Gardening Summarized

Besides accounting, one of the oldest-standing professions was farming.

Growing plants runs through a relatively predictable yearly pattern:

  1. Plant the summer seeds in a well-lit, high-humidity, semi-enclosed area called a greenhouse, or use a hotbed.
  2. Plow the area you’re going to plant and spread fertilizer over it.
    • Mix animal fur, hair, or hay into the soil to suppress pests.
    • Overlap wet newspapers and cover with mulch before planting to prevent weeds.
  3. Once you see shoots, move the plants to the plowed soil.
    • Space them out so they won’t overlap or fight for space underground.
    • The plant’s volume above-ground is approximately what its root system looks like, though it very heavily varies by the plant type.
  4. Daily maintenance: Prune the trees, irrigate and weed the plants, scare off birds and small animals.
    • Pests are usually a sign the plant lacks water, light, or nutrients.
    • Make a scarecrow to save the trouble of running outside to scare birds.
    • Sprinkle your plants with cayenne pepper to keep small animals away.
  5. Harvest the food and clean it.
    • Harvest leafy greens and lumber by pulling a little bit off each plant to avoid killing it.
    • Get it while it’s either ripe or near-ripe, since bugs will eat anything that starts decomposing.
  6. Sow the winter seeds, mill and can the harvest.
  7. Reap the winter food, repair all the tools and equipment during winter.


Consider what’s in the soil.

  • Soil is made of mostly clay, silt, and sand.
    • Clay can be difficult to dig into, and often needs richer soil around the seeds for the plants to successfully take root.
    • Sand is easy to dig into, but doesn’t have many nutrients for the plants.
    • Silt is the most nutrient-rich part of soil, but too much silt can “burn” the plant’s roots.
  • The ideal mixture, if it’s possible, is “loam”, which is any mix of sand and silt without much clay.

Some plants works best for a region based on the amount of sunlight it gets, the relative temperatures and ranges, and the amount of moisture and rainfall.

Be careful about the salinity of the soil.

  • Salt in the soil can destroy any chance of plants growing.
  • If you’re near a body of salt water, kelp helps remove salt from soil.

Cycle your crops each year.

  • Perennials tend to add value to the soil (since they continue to contribute), while annuals deplete it (since they’re gone every year).
  • Mono-cultures (one type of plant) will ravage biodiversity and increase issues like pests and mildew, while a vast variety of cycling plants will enrich the soil.
  • Generally, every year a plant will consume some of the soil’s nutrients and produce “waste” nutrients, so cycle out each region for different plants to keep yourself from depleting the soil.
  • After a few years, the nutrients that come from nature will mostly deplete (e.g., bug corpses, wild animal feces), so the general rule is to abandon the land to the elements one out of every seven years.
  • Consider using cattle and grass seed to perform rotational farming.

To garden with less space, try hydroponics or vertical gardening.

  • Vertical gardening simply requires hanging anything that can hold dirt (e.g., old rain gutters) in a well-lit area.
  • Hydroponics involves maintaining plants in water without soil, which is most easily done by farming fish on another part of a body of water where they can’t eat the plants but send their waste to it.


For plants to grow, they need a few things:

  1. Carbon, which comes from both air and fertilizer
  2. Water, which may typically only require rerouting natural runoff from rain
  3. Micronutrients, which come from a wide variety of plants and animals interacting with it

Since fertilizer’s key ingredients are carbon and nitrogen, you can improvise fertilizer if you need.

  • If you have beer, you can pour it over the soil.
  • Mix 1 tsp of brown sugar into leftover cooked rice, then let it sit for 3 days and mix into the soil.
  • Bake stale bread, then grind it up into fine breadcrumbs and mix into the soil.
  • Dilute 2 tbsp Epsom salt per gallon of water and transfer it into a tank sprayer or spray bottle for application.
  • If you’re fertilizing a tree, mix 2 tbsp Epsom salt into the soil at the base of the tree.

Make your own nutrient-rich composted fertilizer.

  1. Add carbon by including dead grass, leaves, sawdust, or straw.
  2. Add nitrogen by including table scraps.
  3. Put soil in to layer it and add microbes.
  4. Add water regularly to speed up the compost process.
  5. Add oxygen by mixing it about once a week.
  6. If it starts smelling bad, add more carbon.

If you’re using containers, watch out for a few additional issues.

  • You must regulate water much more diligently, since the water won’t seep into the surrounding soil.
    • If you can, use orange terracotta pots, since they absorb water.
  • If the plant roots reaches the edge of the pot and start interlocking, the plant will get “root bind”.
    • From that point, the plant will never grow as well and will always be higher-maintenance and at risk of dying.

Whenever you transplant or move a potted plant, the plant will go into shock.

  • Even if it’s re-potting, the plant is exposed to a new environment and it’s a sudden shift.
  • Take your time with them and they’ll recover.

Water about once a week, either via rainfall, irrigation, or manually.

  • Poke holes in a 2-liter bottle to improvise a lawn sprinkler.
  • Water the roots, not the plant itself.
  • Water in the morning for the plants to absorb it before it evaporates.
  • Don’t water at night or fungus might grow.
  • If the soil is too alkaline and the plants need more acid, mix vinegar into the water.

Keep up every day with weeds.

  • All gardens have weeds, and the only solution is weed killer or pulling them out.
  • 1 weed becomes 4 in a week and 50 in two weeks.
  • Undiluted vinegar in a spray bottle will often kill individual weeds.
  • Improvise weed killer by mixing a gallon of vinegar, 2 cups of Epsom salt, and 1/4 cup dish soap.


Watch for any plant leaves that aren’t a healthy green color.

  • If bugs live on or are eating the leaves, kill them on the plant with neem oil or soap.
  • If the leaves look yellow and wilted, they’re overwatered, so replant them elsewhere or drain water by adding sand to the soil.
  • If the leaves look faded and drooping, they’re not getting enough sunlight, so reposition them or move them to a greenhouse.
  • If the leaves are dry and crunchy to the touch, they’re dehydrated, so give at least an additional inch of water a week.
  • If the edges and tips of the leaves are yellow, they’re not getting enough potassium, so add citrus rinds or fruit/vegetable compost.
  • If the tips and center vein of the leaves are yellow, they’re not getting enough nitrogen, so add organic compost like manure or coffee grounds.
  • If the leaves are misshapen, they’re not getting enough calcium, so add gypsum to make it more acidic or lime to make it more alkaline.
  • If the leaves are showing lighting discoloration between the veins, they’re not getting enough zinc, so spray the plant with kelp extract or mix kelp into the soil.
  • If the leaves are yellow and have small green veins, they’re not getting enough iron, so reduce the amount of phosphorus in the soil to make it acidic.
  • If the leaves are showing white stripes along the veins, they’re not getting enough magnesium, so add organic compost, Epsom salts or lime.

At scale, you may want to consider more robust ways to improve your yield.

  • Many genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers are an attempt to cut losses and improve yields.
  • Irrespective of ethics, your yield will suffer a drop in the product’s actual quality.


NOTE: the season window will be larger or smaller depending on geographical region.

Artichokes  xxxx  xxxx
Asparagus xxxxx      
Beans    xxxxx   
Beetsxxxxx   xxxx
Bell Peppers     xxxxxxx
Bok Choyxxxxxx  xxxx
Broccolixxxx     xxx
Brussels Sproutsxx      xxxx
Cabbagexxxx     xxx
Carrotsxxxxxx   xxx
Cauliflowerxxxxxx  xxxx
Celery Rootxxxxxx   xxx
Chicoryxxx        x
Chives  xxxxxxxxx 
Collardsxx      xxxx
Corn     xxxxx  
Cucumber     xxxxxxx
Daikonxxxx     xxx
Eggplant      xxxx  
Endivexxxx     xxx
English Peasxx      xxxx
Fava Beans    xxx     
Green Beans     xxxxx  
Kohlrabixx        xx
Leeksxxxxx     xx
Lettucexxxx     xxx
Mushrooms    xxxxxxxx
Mustard Greensxxx      xxx
New Potatoes   xxxxxx   
Okra     xxxxxx 
Parsnipsxxxx     xx 
Peas   xxxxxxxx 
Pumpkins        xxxx
Radishesxxxx    xxxx
Radicchioxxx      xxx
Ramps  xxxxxxxxx 
Rhubarb   xxxxxxxx 
Rutabagaxxx       xx
Snap Peas   xxx      
Spinachxxxxx   xxxx
Squashxxx     xxxx
Summer Squash    xxxxx   
Winter Squash         xxx
Sweet Potatoes        xxxx
Swiss Chardxxxx    xxxx
Turnipsxxxx    xxx 
Watercressxxx   xxxxxx
Zucchini  xxxxxxx  


NOTE: the season window will be larger or smaller depending on geographical region.

Apples       xxxx 
Apricots    xxx     
Bananas    xxxxx   
Blackberries    xxxx    
Blueberries     xxx    
Boysenberries    xx      
Cherries   xxxx     
Coconuts         xxx
Cranberries        xxxx
Dates        xxxx
Dewberries    x       
Figs     xxxxxx 
Grapefruitsxxxx    xxxx
Grapes      xxxxxx
Guavasxxxx      xx
Kumquatsxxx       xx
Limesxxxx     xxx
Mango     xxx    
Melons     xxxx   
Nectarines    xxxxxx  
Papaw     xxx    
Passion Fruitxxxxxxxxxxxx
Peaches   xxxxxxx  
Pearsxx     xxxx 
Persimmonsxx        xx
Pineapples  xxxxxxxxx 
Plums    xxxxxxx 
Pomegranatesxx     xxxxx
Raspberries     xxx    
Strawberries  xxxxxx    
Tangerinesxxxx       x
Tomatillos     xxxxxx 
Tomatoes     xxxxxx 
Watermelon     xxxx  


NOTE: the season window will be larger or smaller depending on geographical region.

Angelica   xxxxxxxx  
Anise   xxxxxxxx  
Arugula  xxxxxxxxx  
Basil    xxxxxx   
Bay Leafxxxxxxxxxxxx 
Caraway   xxxxx     
Cardamomx       xxxx 
Catnip  xxxxxx     
Chamomile  xxxxxx     
Chervil  xxxxxxx    
Cilantro   xxxxxx    
Clovesx       xxxx 
Coriander   xxxxxx    
Cumin   xxxxx     
Dill  xxxxxxx    
Fenugreek       xxxxx 
Lavender     xx      
Lemongrassxxx     xxxx 
Macex     xxxxxx 
Marjoramxxx  xxxxxxx 
Mint   xxxxxxxx  
Nutmegx     xxxxxx 
Oreganoxxx  xxxxxxx 
Sage    xx      Improves overall garden quality
Sorrel   xxxxx     
Tarragon  xxxxxxx    
Thyme  xxxxxxx   Improves overall garden quality
Turmeric       x    

Companion Planting

For various reasons, some plants work really well together:

BasilBeansBroccoliCarrotsCauliflowerChivesCilantroCornCucumberDillGarlicLeeksLettuceMarigoldMelonOnionOreganoParsleyPeasPeppersRosemarySpinachSquashStrawberrySunflowerSwiss ChardTomatoes
BasilX               Y  Y      Y
Carrots YYXYY   N YY  Y YYYY     Y
Cauliflower Y YXY  YYY Y  YP  NYYNN YN
Chives NYYYX           YN       Y
Cilantro      X              P     
Corn Y     XYY    Y  YY     Y N
Cucumber YY Y  YXY  Y  Y  YY      Y
Dill  YNY  YYX  Y  Y          N
Garlic NY Y     X Y     N    Y  Y
Leeks N Y       X   Y  N  Y     
Lettuce  YYY   YYY X  Y     YYY  Y
Marigold N           X        P   Y
Melon              X       Y Y  
Onion NYYY          X YN    Y YY
OreganoY P P           X  Y       
Parsley   Y Y Y       Y XYY      Y
Peas   Y Y YY NN   N YXY YYY   
PeppersYNNYN   Y       YYYXY Y  YY
Rosemary YYYY              YX      
Spinach  Y Y P    YY     Y  X Y   
Squash  N N  Y    YPY   YY  X    
Strawberry YN N     YY   Y  Y  Y X   
Sunflower       Y                X  
Swiss Chard YY Y          Y   Y     X 
TomatoesYYNYNYNYNY YY  Y Y Y      X

P = helps pest/bug control

*Corn, beans, and squash (The Three Sisters) also work well together.

At Scale

At some point as you scale, you won’t simply need tractors and labor.

  • Grain bins and silos are critical logistical elements to help dry and hold the product until you can get it to market.
  • Most large-scale farming operations involve heavy data science:
    • Managing the soil across the entire acreage
    • Regulating moisture between storage and selling of product (since it’s sold by weight)
    • Tracking market prices and either selling via futures contracts or on the open market
    • Regulating fertilizer usage to maintain the soil
    • Accommodating for any weather changes through all of it
  • To gather data, you’ll need plenty of sensors, wireless technology, and GPS information.
  • On a more advanced level, modern farming involves high-end specialized robotics that use soil data to precisely plant seeds.

For large-scale farming, you do not need to own the land it’s on, and can often lease it for much less.

If you’re looking for more yield, you’ll probably need to consider GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and non-organic (i.e., using pesticides).

  • Unless you’re aiming to sell non-GMO and organic at a significant premium, your yield will be abysmally low.
  • GMO seeds are intentionally bred to be infertile, so you’ll have to purchase seeds every year.
  • GMO seeds are also chemically-resistant to pesticides, meaning higher yield as well.
  • However, the downside comes through the food’s quality, which will require a faster logistical system to get it to market.

Unfortunately, like most other things at scale, the large-scale farming business becomes less a domain of actually getting in the soil and working, and more the domain of management and economics.

Further Reading


How to Make a Hotbed

Elements necessary for a plant to grow (hydroponics)