The Vegetable Garden

The Problem with Traditional Vegetable Gardening - page 3

  • Written by Jonathan White, Environmental Scientist
Can you see how we started with the problem of weeds, but ended up with the new problems of lower water-holding capacity and infertile soils.  And eventually, we have the potentially serious problem of growing food with low nutrient content.  Traditional gardening techniques only ever strive to fix the symptom and not the cause. However, there is a solution!  We must use a technique that combines pest ecology, plant ecology, soil ecology and crop management into a method that addresses the causes of these problems.  This technique must be efficient enough to be economically viable.  It also needs to be able to produce enough food, per given area, to compete against traditional techniques. 

I have been testing an ecologically-based method of growing food for several years.  This method uses zero tillage, zero chemicals, has minimal weeds and requires a fraction of the physical attention (when compared to traditional vegetable gardening).  It also produces several times more, per given area, and provides food every single day of the year.

My ecologically-based garden mimics nature in such a way that the garden looks and acts like a natural ecosystem.  Succession layering of plants (just as we see in natural ecosystems) offers natural pest management.  It also naturally eliminates the need for crop rotation, resting beds or green manure crops.  Soil management is addressed in a natural way, and the result is that the soil’s structure and fertility get richer and richer, year after year.  Another benefit of this method is automatic regeneration through self-seeding.  This occurs naturally as dormant seeds germinate; filling empty niche spaces with desirable plants, and not weeds. 

Unfortunately, the biggest challenge this method faces is convincing traditional gardeners of its benefits.  Like many industries, the gardening industry gets stuck in doing things a certain way.  The ecologically-based method requires such little human intervention that, in my opinion, many people will get frustrated with the lack of needing to control what’s happening.  Naturally people love to take control of their lives, but with this method you are allowing nature to take the reins.  It’s a test of faith in very simple natural laws.  However, in my experience these natural laws are 100% reliable.