Unconventional Gardening: Why Doing it "Wrong" Might Actually be BETTER! (with video)

Unconventional Gardening: Why Doing it Wrong Might be Better!
This post may contain affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

The first several years I grew tomatoes, I, in my inexperience, bought store bought seedlings, plopped them in the ground and never pruned them. Then I read over and over that you must prune tomatoes if you want a good harvest. So I started pruning my tomato plants. But I noticed something weird: Not only did I not see an improvement in the number of tomatoes I harvested, but sometimes I saw a decrease in my yields! This was my first lesson in "what everyone thinks they know isn't always right." In other words, just because a certain gardening technique is supposed to be "correct" doesn't mean it actually is!

Growing Tomatoes without Pruning

Years after I made this discovery about tomatoes, I read the book Epic Tomatoes by tomato expert extraordinaire Craig LeHoullier. In this book (which everyone who grows tomatoes ought to read), he talks about the myth of pruning tomatoes and clarifies that suckers on tomato plants do not prevent flowering, fruiting, or ripening of tomatoes. They do not "suck energy" from the fruit itself. In fact, LeHoullier asserts (and rightly so) that removing suckers reduces yield because it decreases the chances of getting fruit. In addition, if you live in a hot area, having extra foliage (from not pruning) helps shield fruit and prevent sunscald.

I can think of only two reasons to prune tomatoes. One is to remove the bottom set of stems so the leaves don't touch the ground (thereby reducing the risk of disease). And the second is to help prevent indeterminate (vining) tomatoes from taking over the world. (Those things can get seriously huge if they are happy in their location!)

Growing Garlic without Removing Scapes

Back when we lived in the suburbs, I grew garlic in containers using conventional organic methods, and when we moved to our current homestead, I continued this practice with the garlic the previous owners left behind. I wasn't exactly sure what variety of garlic we had growing here, but my mom-in-law and sis-in-law seemed to have the same type...yet theirs did so much better than mine! I was getting tiny garlic heads, while theirs were huge.

Finally, I asked them what their secret was. Their answer: "Nothing." They just let the garlic do its thing, never cutting back the scapes (flower stems) and letting the plants go to flower and even to seed. This is completely contrary to conventional advice, which says you should cut back scapes when they appear so the plant will send its energy not into seed-making, but into growing big bulbs.

So this year, I decided to grow garlic the way my in-laws do...and lo! I got HUGE heads. Why this is, I cannot tell you; I just know it worked.

Growing Potatoes without Hilling

Conventional wisdom says that to get the most from your potato plants, you need to hill them - that is, as they grow, you need to add more soil to them, so that only the top leaves of the plant show. When we lived in the suburbs, I grew potatoes this way in grow bags, but when we moved here, my diet radically changed. I stopped eating potatoes because I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes (you can read about how I went from needing insulin to having total normal blood sugar through diet alone by clicking here). I still grew a few potatoes for my husband and kids to eat now and then, but I wasn't focused on big harvests. I stopped hilling my potatoes, and we always had plenty.

Then COVID and food shortages hit, and I thought, "This year, I better grow potatoes the right way." So I hilled them. What a mistake! My crop was small and the individual potatoes even smaller. I consistently find that planting the potatoes and then just leaving them alone (except for an occasional watering) gives me better results.

What This Means

The big picture here is that when things aren't going the way you expect them to, think outside the box. (True for life in general, as well as for gardening in specific!) Play around until you find what works for you. Take a small part of your garden and try a new gardening method or a new variety. Compare what you usually grow with your experiments, side by side, to see which does better.

Don't let other gardeners nay-say you. Sometimes the "rules" are meant to be broken!

View my video below on this topic:

No comments