Experience teaches you a thing or two, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be your own personal experience. It works out great sometimes to learn from the experience of others–particularly their mistakes. Whether you are a novice gardener or have some gardening experience to your credit, these tips gleaned from experience and gardening wisdom handed down generations, will help you have the best garden ever.
1. Choose a good location
Locating the garden close to your home will ensure you have have easy accessibility in all types of weather. At the same time, it is important to make sure that the house doesn’t obstruct sunlight. If the shadow of the house falls on your garden for most part of the day, a successful vegetable garden is difficult, to say the least.
Most plants thrive in full sun, especially vegetables. A garden close to your house or garage will allow you to construct a lean-to hothouse using a simple frame covered in clear plastic. This can provide winter protection as well. You can also use such structures to start seeds and harden off seedlings.
2. Chalk out a plan
A little planning makes for the best yielding garden because are about to provide the best growing conditions for your plants. It is important to site your crops carefully, and consider their light and water needs as well as size at maturity. There are hundreds of ideas and plans online, so whenever you have time, browse a little bit and think about what kind of plants would you like to grow in your garden.
3. Source the best seeds
Seeds are extremely important so, always invest in the best seeds your money can buy. You should look for disease resistant and high-yielding varieties.
Cheaper seed packets at the seed stands may be tempting, but may not be very reliable too. Many reputable companies sell their seeds in bulk to retailers who pack them for the seed stands, but it could be previous year’s stock or substandard seeds.Therefore, be careful when deciding over seeds.
4. Start them early
Some fast-growing vegetables like radishes, carrots, lettuce, peas, and spinach can be sown directly in the soil after the last frost date. They are usually ready for harvest from 6-8 weeks, so gardeners with short growing season can still get a good yield.
Tomatoes, peppers, and squash are typically started indoors and planted outside when the weather becomes warm enough. You can buy seedlings ready to be planted, but starting your own seeds not only is less expensive, but gives you a larger choice.
5. Provide bright light
Seedlings need bright light––preferably light from an overhead source––to grow healthy and strong. If your seed trays are kept by a bright window, turn the trays everyday to avoid the uneven growth.
6. Keep them warm
Once the seedlings come up, you can cover them with a plastic cloche to maintain hothouse-like conditions. But once they are in a cloche, the seedlings get used to the warm, humid atmosphere, so you should take extra care while taking them out. Mist them frequently until they get acclimatized to the outside environment.
7. Plant out in good quality soil
The seedlings planted out in the garden get all their nourishment from the soil and whatever amendments you add to it. You can improve poor soil with specific treatments, but growing your vegetables in raised beds may be a better option for immediate results. We advise you to fill the raised beds with a mixture of good quality soil mixed with compost.
8. Feed your plants
As the plants grow, additional feeding with fertilizers containing nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium as well as calcium, magnesium, and sulfur helps boost growth and yield. Organic gardeners depend on compost, farmyard manure, vermicompost and leaf mold to provide the plants all the above macronutrients as well as micronutrients such as iron, zinc, copper, manganese, boron, molybdenum, cobalt, and chlorine.
9. Water deeply
Whatever watering method you prefer, deep watering is what gives best results. You should provide water to the root zone, not to the aerial parts of the plants. Shallow watering restricts roots to the immediate area around the plants, therefore makes them susceptible to drying out along with the topsoil. Reduce the frequency of watering, but every time you water, allow it to percolate deep into the earth.
10. Increase water retention
Moisture in the soil increases nutrient availability.
Adding organic matter to the soil is a remedy for both these problems. Compost, leaf mold, peat moss and manure increase moisture retention of the soil and provide good aeration while making the soil rich in nutrients as well. Cocopeat, though it doesn’t have any nutritional inputs, is great for increasing the water retention of soil.
11. Pinch and trim as necessary
In the case of tomato plants, after they have grown to a certain length, trusses appear, that eventually produce flowers and fruit. If you have a short growing season, pinching off the growing tip after 3-4 trusses will promote their further development as the plant now directs its energy to flowering.
Large squash leaves that shade the plant should be selectively trimmed close to the leaf bases. This will make the plant concentrate on growing flowers and fruit.
12. Welcome beneficial animal life
Encourage beneficial insects and birds into your garden. They help pollinate the flowers and increase yield.
Growing colorful, nectar-filled flowers that attract butterflies and bees will ensure their frequent visits. Ladybugs and praying mantises make a meal of aphids and other sucking insect pests.
13. Use natural insecticides and herbicides
When biological control doesn’t seem to be enough, you may have to resort to insecticide sprays to save your crop from pests. Chemical insecticides non-selectively kill both beneficial and harmful insects, besides poisoning the crops and the soil. Therefore, use natural insecticides and herbicides instead of chemical ones.
Herbicides are quite unnecessary if you plant your beds close enough and cover the remaining area with thick mulch.
14. Do companion planting and interplanting
Companion planting has its basis on such beneficial relationship between crops.. For example, garlic, onions and French marigold repel pests while nasturtium attracts them.
Interplanting is a way to make the most of the available space and short growing season. Early-maturing varieties can be interplanted with late-maturing ones for continuous yield. When the early bearers are done, you can replace them with new crops that will thrive in the shade of the late crop.
15. Harvest regularly
Regular harvesting of your crops encourages them to grow more and produce more. Leaf lettuces, spinach, kale, Swiss chard etc can be harvested by cutting off the lower leaves. The plants will continue to produce new growth from the center.
16. Have successive planting
This is particularly important for the home gardener who’s goal is to feed the family with homegrown garden produce.
Plant a batch of garden kitchen staples like spinach, lettuces, carrots, peas every two weeks. As soon as you transplant from your seedling trays, start another batch. Growing a few early-maturing crops will help you have optimum space utilization.
17. Protect the soil
Soil can be considered a living, breathing, dynamic entity. Nature has a way of protecting the soil with a green carpet of vegetation wherever possible. For cultivated soil to maintain its fertility and integrity, it should be protected from the drying and leaching effects of the elements.
Thick planting with various crops and covering whole area in mulch serve to form a protective shield over the soil.
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