Five rules for Tiny Farming

Rule 1: Watch

Do your rounds, daily! Check each of your crops and seedings. Look for general plant health, bugs (check the underside of leaves for eggs!), weed growth, dryness of soil, animal tracks, anchoring of row cover, vulnerable parts of your fencing, and so on. Besides the crops, you’ll know the things you should check up on in your particular set-up.

So, two thoughts you’re likely having.

First: This is so easy, just walking around, observing. And that it is. Deceptively easy. There hasn’t been a single year so far where I’ve kept this up daily through the growing season. After a few daily rounds, where you discover nothing worse than veggies happily growing, your mind turns to other things. When you let your regular watching slip, you always pay for it, usually in multiple small ways that add up. You don’t notice weeds just germinating, a couple of days later there’s a nice rain followed by great sun, and couple of days after that, you have to spend two hours hand-weeding carrots, when a half hour of hoeing would’ve handled it just a few days earlier. Things like that happen when you’re not (regularly) looking. Watch well and you’ll save dozens, even hundreds of hours a year, and you’ll learn a whole lot more.

Second: This is a lot to keep track of every day… Really? Well, yes, it is a lot, if you think of it as a long checklist that you meticulously check off every single day. In practice, it’s much simpler. A quick walk around a whole acre of garden can take just 10 minutes, and you don’t have to closely inspect everything, all the time. As you get familiar with your garden over the season, how your particular weeds grow, and a multitude of other details, you’ll know what to particularly look out for at different times. And if you miss a day or two, then get back on it, things won’t collapse. The main thing is to be as consistent as possible over the whole season.

Tips: Start learning this routine super-casually. Pick whatever time of day you like, and just do a quick walk while looking around. Don’t write a list or try to remember all that you’re looking for. Let your natural curiosity take over, and remember that finding things early is like finding little treasures, because they’ll save you precious time in the future. Depending on the size of your plot and how many things you find, you may want to carry a pocket-sized notebook and waterproof pen for quick to-do notes. Keep it simple!

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