The Pros & Cons of 18 Gardening Methods and Which One is Right for You

Garden 16

We all want a beautiful veggie garden and be able to provide fresh edibles for our families, but choosing the best gardening method can be daunting.

There are so many options out there and all have their pros and cons. We recently listed 18 gardening methods, but now we’ll help you consider which is best for your particular situation.

It’s important to know the pros and cons when you evaluate gardening methods, to get a better idea of which will fit into your gardening ideas and situations.

I’m going to share with you the reasons you might want to give each gardening method a try and why you might want to avoid each garden method.

Here’s what you should know before you plant your garden:

1. Container Gardening evaluate gardening methods - consider container gardeningevaluate gardening methods - consider container gardening

Container gardening is what the name indicates. You create a garden by placing crops in containers and caring for them as you would any other garden.

Pros:

The advantages of gardening in a container are:

  • You can garden practically anywhere no matter if you live in a flat, and urban residence or even a huge farm.
  • The soil is loose which makes it easier to raise root crops.
  • You can grow larger crops in a large container (i.e. corn).
  • The pots can be moved around to make sure they receive enough sunlight.
  • Convenient to water and fertilize.
  • Fewer weeds.
  • Easier to protect crops from pests.
  • Does not require as much upkeep.
  • Start indoors and move outdoors when weather permits.
  • A good choice for those with limited mobility because it’s a less strenuous style of gardening.

Cons:

The downsides to gardening in a container are as follows:

  • It’s difficult to grow large quantities of vegetables.
  • May be necessary to water more frequently because there’s less soil.
  • Plants can become root bound.
  • You must add new soil to your containers each year which becomes expensive to do.
  • Containers can be expensive unless you go with less appealing options such as buckets (but it still isn’t as cost-effective as digging a hole in the ground)
  • You would have to purchase or make potting soil.

Additional reading:

If container gardening might be something for you to consider when you evaluate gardening methods, here are a few articles to assist:

  • A complete guide to vegetable container gardening.
  • How to set up your container correctly.
  • Tips for first-time container gardeners.
  • Easy plants to grow in a container.
  • Fruits and berries you can grow in a container.
  • Growing lettuce in a container.

2. Traditional In-ground Gardening in-ground evaluate gardening methodsin-ground evaluate gardening methodsPhoto by diynetwork.com

A traditional in-ground garden is what your mind most likely lean toward when considering what a garden is. It’s a piece of earth which has been plowed and tilled until the dirt is fine and easy for plant roots to maneuver.

The soil needs to be amended, the crops will need proper weeding and fertilizing, but it’s the style of gardening which has worked for farmers for generations.

Pros:

The pros to choosing a traditional in-ground style of garden are:

  • You can make this style of garden any size you desire or need.
  • It’s easy to grow a large variety and quantity of crops.
  • You shouldn’t have to water your garden as frequently (if watered deeply) because there’s enough soil to keep giving the crops what they need when they need it.
  • A fence can protect this type of garden from numerous invaders.
  • Less expensive to start this type of garden (you can amend soil organically, no pots to purchase, etc.).
  • No need to purchase soil because you can use what’s available.
  • Doesn’t require much preparation once your spot has been located and tilled.

Cons:

Everything in life has a downside to it as well. Choosing to plant your garden in the ground is no exception. Here are the cons to this style of gardening:

  • Requires equipment to work the dirt and get it ready to plant (i.e. tiller or tractor).
  • You will have to battle weeds and pests.
  • A more physical and labor-intensive style of gardening.
  • Takes up space in your yard.
  • Not everyone may have enough space or space with adequate sunlight.

Additional Reading:

We have an extensive selection of resources you would find useful, from calculators to zoning maps through to plant growing guides.

  • Use the Planting Zone Map to see what would be suitable for your location.
  • Know the first and last frost dates for your area to know when it is safe to plant.
  • Know how much you have to plant to feed your family by using this calculator.
  • Growing guides for all kinds of vegetables, fruits, and herbs.

3. Raised Bed Gardening

If you have a small yard or are only looking to raise a small garden, this style of gardening may be exactly what you’ve been searching for. The idea is to create raised beds and grow your crops in them instead of directly in the ground.

Here’s why you should consider this style of gardening:

Pros:

  • You can plant earlier because the soil will thaw faster than soil in the ground.
  • Plants are protected from people or animals walking through your garden.
  • You can grow a variety of crops in a small space.
  • Raised beds can add curb appeal to your home.
  • Less strenuous on your back when gardening in raised beds.
  • The soil is looser and better draining in raised garden beds because it’s easier to amend.
  • Easier to keep an eye on pests in your garden.
  • Watering and fertilizing are easier.
  • Less weeding.
  • Adds more control as to where the garden is located.

Cons:

  • Expensive to get started because of the build cost of the beds.
  • The more plants packed into a raised bed reduces the air circulation between the plants which leads to diseases.
  • If the weather gets too hot, the well-draining soil will backfire and can drain too well. This will lead to your raised beds drying out.
  • You must add dirt to your raised beds each season. This can be labor intensive and costly.
  • More planning is required to make sure your plants are placed properly, and you can reach all parts of the raised bed.

Additional Reading:

This is a practical option and can be quite beautiful, if planned and maintained properly. Here we have additional resources to dive into regarding raised bed gardening:

  • How to DIY raised garden beds.
  • The square foot raised gardening method.
  • What a keyhole raised gardening bed is.
  • All the benefits of raised bed gardening.
  • Raised garden bed plans and ideas ( a must-read for inspiration.)

4. Vertical Gardening

Vertical gardening is a great style of gardening for those working with limited space. It allows you to grow your plants vertically when you don’t have the space to grow horizontally.

Pros:

Here are a few reasons why you should consider vertical gardening:

  • A feasible gardening option for almost anyone, regardless of the space available.
  • Can grow a variety of shallow-rooted crops (such as strawberries or herbs).
  • Though you have to purchase or build your own vertical garden, it’s still a cost-effective option for gardening when getting started.
  • Little to no weeding.
  • Cheap to maintain.

Cons:

  • Not a good gardening option for large plants or root crops.
  • Hard to grow a large number of vegetables in a vertical garden.
  • Frequent watering.

Additional Reading:

Basically anyone with a wall can have a vertical garden. However it is not as simple as it seems, so first take some time to review our articles on vertical gardening:

  • Vertical Herb Garden ideas.
  • Indoor vertical garden ideas.
  • How to start a vertical garden.

5. Hydroponic Gardening Hydroponic system featuring artificial lightHydroponic system featuring artificial light

Hydroponic gardening is frequently thought of as a modern style of gardening because plants are grown without soil.

However, it has been around for many years and has proven itself an efficient style of gardening.

Pros:

Here are the pros to hydroponic gardening:

  • Produces high quality produce.
  • Requires less space to grow.
  • Less of a threat with pests or soil-borne diseases.
  • Uses less water to grow as the water is recycled.
  • Great for small yards or for growing indoors.
  • No weeds.
  • Produces crops faster.
  • Produces more crops.

Cons:

The cons to hydroponic gardening are:

  • The cost of a large hydroponic set-up is high.
  • Does require electricity to run pumps and timers.
  • Power outages could leave you with a great deal of manual labor or loss of a garden.

Additional Reading

Hydroponic gardening can be daunting to start, but once it is operational you’ll never look back. The secret is doing thorough research first, so here are a few short articles for you to study.

  • The benefits of hydroponic gardening.
  • Choosing the perfect system for you.
  • The getting started guide on hydroponics.
  • Coco Coir – How to use it for hydroponics.

6. Aquaponic Gardening Image from Tadmit MFA on Flickr – CC by 2.0

Aquaponic gardening is a fantastic growing technique which incorporates raising your crops as part of a life cycle. You place fish in the water, their waste fertilizes the plants, while the plants help filter the water for the fish.

Plus, you raise both your meat and vegetables at the same time. Here are a few reasons why you’d want to try aquaponic gardening:

Pros:

  • It’s an easy organic gardening style.
  • Less strenuous style of gardening.
  • Works for anyone (even if you don’t have a yard).
  • You don’t have to worry about underwatering your crops. The system takes care of itself.
  • No weeds.
  • Use less water as the water is cycled.
  • Easier to control pests.
  • You harvest vegetables and meat as well.

Cons:

  • Requires electricity to keep pumps working.
  • Will require a back-up energy source if you suffer a power outage.
  • You must keep everything in balance for the system to work properly (which requires gaining a great deal of knowledge).
  • Investing in a larger aquaponics system can get costly.
  • If growing in a greenhouse, you must have a way to heat it during the winter months.

Additional Reading:

As mentioned above, getting the balance right is crucial. Having a clear understanding of how it works before embarking on such a venture, can ensure you have a fully functional system in no time, but to do that you’d need to do a lot of research. Get started here by reading our articles on Aquaponics.

  • How to start an aquaponic garden.
  • DIY aquaponic systems
  • The best pond pumps to use for this setup.
  • Harvesting fish for food and profit.

7. Square Foot Gardening

Square foot gardening is most often found with raised bed gardening, however, it can be applied to in-ground gardening as well. If you’re interested in growing the largest amount of food you can in a small space, square foot gardening is for you.

Pros:

The reasons why you should try a square foot garden are:

  • Great for growing optimally in small spaces.
  • Makes succession planting easier.
  • Makes crop rotation easier.
  • Low maintenance.

Cons:

The cons of square foot gardening are:

  • You can’t grow large crops.
  • If you need large quantities of food, the set-up costs for square foot gardening would become expensive.
  • The grow mix for this style of gardening is costly.

Additional Reading:

To understand the ins and outs of square foot gardening, we have some reading for you as well.

  • How a square foot garden can transform your garden.
  • Starting a square foot garden.

8. Upside Down Gardening

If you’re looking for a different method to raise tomatoes, and you’re working with limited space, this style of gardening could be great for you.

Pros:

The reasons you may want to try upside down gardening are:

  • Great for small spaces.
  • Most people use this method for raising tomatoes. You don’t have to stake them when gardening upside down.
  • Cutworms are a thing of the past.
  • Easier to spot diseases and pests because you grow a smaller quantity of plants with this method.
  • Easy to care for once hung.
  • Can also work for peppers.

Cons:

Here are a few reasons you may want to skip this style of gardening:

  • Requires a strong and sturdy space to hang the grow pots
  • Plants naturally like to grow up instead of down. This gardening method makes the plants look funny when they grow because they grow in a ‘U’ shape.
  • Plants must get six to eight hours of sunlight which can make it difficult to find the proper hanging spot.
  • Planting is a team effort, so don’t try it on your own.
  • Finding the right plant varieties which grow well upside down because not every plant will cooperate.
  • Watering can be challenging is it is hung up high.
  • Must use quality material as some bags manufactured for this purpose perishes in the sun.

Additional Reading:

This is a simple concept to understand and if you are keen to experiment with it you can read our article on upside down gardening, or even read the reviews on Amazon.

  • Upside down tomatoes.
  • Amazon – Topsy Turvy Planters.
  • Amazon – Galvanized Steel Planter.
  • Amazon – Hanging Growbag Planter (could be just the thing for strawberries too).

9. Hanging Gardens hanging basketshanging baskets

Do you have empty hanging baskets around your house? You can use these baskets to create a vegetable garden.

Pros:

Why would you use your hanging baskets for vegetables instead of flowers? Here are a few reasons:

  • Great for small spaces.
  • Even if you must buy soil and planters to get started, it’s a cost-effective option for a small garden.
  • Makes gardening feasible if you have a strict HOA.
  • Easy to spot pests.
  • Less weeds to battle.
  • Convenient to have fresh vegetables close to the kitchen.

Cons:

Here are a few reasons hanging gardens may not be the best option for you:

  • They require frequent watering.
  • You can only plant smaller crops.
  • Isn’t a good option if you need large quantities of food.

Additional Reading:

The sky (or the ceiling) is the limit with hanging gardens. You can create a beautiful display with multi-colored lettuce, cherry tomatoes and herbs in as many hanging baskets as you wish to have.

  • How to create a hanging vegetable garden.
  • DIY hanging planters.
  • Making a tiny kitchen work.
  • Indoor herb garden ideas.
  • Steps to growing herbs indoors.

10. Edible Landscaping

Instead of going with traditional landscaping, fill in the areas around your home with edibles. This is what edible landscaping is all about.

Here are a few reasons you may want to consider this style of gardening:

Pros:

  • Great if you live where you have a strict HOA.
  • Can grow larger quantities of specific plants.
  • No wasted space.
  • Allows you to grow a variety of crops while adding curb appeal.
  • If you mulch around the plants and water properly, the crops should retain moisture.
  • Many perennial options.

Cons:

  • You still must consider pests and weeds.
  • A great deal of forethought must go into this style of planting.
  • Requires regular maintenance and can be more labor-intensive than other styles of gardening.

Additional Reading:

The same principles apply as with in-ground gardening in that you have to prep the soil, be vigilant against weeds and pests; only you also have to think strategically where you will plant what. For every vegetable plant you select, read up on the companion plants as this will impact the success.

  • How to start edible landscaping.
  • Edible flowers you can consider.
  • Edible weeds you could utilize.
  • Use the Planting Zone Map to see what would be suitable for your location.
  • Know the first and last frost dates for your area to know when it is safe to plant.
  • Know how much you have to plant to feed your family by using this calculator.
  • Growing guides for all kinds of vegetables, fruits, and herbs.

11. Window Boxes

Don’t assume your window boxes are only for gorgeous flowers. They can also be used for gardening space.

Here’s why you might start treating them as a garden instead of a decoration:

Pros:

  • If you have a window which gets sun, you can have a garden.
  • Grow a variety of crops. They can be both tall and small, within reason.
  • Easier to spot pests.
  • Fewer weeds.
  • Ideal for the urban homesteader.

Cons:

  • Costly to get started (unless you build your own window boxes) due to the cost of window boxes and soil.
  • Must add fresh soil each growing season.
  • Must be watered frequently.
  • Plants can become root bound.
  • Soil should be worked to keep it from becoming compacted.

Additional Reading:

A window box full of healthy veggies to harvest without stepping outside sounds like a great convenience, no matter where you live. It really puts the ‘fresh’ into fresh foods! Anybody can try this, but know the challenges with the limited soil and be reasonable with your selection of crops, so first read up on this topic.

  • How to create an edible window box garden.
  • Make your window box flourish.
  • DIY window box planters.
  • Browse through these landscaping ideas for inspiration.
  • Make your own potting soil.
  • Or purchase the best potting soil for your window boxes.

12. Greenhouse, Cold Frames, and High Tunnels

Have you ever considered building an enclosed structure to grow your crops inside? There are many benefits to this line of logic. Here are a few reasons you may want to consider growing inside a greenhouse, cold frame, or high tunnel:

Pros:

  • Can grow year-round.
  • Large or small crops can be grown.
  • Extends grow seasons.
  • Depending upon plant varieties, you may not have to heat the structures over winter.

Cons:

  • Building a greenhouse, high tunnel, or cold frame can be expensive up front.
  • You will have critters and pest which make your structures their home, especially over winter.

Additional Reading:

A homestead focused on feeding a whole family would benefit hugely from one of these structures. We have a number of articles discussing each structure, which will guide you accordingly.

  • Building a pallet greenhouse.
  • Greenhouse kits you could purchase.
  • Greenhouse plans if you prefer to DIY.
  • Dome-shaped greenhouses that might appeal to you.
  • The best greenhouse plants.
  • What is high tunnel gardening?
  • High tunnel ideas.
  • Hotbed gardening for your greenhouse.
  • How to use cold frames.

13. Keyhole Garden

A keyhole garden is an interesting setup where you create something similar to a high raised bed, however, there is a central opening from where a person standing upright, can reach every inch of the garden.

Pros:

There are many reasons you might want to build a keyhole garden:

  • It’s a great option for those who desire to garden but can’t handle more strenuous garden activities: the height of the keyhole garden makes accessing every plant in the bedding easy.
  • Can be built in unlevel areas (if you live in mountainous terrain, a keyhole garden would be a great solution for gardening).
  • If the normal soil or surface is not good for planting – too rocky or too many tree roots, creating a keyhole garden on top of the surface eliminates the problem.
  • In building the keyhole you can fill the bottom with clutter that was in your way – rocks, old branches, logs and save yourself a trip to the landfill.
  • If you create your keyhole garden from stone, it can extend your growing season because they absorb heat and protect the crops from freezing.
  • Easier to avoid pests because of how high the beds are from the ground, and the bed can be netted to avoid the smaller flying pests.
  • Allows you to plant more in a smaller space

Cons:

  • The set-up is important and may require some help if you aren’t familiar with construction or DIY projects.
  • Unless you can collect stones around your property, keyhole gardens may cost more to create.

Additional Reading:

A keyhole garden can be the ideal solution for a retired garden lover who still wishes to enjoy the soil but have limited mobility. Setting this up could fill an unused corner of your yard, allow you to get rid of rubble, and reduce maintenance while making a family member happy. If combined with core gardening or Hügelkultur you may have a little gardening paradise.

  • Setting up a keyhole garden.
  • The core gardening method.
  • What is Hügelkultur?
  • Refer back to raised bed gardening as well for more ideas.

14. Lasagna Gardening

Lasagna gardening is the method in which you lay organic materials in your garden in layers as you would do when making lasagna. The idea is to create a nutritious soil for your crops to grow while also eliminating some of the work with weeding and watering.

Pros:

If you’re interested in growing a healthy garden but avoid some of the added work gardening creates, here are a few reasons why lasagna gardening is for you:

  • This method creates healthy, nutrient-rich soil.
  • Less weeding.
  • Healthier plants which usually resist pests and disease.
  • Less strenuous style of gardening.
  • The healthier the soil, the more you can grow (even in smaller spaces).

Cons:

Here are a few reasons you may wish to skip lasagna gardening:

  • You must gather plenty of materials to apply to the garden.
  • Isn’t an ideal option for larger gardens due to the quantity of materials needed.
  • Takes a great deal of preparation.
  • Fresh materials must be added each growing season.

Additional Reading:

  • How to create lasagna gardening.
  • Understand the composting process.
  • Using chicken manure and used bedding as a layer.

15. Straw Bale Gardening Straw bale gardening can be considered when you evaluate gardening methodsStraw bale gardening can be considered when you evaluate gardening methods

I’ve said straw bale gardening will be my method of gardening when I get older and no longer have kids at home to feed. It’s a gorgeous way to grow your vegetables, simple enough to start, and is a good-sized garden for smaller families.

Here are a few reasons to explore straw bale gardening:

Pros:

  • Low costs to get started.
  • Efficient, compact garden.
  • Great option if you have poor soil quality.
  • A natural style to a container or raised bed gardening.
  • Extends grow period because of the warmth radiated from the bales.
  • Fewer weeds and diseases.
  • Straw bales can be composted at the end of each growing season.

Cons:

A few reasons straw bale gardening may not be for you:

  • If you can’t lift heavy items, you may need help to get your set-up started.
  • Have to purchase nitrogen fertilizer, bone meal and apply wood ash initially.
  • May require frequent watering as straw tends to dry out faster.
  • Have to wait for the composting process to finish before you can plant.
  • You must fertilize regularly.
  • It can become a bit messy over time.
  • Has to be rebuilt annually.

Additional Reading:

Seen as an alternative gardening method, the reading material is scarce, but by understanding composting and watering basics, you would be well prepared to experiment with this interesting alternative.

  • Guide to straw bale gardening.
  • Best vegetables for straw bale gardening.
  • Understand composting.
  • When to water plants.
  • How to water plants.

16. Core Gardening

I love when people come up with solutions for the busy gardener. Core gardening is one of these solutions. This is meant to be used in a raised bed, but with some planning, you can use it for in-ground gardening as well. You place items (such as straw) in a trench in the center of your raised bed.

This is the core, and it should be watered regularly as a start. When the core is fully saturated, it’ll keep your garden well-watered and lessen the time you must invest in watering your garden.

Pros:

Here are a few excellent reasons why you should consider core gardening:

  • Works for the busy gardener.
  • Keeps your garden well-watered, even during dry spells.
  • You don’t have to wait to plant your garden.
  • Inexpensive gardening method.
  • Creates better soil over time.

Cons:

  • It does require some preparation prior to planting your garden.
  • Will have to get straw, hay and or logs to use.

Additional Reading:

Core gardening is something we can apply in many scenarios as it saves water, saves you time and benefits the soil. Whether it is a window box, keyhole garden, raised bed or establishing these trenches in your normal gardening beds – it is a brilliant solution.

  • The core gardening method.
  • When to water plants.
  • How to water plants.

17. No-Till Gardening

No-till gardening is similar to lasagna gardening. You add organic materials to your garden to produce better quality soil for your plants to grow in.

Once the materials are added (which don’t have to be added in any particular order) you apply wood chips to cover them.

Here are a few reasons to consider this style of gardening while you evaluate gardening methods:

Pros:

  • Fewer weeds.
  • Less watering needed.
  • Less diseases in your garden.
  • Can be used as an organic gardening method.
  • Less strenuous type of gardening.

Cons:

  • Requires a lot of preparation before planting.
  • Can be difficult to gather all the materials needed to prepare this style of gardening.
  • Challenging to use in larger gardens due to the number of materials needed.
  • If enough materials aren’t applied, you’ll have a mass amount of weeds growing in your garden.
  • Takes a fair amount of time to layer all the different materials.
  • Have to wait a season before you can plant.

Additional Reading:

Setting up a no-till garden is a long term time investment. You have to plan in advance, gather materials, do a lot of physical labor getting it ready and then still wait a season before you can plant.

However, the benefits are an established garden which will require less watering and is more weed and pest resistant. Doing your homework for this option is important, so read up on fertility, soil enhancements, and organic gardening.

  • Understanding soil fertility.
  • Organic gardening.
  • Weed control for an organic garden.
  • How no-till gardening works.
  • And also understand the difference between no-till and till gardening.

18. Hügelkultur Hugelkultur can be considered when you evaluate gardening methodsHugelkultur can be considered when you evaluate gardening methods

If you have a fallen tree on your property which is only taking up space and dragging down your curb appeal, don’t let it stay there.

Instead, put it to use with Hügelkultur – an effective method of gardening. Pile waste organic materials such as logs in a heap on the fallen tree, and cover everything with soil to create a large dirt mound, on top if which you can plant. Inside the fallen tree and logs decompose, creating warmth and fertile soil.

Pros:

Here’s why you should consider creating a hügelkultur garden while you evaluate gardening methods:

  • Cleans up your property.
  • Lasts for years without the added maintenance.
  • Can be used to create privacy on your property.
  • Can be used in mountainous terrain.
  • Can be created in a raised bed setting.
  • One garden can meet the needs of a variety of plants.
  • Retains water.
  • The soil thaws faster in the spring.
  • An easy, organic method to gardening.
  • The hill in the design creates additional growing space.

Cons:

Here are a few reasons why you might avoid hügelkultur gardening:

  • You must be careful about which type of wood you add to your garden because some are considered toxic.
  • Creating the hügelkultur garden can be a strenuous task and may require assistance from family or friends.

Conclusion when you Evaluate Gardening Methods

Now that you know how to evaluate gardening methods to suit your gardening needs, I’m sure you can make the best selection to make your gardening dreams come true.

You might be selecting more than one, as hanging baskets, vertical gardens, a beautiful window box garden, and a no-till garden all appeals to me.

It’s all about picking the gardening method which will allow you to grow the amount of food you need while fitting into the time you have available to invest in your garden.

We wish you all the best with your gardening efforts!

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