You probably won’t find too many vegetable gardeners people approaching their gardens from the standpoint of asset management, but it’s something we ought to consider. After all, we have a wide range of assets in and around our gardens, and making the most of them is a good idea. If vegetable gardeners start thinking in terms of assets, we’ll likely see a different way to look at gardening. Sometimes, it just takes a different perspective to get us thinking and acting in more productive ways.
Many of the ideas presented below may already be part of your management plan, but what I hope to do is get you to look at them in a different light, as an asset. Only when we see something as an asset, can we start to consider whether we’re effectively managing it to our benefit.
You might be one of the few people in your area that is serious about growing vegetables. If you view your garden harvest as an asset, then you can manage it as such. Here are some things that you might do with that asset:
Your harvest is one of the greatest assets you have, so manage it well to provide you with a wide range of benefits.
It might be surprising to know just how many people don’t compost all of the vegetative waste they create. For some, it’s just too much trouble, the garbage disposal is easier. If we keep a bucket under the kitchen sink, we can not only collect vegetable waste when we prepare the food that we grow, but we can include waste from fruits and vegetables that we purchase in the marketplace. It’s easy to compost parts of our gardens when we take them down for the winter, but if we’re not capturing waste from our kitchen meal preparation activities, then we’re allowing a natural asset to simply be thrown away.
Just as important, a compost bin under the kitchen sink allows us to add egg shells, coffee grounds, and other items that can decompose and provide nutrients for our soil. If you’re a fisherman like me, don’t forget to bury the fish guts, heads and skeletons from your filleting and cleaning activities. Fish provide great nutrients for a garden.
Even if your garden soil is little more than hardscrabble, using food waste can make it increasingly productive over the years. Don’t underestimate the asset value of waste associated with food preparation.
I’d venture a guess that rainwater is probably four times more useful for our plants than water that comes from a municipal supply or a well. The natural nutrients in rainwater, primarily nitrogen and oxygen, are great for greening things up. Also, rainwater doesn’t contain salts and other chemicals that are deliberately placed in municipal water supplies through the treatment process.
Set up a rain barrel or two and make good use of this wonderful resource. If you live in a relatively dry area, you might consider using a tank or cistern to capture as much as you can when it does rain. Just about anything that helps retain rainwater is a valuable tool.
If you appreciate the asset value of rainwater that falls on your land, then the next time you plant your seedlings, think about making “catch baskets” around your plants to capture and retain it. Don’t let one of your most valuable assets simply run off of your garden beds. There are many ways to keep rainwater around your plants longer including catch baskets, furrows, terracing and edging. The goal is keep the rainwater around longer so it soaks into the soil where it can do the most good.
Whether you have a great source of rainwater, or you get your water from a well or municipal supply, it’s a valuable asset. No sense wasting it. If you haven’t already, start thinking about a drip system where you can deliver water directly to your plants with little or no waste. Drip systems are most effective in watering single plants and rows of plants. While keeping your plants hydrated, drip systems eliminate soggy garden beds and they minimize widespread growth of weeds.
Think of your lawn as a large flat garden of grass, and make good use of that crop. Very good mulch can be had from grass clippings. It’s a winner all the way around. Consider that you don’t have to bag the clippings, just distribute them in your garden beds, around your plants and on the walkways. Grass clippings smother out weeds, help the soil retain moisture, and return nutrients to the soil. With a new perspective, grass can go well beyond simply being nice to look at; it can become yet another asset for your vegetable garden.
While you’re at it, be sure to throw weeds, hedge trimmings, pine straw and other yard waste into your compost pile. It’s all organic matter that has extracted nutrients from your soil. The only natural way to reclaim those nutrients is to be sure they’re included on your compost pile.
If you have some swinging room around your place, you might have chickens, rabbits, horses or perhaps goats. If you don’t, your neighbors might (and they’ll gladly take fresh, wholesome vegetables in exchange for manure.) Consider manure from animals as a primo asset for your garden. Work it into the soil, top dress or side dress your plants. You can make manure tea out of just about anything that comes out of the south end of a north bound critter. Your plants will respond well and provide you with more of what you’re looking for.
Several of my neighbors have horses. I gladly take my dump truck to their location to get “horse remover.” You might say my neighbors “give me crap” about twice a year. They’re glad to load it and be rid of it, and I’m glad to have it. It’s not nutrient rich, but it has plenty of organic matter that is excellent for my clay soil. I also recycle “mud” that I clean out of my chicken coop after it has had a chance to decompose a bit. It’s a great way to make use of a good and natural fertilizer.
In addition to manure, you might look around your place (and your neighbor’s) for hay and straw that is wasted or otherwise under-utilized. Either one can feed the compost pile or make excellent garden mulch.
So, in your mind, what kind of asset is your vegetable garden? What other assets are there available to you that might help you make your vegetable garden more valuable and productive? For many, management is an unnatural and uncomfortable activity. Here’s hoping that viewing your garden as an asset will make you more inclined to actively manage it.
Clair Schwan is an avid vegetable gardener who considers his gardens to be important assets. To him, vegetables in the garden are a bit like money in the bank. It’s all part of his self-reliant lifestyle.