5 Tips for Building Resilience in Your Garden

Make sure you don't put all your eggs in one basket this gardening season.

Collection of tomato varieties on rustic wooden table
Planting different varieties of an item can increase your chances of success. fcafotodigital / Getty Images

In an organic garden, it is important to be resilient. That means making sure you do not put all your eggs in one basket.

Gardens can be unpredictable places. And we live in what can be, at times, an unpredictable world. By building diversity in our gardens, we can make sure we have no weak points — we can make certain that even when some things go wrong, there are other things that succeed. 

Choose A Variety of Seed Types and Different Cultivars

The first and arguably most important step in boosting resilience in your garden is ensuring you have rich biodiversity within the system. 

Boosting biodiversity, when it comes to building resilience, is not about simply cramming in as many different plants as possible. It is about increasing the number of beneficial interactions between unique plants (and animals) in the ecosystem. 

Amplifying beneficial interactions in a system makes it a more stable one. It means finding a natural balance and working in harmony with nature over time. As such, it is vital to choose seeds and plants not just for their benefits to you, but also for their benefits to the garden ecosystem as a whole. 

Beyond the general ideas of diversity and its benefits to the ecosystem, it is also useful to think about how it can increase yield and reduce losses to you and your family.

For example, planting just one variety of carrots or tomatoes may mean you lose the lot if something goes wrong. Planting two or three different varieties can increase your chances of success. Over time, you can begin to see what works well where you live and what does not and can tailor your choices accordingly. 

Don't Focus Exclusively on Annuals

Those new to grow-your-own gardening often focus on creating a vegetable plot and growing annual/biennial common crops. But annual gardens take a lot of work. And through unforeseen events as well as human error, things can often go wrong. 

To increase the chances of obtaining a worthwhile yield from your efforts over the gardening year, consider moving away from solely annual production and growing perennial fruit trees, fruiting shrubs, and perennial vegetables and herbs. Food forests or forest gardens offer extremely diverse yields — often with a lot less work from the gardener once established. So these are definitely good growing systems to consider. 

Stagger Sowings, Especially Early in the Season

When growing annual crops, timing is key. This is especially true when it comes to sowing early in the season, when sudden, late frosts may descend. Not sowing or planting out all at once is an important way to minimize risk. Stagger sowings and planting so that even if early ones are killed off by surprising weather events, you will still have more to replace them. Always sow a few more seeds than you think you'll need. 

Consider Growing Undercover And Outside

Many of us are finding that our climates are increasingly erratic — and we all know why. It is difficult to predict all weather events ahead of time. 

Just this week, where I live, we would expect to be well into spring and around our last frost date. A few days before we were sitting outside without coats on and enjoying the spring sunshine. But temperatures have dipped to the low 30s for the last few nights due to icy winds from the Arctic, and we feel like we have been plunged back into winter once more. 

I have found that growing both undercover (in my high tunnel) and outside means that I cover all the bases. And even when some plants are lost, there is still plenty of resilience within the system and I still obtain good yields from my garden. 

If you do not have a greenhouse or tunnel for undercover growing, this is definitely something to consider. It can make your growing systems more resilient, as well as increasing the range of crops that you can grow successfully throughout the year. 

Have Back-Ups and Build In Resilience

Make sure every element in your garden has multiple functions, and each purpose is served by more than one element. 

For example, if you rely on a municipal water supply, ask yourself what you would do if it was shut off for some reason. Rainwater harvesting might allow you to build in that backup. And careful water management can allow you to build in further resilience over time, catching and storing water more effectively on your property. This is just one example. 

Stacking functions and integrating elements wisely is one more important way to make sure you do not put all your eggs in one basket.