prevent grass from sprawling into your garden, and also reduces the likelihood of soil being knocked onto the grass.
You can use a range of materials for lawn edging, including concrete, fencing, stone, and brick. The specific type of garden you have will determine the best type of edging.
4. Remember to rotate your crops
Rotating your crops not only makes your garden look neater but it also helps reduce nutrient depletion in the soil. Split your vegetable garden layout into four separate quadrants. Each year, rotate the crops that are planted in each quadrant. It helps to plan this out several years in advance, which will make you feel organized when it comes to each growing season.
Which leads to the next point…
5. Plan – and don’t deviate
Sure, you may need to make occasional exceptions for uncontrollable incidents. For example, if a tree falls in a corner of your garden, it might take you some time to get the area cleared so you can plant there gain.
However, you should block out the layout of the garden several months in advance. This will help you to make sure you have room for all of your vegetables, allowing you to feel more organized when it comes time to plant. There’s nothing worse than feeling hurried when you are planting seeds or transplanting seedlings and finding yourself haphazardly throwing plants into the ground.
Create an efficient schedule for yourself that is designed to meet the hectic agenda of the planting season. This checklist helps me a TON.
Break down your obligations at that time of the year, both those related to homesteading and those from other areas of your life. Be realistic with yourself, and plan out your garden and planting times so that you have a clear idea of where your crops are going to go, and when they are going to get there.
6. Determine a watering schedule and stick to it
Long before you even plant your crops, think about how you will irrigate. Are you going to install sprinklers? Do it before you plant to avoid damage to your plants or the risk of soil compaction. Then, figure out when you are going to run those sprinklers. The best time to water is in the morning, ideally between 6 and 10, which will give your plants time to absorb the water before the sun has evaporated it.
Watering your garden may not sound like it has much to do with organization, but remember that one of the most important things you can do for your garden is to provide it with ample amounts of water. You don’t want to run the risk of forgetting to water your plants – or conversely, killing them by watering too frequently.
7. Hide your ugliest items
One of the most overlooked aspects of garden storage is how you are going to stash all those necessary items – like hoes, rakes, hoses, and watering cans. If you’re like me, these items usually end up scattered all over my lawn. As a result, I lose a lot of equipment to weather damage or…it simply disappears.
It’s really windy where I live.
Regardless, don’t be like me. Take care of your belongings! I’ve learned that I need to have effective storage solutions in place for all of my garden equipment.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to stash your equipment out of sight. This will eliminate the need for you to have to stare at it and will also encourage you to pick up your stuff.
You can get a hose hideaway compartment that allows you to stash your hose and also unwind it with ease. There are even state-of-the-art potting benches available so that you can stash all of your clippers, gloves, and other garden essentials out of sight – and repot your plants in the same place.
8. Use every possible surface
Space is limited in most gardens. When we first moved into our house, we faced the struggle of poor, compacted garden soil that did not want to work with us from the get-go. To combat this, we have spent the last five years fertilizing, amending, and otherwise aerating our lumpy clay soil. Now, in most areas, we have a light, nutrient-dense humus.
However, this wasn’t the case to start with, and we had to make do with limited space. Build raised beds, plant in containers, plant in the slats between pallet boards, and plant in black plastic. Do whatever you can to utilize every square inch of space – even space that might be currently covered with sod.
Don’t have a lot of ground space? Use your deck or windows! There are tons of vegetables you can grow in window boxes, vertical trellises, or deck planters – just get creative.
9. Plant vegetables in triangles
Instead of planting in rows, consider planting in triangles. Rows waste a lot of space – up to fourteen percent more than planting in triangles! You can fit more plants in a small amount of space (which will not only increase your yields but also will reduce the amount of weeding you need to do) by placing seedlings in a triangle.
10. Grow companion plants
Remember that there are certain plants that grow best when in the presence of others. One example? Corns, beans, and squash. Whenever possible, utilize companion plants to help maximize the productivity of your garden while also saving space.
Some other compatible pairings include:
- Tomatoes and basil
- Lettuce and peas
- Carrots and radishes
- Beets and celery
11. Time your plantings
Think carefully about when you are going to plant, and put each date for each crop on a calendar. Consider whether succession planting might be the right choice for your vegetable garden (certain plants like radishes and beets can produce multiple crops per season, giving you more bang for your buck) and make sure you include second and third planting dates on your calendar, too. And don’t forget about planting in a greenhouse or hoophouse to maximize your yields!
Using this system, you can harvest three or four crops from a single area. For example, you could plant an early crop of lettuce and then follow it up with quick-maturing corn. You can also use transplants to make your garden progress more quickly than if you seeded directly, or you can choose fast-maturing plant varieties to make quick work of your growing season.
12. Keep good notes
Whatever you do, stay on top of your garden chores, tasks, and notable items from the growing season. Jot down ideas as they come up, and stash them in a safe place. Personally, I like to make notes in a Google Docs page and then merge them all into a journal at the end of the season. This helps me keep track of ideas I want to implement the following year, while also allowing me to continue working on my current gardening season.
Part of my garden-related stressors have to do with a feeling of overwhelm. It’s not that my garden underperforms – it’s just that I get wrapped up in this weird sense of gardening FOMO. I’m always thinking about what I should be or am not currently doing instead of all the great things I am currently doing. Writing down what I want to do next year and then moving on allows me to focus on the current season without getting bogged down with worries about the future.
Whether you’re growing a small backyard garden, a sprawling indoor garden, or a garden large enough to feed your entire neighborhood, staying organized can help you be successful both now and in the long term. Plan ahead during the fall and winter months so that you won’t find yourself inundated with gardening tasks come spring and summer – your sanity will thank you!
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Thanks for reading!