Prepping Your Garden for Winter and Spring

You may have noticed that I haven’t blogged about gardening lately, that’s because earlier this year our home garden was struggling to grow the vegetables it so easily produced a year ago. Bugs and slugs invaded, and in lieu of using potentially harmful pesticides to correct the situation, I decided two months ago to just dig everything up and start over again.

This was probably the best approach, because this amateur gardener has since learned a few things that keep home gardens more productive year round.

A business trip to Maui last week included a visit to several organic vegetable and fruit farms. I always find these experiences not only inspirational, but also very educational and beneficial. I always take away some valuable insight on improving my home gardening techniques. Three bits of wisdom that stuck out from my visits include:

  • Make sure to move things around. Looking back, I had a section in my garden for lettuce, one for kale, another for tomatoes, and always one for beets. I would repeatedly plant the same things in the same areas over and over again. This is a bad habit that was pointed out to me as I toured the farms. It is important that crops be moved around not only fields, but home gardens as well, as bugs can settle into these areas and continue to affect growth. Farmers stressed it is good practice to keep the location of things changing in your garden for best results.
  • Ensure your soil is nutrient rich. Many amateur home gardeners never think to put nutrients back into the soil their crops are pulling from. I’m guilty as charged. Once I harvest a section of beets, I usually have new seeds in the ground a couple days after. Farmers stress the importance of letting the grounds lay unplanted for a period of time, to ensure organic matter and other nutrient-rich materials are incorporated into growing areas and to keep things productive. I’m hoping the three to four month break from growing things at home helps my soil return to tip-top shape.
  • Grow what you like to eat. As you begin to plan out your gardens for the winter and spring, the farmers we met reminded our group to plant what you want to eat. You will likely take much better care of your garden and this will also keep your garden a manageable size. The big mistake I made when first gardening was trying to grow too many different things, from eggplant and zucchini, to beets, fine herbs, kale, lettuce and countless other things. The fact was we only ate the things we really enjoyed and the other stuff went to waste. Bottom line is that gardening is fun and enjoyable, but it’s even more satisfying when things are flourishing and you don’t have to spend hours a day caring for it. Keep things simple.

I wish everyone a very productive growing season in his or her home gardens this year and I promise to share the rebirth of my own project over the next several months. Happy gardening!

Nathan Kam is a Honolulu public relations executive, husband and a proud daddy of two incredible kids, Ensen (6) and Avery (3). He enjoys cooking, gardening, traveling, blogging and golfing. You can reach him via emailTwitterFacebookLinkedIn or via his personal Kam Family Blog.