When I set out to create this year's garden I had a few goals.
In no particular order:
1. Organic - natural fertilizers/insect control, no pesticides. I could do better with this one by making my own compost and using cover crops. I do use natural means of pest control (removal, soapy water, etc), but I didn't use natural fertilizers (after the compost fail of 2012). I did use organic fertilizer, but cover crops and crop rotation would be ideal. As for cover crops and composting, this is a little difficult because I live in an apartment complex and use a community garden (I didn't know which plot would be mine). Same problem with crop rotation. Not impossible though. In the future, I will be better about this. For now, I bought organic soil builders and organic fertilizers and worked them both into the soil.
2. Sustainable - typically this means "requiring no outside input." For me, this meant cutting down my reliance on outside influences, such as fertilizers, pots, grow lights, electricity. I tried to do all of this by using the soil blocker to start seeds (no waste) and using my car as a greenhouse (no electricity). Both worked perfectly! For next year (ahem Morgan; ahem Christmas), I want the micro blocker so smaller seedlings take up less room! I used some electricity for the heating mat and the grow light, but I kept it to the shortest possible amount of time, which was the first 2 weeks when the sun wasn't being very reliable. When it was sunny, everything went in the carden. I also just reserved a rain barrel from the town to collect rain water to use in the garden. This will hopefully help in future gardens.
3. Abundant - my goal was simply to grow too much! I think next year I'll try to grow a greater variety too. I certainly planted a lot of plants this year, but I'm not sure how much is too much yet. Time will tell. Also, for someone who doesn't love tomatoes that much, I may be growing too many. Again, time will tell.
4. Entirely from seed - this is really so that I can make sure my garden is entirely organic and sustainable, but also because it is a lot more rewarding, albeit also a lot more challenging. Only time will tell if I've done a good job, which makes me a little nervous. Starting your own seeds is also a lot more affordable. Individual plants aren't too expensive, but it adds up. The most expensive part of this year for me was buying soil builder (about $60 total...maybe), but if I did a better job of using natural fertilizers and I grew my own seedlings, the operation would cost almost nothing year after year.
5. Keep it neat and simple - I tried to keep the seed starting/growing/planting process neat and simple. Basically, I didn't want the whole system to break down because it was too complex or time-consuming. Also, for me simplicity equals sustainability meaning that I'd be more likely to continue gardening rather than throw my hands up out of frustration. So far so good! I also kept the garden to one flat of plants and to one table, as promised to Morgan instead of taking up the entire kitchen counter. That was a bad idea last year. I admit it! I didn't like it either!
This is my 2012 gardening philosophy. For next year? I hope to grow more greens (lettuces, chard, kale, bok choy, spinach) and more variety of plants. Also, I hope to use/have my own backyard so that I can start cool weather plants early and so that by mid-May we could start eating!