We have been talking for the last 2 weeks about planning and preparing to plant a garden. Now that you have a spot chosen, and plants planted, what’s next? Let’s just sit back and let mother nature do her job, right? Not so fast!
Gardening doesn’t just involve planting and harvesting. There are many steps in between that need to be done in order to nurture your plants along the way.
Plants need nourishment in the soil throughout the season.
There are a few ways to add nutrients through composting:
- Plant a cover crop in the fall and then let it die off and compost over the winter to add nutrients to the soil.
- Add your own compost at the beginning and middle of the season to refresh your plants.
- Create a compost tea from the liquid in you compost pile and spray it at the base of the plants throughout the summer.
Deep mulching is a gardening method I am going to try heavily this year. Jill @ the prairie homestead has a free e-book that explains this method more in depth.
Basically, you use mulch (wood chips or hay) to give nutrients to the soil and suppress weeds at the same time. Mulching also keeps the soil moist so you don’t have to water as much.
This method may take more time (and money depending on where you get the mulch) to start at the beginning, but will save you time in weeding throughout the season.
Speaking of weeding, weeds are the gardener’s nemesis. In fact, there are many new gardener’s that will go on vacation or get busy and forget to weed for a little while. When they finally go out to check the garden, the whole thing is so over grown that they throw up their hands and give up. I don’t want that to be you, so I am here to help.
5 Tips to Help With Weeding:
- The deep mulch method I mentioned above will help cut down on weeding.
- You can cover the ground around your plants with black plastic. This will keep the soil warm and kill most of the weeds.
- The lasagna gardening method discussed in the first part of the series will slow down weeds by placing cardboard at the bottom of the garden bed before you plant.
- If you do need to weed, do a little bit a day. Don’t let it get to the overwhelming stage, because then you might give up and not do it at all.
- Planting plants close together in an “intensive gardening” method leave less room for weeds because they are shaded out by the plants themselves.
Whatever method (or methods) you choose, just remember that weeding is VERY important. Weeds take water, light and nutrients from you vegetables. A weeded garden will grow much faster and produce much more than a weed heavy garden.
Watering is very important in your vegetable garden. We have already previously discussed having access to water for your garden. We have irrigation water for our garden April to October. No matter what source of water you are using, make sure it is easily accessible all season long.
How often should you water?
Plants should have an even, consistent supply of water. How do you accomplish this?
- Watch the weather so you know if your plants are getting enough water from mother nature.
- Set up a sprinkler system on a timer to water your plants regularly.
- Some people like to water manually with a hose so they are more connected to the garden.
- Most plants need about an inch of water a week. If you are using raised beds, pay attention when the outer corners of the box are dry. It will probably be time to water.
- Watering every other day is a good start. After a little while, you will be able to tell when plants need water.
- It is better to water in the morning or evenings. Watering at mid day will waste more water to evaporation. Also try to avoid watering when it is windy, because it may not soak in as well as normal.
- Don’t overwater. Plants need to grow deeper roots to sustain their leaf growth, so making the roots work for it can help the overall plant be healthier.
Most gardeners are growing their own food as organically as possible. This means not using the commercial pesticides the big farmers use to take care of pests.
So how do you get rid of pests the more natural way?
Insects & Mites
Diatomaceous Earth-sprinkle on and around plants to kill bugs. Do not use with water, as it will nullify it’s effect.
If you let your chickens in your garden (supervised), they will go after the bugs before they start on the plants. It will be a yummy meal for them and they will love it!
Crop rotation can help curb many disease problems. In other words, don’t plant the same plant in the same place every year. Doing so will encourage disease and bugs to grow and multiply for the same plant.
Healthy soil and plants have less disease. So by keeping your soil nutrient rich you will help prevent many diseases from becoming a problem.
Wildlife can be fun to watch from afar or in the wild, but they can make you crazy when they start eating your garden and/or landscaping.
How do you keep critters and deer out of your garden?
- We discussed fencing in our first post of the series. Putting up good deer fencing will help deter deer. Double fencing works really well because deer don’t like to jump between fences.
- Homemade deer repellant– Spraying deterent on plants you want to save can help. The problem with deer deterent is you need to reapply often and sometimes it REALLY STINKS!
- Trapping mice and rabbits may help keep them from ruining your garden.
- A good guard dog will help run off all kids of animals. Just make sure they aren’t trampling your garden in the process.
I saved the best for last! Harvest time can be a fun time but it can also be exhausting.
Here are some best practices to help at harvest time:
The best time to harvest is in the morning when everything is cool and fresh.
Try to preserve the produce as quickly after harvest as possible for maximum nutrition.
If you can’t preserve or eat right away, you can put vegetables in the refrigerator or freezer for storage. This also helps when you only harvest a few things at a time. When you get a full bag of tomatoes (over a week of harvesting) then it’s time to make salsa!
Some root vegetables like carrots and onions need to be thinned early in the season to encourage maximum growth throughout the season.
You should harvest cucumbers, zucchini and other like items when they are palm sized. If you wait too long, you will have a zucchini the size of your arm and the flavor will be past it’s prime.
Harvesting beans, tomatoes, peppers and other varieties encourages growth and more production on the plant.
Enjoy this time in your garden. There is nothing like eating fresh vegetables from your garden, right from the vine. They taste amazing!
Nurturing your garden is the most important thing you can do for an amazing harvest.
Composting, mulching, weeding, watering and pest control are essential parts of gardening that cannot be ignored. Taking care of these tasks doesn’t have to be a chore. Weeding and watering can be especially therapeutic for gardeners. Get you hands dirty and become involved in the health and well being of your garden. Don’t just plant it and forget it.
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Beginner Gardening Worksheet PDF
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Next week we will get tips from the gardening pros.
Don’t forget to follow our beginning garden series until the end. There will be one new post to the series each Friday for 4 weeks.
Beginner Gardening Series #3: Nurturing Your Garden
How do you nurture your garden? Please share with us in the comments below. Thanks!