Vegetable Gardening Rules Just Made to be Broken

April 17, 2008

Seems like some of you were surprised by the previous post to discover that I don’t always follow all of the conventional and established rules of vegetable gardening:

“I really like your website… your honesty about breaking a cardinal rule and not hardening off your cool weather seedlings, got my attention!” – Cameron

Well I usually do harden off my transplants and always recommend that you do likewise to protect your precious seedlings, but it’s true that I have managed to cheat occasionally and have gotten away with it. If a little insubordination catches your attention then here’s a long list of popular gardening ideas that I always refuse to abide by:


  1. An edible garden has to be an eyesore – In reality a planned out and well tended vegetable garden is every bit as attractive as a flower or ornamental bed. You may not want to place them in your front yard, but there are a ton of great reasons to grow vegetables as part of any home gardening landscape.
  2. You must grow veggies in rows – Organized and orderly maybe, but just plain boring and inefficient in my book. Give me a raised bed that is inter-planted with a mix different of crops arranged in a matrix pattern that covers the entire bed. It can’t be topped for yield, appearance and making life simpler for the organic gardener.

  1. It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature – Let’s be honest, messing with the old lady is what gardening is all about… planting gardens in the fall, northern grown artichokes, starting seeds indoors, planting under artificial grow lights, how’s that for starters? Ok, just call it “working with Mother Nature,” but whatever you do please say no to GMO (genetically modified organisms) in the garden.
  2. You need to pull all those weeds – Well to start with my garden doesn’t produce many weeds thanks to a few simple and very effective weed control techniques. But on the other hand an occasional and well behaved dandelion, lambs quarter, or chickweed is always welcomed and appreciated in my backyard.
  3. You must spray chemicals – I have my own twist on this universal gardening practice… rather than use the sprayer to deliver pesticides, insecticides, and poisonous weed killers, I use it to apply foliar fertilizers like liquid kelp, compost teas, and fish emulsion which all add micro-nutrients and trace minerals to nourish the organic garden.
  4. Hybrid seeds are superior – Claims of disease resistance and productivity, labeled as new and improved… okay, if they say so. But I prefer to grow those unique and flavorful heirlooms such as; Japanese Climbing Cucumbers, Amish Deer Tongue Lettuce, Black Krim Tomatoes, Thai Long Green Eggplants, Prescott Fond Blanc Melons and other varieties that were familiar to our great grandparents!
  5. The primary objective is to kill bugs – But what about all of those beneficial insects that make their home in the garden? Sure there are some bad bugs out there too, but if the situation isn’t critical then I’ll leave it to nature to sort things out, or if necessary I’ll employ the least invasive organic insect control that’s available.
  6. You must till the garden each year – Refer to the 2nd rule above; raised beds are the only way to grow. Frequent tilling probably creates more problems than it solves in the typical home garden setting. My tiller hasn’t moved from the corner of the garage in at least five years and I haven’t missed it a bit.
  7. Spring is the best time to plant – Well I actually prefer to do as much planting as I can during the fall season. Winter vegetables, gourmet shallots, fall planted garlic, hardy greens, who says that you can’t grow an incredible vegetable garden outside of the usual spring and summer season?
  8. Tomatoes are the Essential Garden Crop – I do plant tomatoes in my garden, but I also plant tomatillos, sea kale, elderberries, mushrooms, edible flowers, goji berries, and other plants that you seldom find growing in back yard veggie gardens. The point is to make room for something new and unusual rather than simply grow row after row of tomatoes, squash, or green beans.

So don’t be afraid to experiment or try something unconventional out in your vegetable garden. I’ve had fun breaking every one of these popular gardening practices and most of the plants lived to see another productive harvest!

Other Related Vegetable Gardening Posts:

  • If this were a play I would be calling out Encore! Encore! I really appreciate your open approach to gardening as I’ve never been much for by-the-book planting anyway. Thanks for including all of those links too!

  • Cameron

    I’m agree with Rowena…Encore! Encore! Encore! This is my kind of gardening…organic, heirloom and productive!!!

  • Wow – that’s a very great blog post. I’m still a newbie blogger myself. Anyway, I especially agree with “You must grow veggies in rows”. I always thought this was silly.. it’s just not the way plants naturally grow. It really does look plain and boring. Farmers grow it that way because they do it in huge amounts and it just makes the field easier to manage, especially with machines. But when it comes to gardening – looks are #1 priority!

  • Ten very good, very true points. Very enjoyable, very informative. Here in Texas we have four seasons: 1. Cold, 2. Hot and cold mixed and unpredictable, 3. Hot, 4. Hot and cold mixed and unpredictable. So, you set out some seedlings to harden off and you suddenly get a hot day…hard to win. So, you set them in the garden and hope for the best. It usually works out…unless it hails!

  • A great post I need to return to and look over soon, but all points I practice as well. Great writing.

  • Interesting post. I’m a gardener myself, and I just stumbled upon your site.
    Glad I found it 🙂

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