14 Tough Gardening Questions Answered!

Have you asked any of these tough gardening questions?

Q: Why won’t my bell peppers grow well?

A: Bell peppers? Seriously? I basically gave up on those stupid things a long time ago. So has John Kohler, so I’m in good company.

Here’s the deal with bell peppers: they’re really touchy, whereas hot peppers and smaller sweet peppers grow like weeds. My theory is that hot peppers are more “wild” and also protect themselves better from pests and disease.

Think of this way: bell peppers are spoiled rich kids. Hot peppers grew up in da hood and can take care of themselves.

Q: Is burning fallen wood and leaves a good idea?

A: Yes, provided you put a witch on top first.

Just kidding. Actually, though wood ashes are good for the garden, you’re better off composting leaves and turning the wood into hugelkultur mounds – or using it to make biochar. Otherwise, you’re sending a lot of potential fertility up in smoke.

Q: Are raised beds the best way to garden?

A: I’ve answered this question before in a longer article but I’ll sum it up here. Raised beds are great in some climates and lousy in others. Just because they’re popular doesn’t mean they’re the best. In fact, whenever anything gets popular… I start to question whether it’s a good idea, particularly since as one insightful columnist likes to state… Most People Are Idiots (MPAI).

If you have sandy soils, long and hot growing seasons, or a limited budget/carpentry skills, consider another method.

Q: What crops are good for the fall garden?

A: Brassicas can take the cold, with kale leading the bunch. Jerusalem artichokes don’t need to be harvested until whenever you feel like pulling them in the winter. Chives and garlic usually do well… and fava beans can take some pretty cold weather.

Q: Can I just save my own seed from my vegetables?

A: With inbreeding vegetables like peppers, tomatoes and beans: yes. You can save seed from one plant without problems.

With outbreeding vegetables like corn, kale/cabbage/cauliflower/broccoli, melons, squash, and others… it gets tougher. You need a minimum number (usually 25) of plants – all of the same variety, without any other types in your garden – or else you’re likely to lose your cultivar and get a strange kale/cabbage cross or a funny-looking cucumber.

Look up Seed to Seed for more details on seed-saving than you’ll ever need.

Q: How can I grow a good tomato?

A: HA HA HA!!! Just quit now!

Tomatoes aren’t the best prepper crop and they’re notoriously touchy. If you have the right climate, it’s easy. If not, you’re hosed.

My tip: grow smaller tomatoes like cherry tomatoes if you have a tough time with this picky crop. More here.

Q: What will kill stinkbugs?

A: We posted 5 ways here – check it out.

Q: Are there any fast-growing nut trees?

A: Yes! Though nut trees have a reputation for being slow-growers, Chestnuts are remarkably precocious and can bear in three years… from seed! More on chestnuts and fast-growing fruit trees here.

Q: Have you ever heard of composting with worms?

A: Yep. Vermicomposting is a great way to dispose of food scraps and get some serious fertilizing power in the process. I’ve kept worms for almost a decade and have always enjoyed their wiggly goodness. For a look at how to build your own bin, plus a video of a guy with a seriously cool system, check this post out.

Q: How can I grow a garden in my neighborhood and get away with it?

A: I was asked this question just the other night at a gardening talk I was giving.

I told the gal to MOVE AWAY from her restricted community.

If you can’t do that, hide your gardening in plain sight by bringing out your inner landscape designer.

Q: Should I buy dirt or work with what I have?

A: Unless you’re gardening in the wreckage of a radioactive city, it’s usually better to improve the soil you already have. Compost is your friend, as are micronutrients and amendments like rock dust, seaweed, etc. Soil and even compost from off-site is usually contaminated with exciting new weeds and may contain heavy metals, pesticides and other junk. Even cow manure can kill your garden for years, thanks to long-term herbicides like Dow AgroSciences’ horrifying Grazon.

Double-dig in some good homemade compost and avoid putting your garden in danger.

Q: What’s the best way to irrigate?

A: My favorite way is to not irrigate at all; however, that’s not always an option. I’ve tried drip hoses (hate them), hand-watering (not so bad, but only good for a small space), burying wood (see hugelkultur above) and using overhead watering. My favorite is hand watering, but sometimes that’s just too time consuming so I go with overhead sprinklers instead. Sprinkler stands that can be attached to a hose work nicely.

Q: I want greens all summer but it gets too hot – help!

A: I know what you mean. We lose our lettuce/spinach/rocket/kale/mustard beds at the beginning of May here in Florida. After that point, I like tropical and hot weather greens such as Malabar spinach, Okinawa spinach, longevity spinach (why is everything called spinach???), chaya, amaranth and Bidens alba. The last member of that list is a wild green – chances are you have something similarly edible growing wild in your neck of the woods.

Q: How do you keep squirrels from eating all your fruit?

A: Oh shoot, I’m out of time… gotta run…

Actually, my answer to this: plant more fruit trees. Plant many more trees. Plant shrubs. Leave rock and stick piles in your yard. Foster an environment that makes space for predators, and by all means QUIT killing snakes!

Also – in the case of TEOTWAWKI, squirrels might be a good thing to have around. Let them fatten up now.

Got any other gardening questions? Send ’em our way!

About David The Good

David The Good is a naturalist, author and hard-core gardener who has grown his own food since 1984. At age five, he sprouted a bean in a Dixie cup of soil and caught the gardening bug. Soon after, his dad built an 8’ by 8’ plot for him and David hasn’t stopped growing since. David is the author of four books, writes a regular column for The Ag Mag in North Central Florida, is a Mother Earth News blogger and has also written for outlets including Backwoods Home, Survival Blog and Self-Reliance Magazine. You can find his books on Amazon here. David is a Christian, an artist, a husband, a father of seven, a cigar-smoker and an unrepentant economics junkie who now lives somewhere near the equator on a productive cocoa farm. Visit his daily gardening and survival blog here: The Survival Gardener And for lots more gardening info, click here and subscribe to his often hilarious YouTube channel.

View all posts by David The Good

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