Garden Tip: Make Use of Abundance While It Lasts

A gardener must learn to recognize good opportunities when they arise.

crates of vegetables and fruit

Tom Werner / Getty Images

Have you ever heard the phrase, "Make hay while the sun shines"? If you are familiar with it, then you will understand what I mean when I talk about making use of abundance while it lasts. This is a concept central to sustainable gardening.

As a sustainability consultant, I help gardeners to create and maintain their gardens in ways that adhere to the key ethics of "people care, planet care, and fair share." One of my key tips for any gardener is to make sure that they are making full use of what is available to them—catching and storing energy for later and thinking longer term. 

One of the first steps in developing the right design and the right strategies for a site is to identify the yields that the natural environment around you can provide.

Harness Abundant Rainfall

A key thing to think about is rainfall. No matter how much precipitation there is where you live, sustainable gardeners should always make it their mission to catch and store water.

Making sure that we catch rain when it does fall can help us to ensure that there is water around—in storage vessels and in the plants and soil, during periods when it is drier, or when drought conditions prevail.

Another thing for those in cold winter areas to consider is that snowmelt can also be an abundant yield. When snowmelt is directed effectively, it can help ensure year-round productivity and ecosystem health.

So, making sure that we "make hay while the sun shines" is not just a summer activity. We should think about how we can harness and make use of abundance all year round.

Make Use of Your Kitchen Garden

One of the most obvious ways to make use of abundance is to ensure that we use the harvests from our food-producing gardens. It's important to:

  • Recognize and make use of secondary yields from common crops;
  • Make sure we harvest in a timely fashion, so nothing goes to waste;
  • Store our harvests correctly so that we can use them later;
  • Use preservation methods such as dehydration, freezing, and/or canning to store foods for later use.

Make Use of Wild Yields

Many home growers will focus on making the most of the crops that they have actually grown. They will often zero in on edible yields cultivated in their gardens. But it is important to remember that less managed areas can also deliver abundant yields. For example, we might:

  • Make use of fast-growing dynamic accumulator plants (including "weeds") which can be used to help maintain fertility in a garden. By gathering their organic materials during the period of active growth, we can create mulches, compost, and organic liquid plant feeds to keep our gardens growing strong;
  • Gather "wild" foods when they are abundantly produced, foraging in our own backyards and the surrounding area; 
  • Lay up "tree hays" and other fodder for livestock during the summer months. Often, marginal spaces like tree lines and hedgerows can provide food for animals, as well as for us;
  • Use weeds and other wild resources for other applications—from herbal medicine, to dye-making, to a wide range of natural crafts.

Remember, when we harvest plants, we are essentially taking advantage of energy which comes from the sun, as well as nutrients from the air and soil. 

By taking advantage not only of the yields relating to plants we have grown ourselves, but also "wild" yields, we can ensure that we return the surplus from abundant periods to the system. 

Making the Most of Our Time and Energy

One other way to make use of abundance while it lasts is to consider our own patterns of movement, our time availability, energy level, and moods. It is important for gardeners to remember that they are just as much a part of the garden ecosystem as its other elements.

When we have time and energy available, we should make sure that we use those things to the fullest. We should take advantage of those lulls in our routines, or those days where we feel most energized and productive, to achieve the things we wish to achieve in our gardens. 

By thinking about how we can make the most of tangible and intangible resources when they are available, we can ensure the health and longevity of our gardens.