The three fundamental elements to cultivating a fruitful garden, includes pollination, soil health and irrigation. Behind Jay Hill, New Mexico nut and producer farmer, are jalapeños, honey dew and watermelon.
With the end of summer just around the corner, families across the country are preparing to soak up the last few rays of sunshine in any way they can. For farmers and gardeners—myself included—those final rays also mean a final summer harvest of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and other homegrown produce.
But as the door closes on another summer season, another is opening for fall planting, yielding an array of seasonal produce perfect for autumn. And whether you have an emerald green thumb or just grew your first tomato in your windowsill garden, there are several tips you can follow to get the most out of your home garden.
At home in New Mexico, alongside our nearly 750 acres of crops on Hill Farms—our family-owned farm—my wife, Katie, and I manage a four-acre gardening plot. Throughout the year, we grow arugula, various types of melon, squash, tomatoes, sweet corn, and eggplant—among others—that we eat at home and give away to family and friends.
It may surprise you that the practices we apply to our major crops are the same practices we apply to our small-scale garden, and are the same that can help with yours at home.
First and foremost, it’s all about what tastes great, and our home garden crops vary from year to year to ensure we’re growing the healthiest, most sustainable food. To do so, we consider three fundamental elements to cultivating a fruitful garden: pollination, soil health and irrigation.
- Pollination – On Hill Farms, we make sure we plant wildflowers in tandem with our crops in order to attract pollinators, which we’ve found produces more tomatoes and sweeter watermelon—among their many other benefits
- Soil Health – We’re also sure to rotate our soil to prevent disease and keep it as healthy as possible. In addition, composting your garden with food scraps from the kitchen will improve soil health and yield tasty produce.
- Irrigation – When watering your garden, use the Goldilocks Method—not too much, not too little. For a larger garden, a drip watering source filled with low-sodium water is a great investment, as it dispenses the right amount of water while minimizing fruit rot. Also make sure your plants have plenty of sunlight!
My wife and I call ourselves “happy hour gardeners” – we use that time at the end of the day it walk through and care for our garden, which is both relaxing and therapeutic. In other words, keep your garden close to your home or in an accessible place, where it’s not a burden to check in on it every day; don’t be afraid to move it, either! A change of scenery means different soil and different sunlight.
While it may seem nonsensical to apply large-scale farming techniques to an at-home garden, these best practices will ensure a healthy, bountiful, great-tasting garden—whether from your windowsill, your back porch, or your backyard.
Jay Hill’s father, Jim Hill, established Hill Farms in 1969 in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Throughout the 70s and 80s, the farm grew slowly while his family lived off a non-agriculture income. As Jay grew up helping with the farm, learning and growing with it, it cultivated his love for the lifestyle. He now farms nearly 1,000 acres. Jay focuses on vegetable production, always aspiring to grow a good tasting, safe product in the most cost effective way.