Maximize the harvest with proper care | Home life
Grow a bountiful crop with some timely garden care. Arm yourself with a few basic tools, a little time, and regular visits to the garden throughout the growing season to keep plants healthy and more productive.
You don’t need to invest in every garden tool on the market. A shovel, trowel, weeding tool, gloves and a knee lifter are the basics. If your budget is tight, ask your gardening friends and family if they have any extras to spare or lend.
You are now ready to begin. Weeding is an ongoing task. Working in a few minutes of weeding time as your schedule allows makes this task a lot less overwhelming. Keep a bucket with your favorite weeding tool, gloves, and a kneeling pad by the door. Whenever you have a few minutes between other activities, pull up a few weeds.
If the tools are handy, you spend less time looking for them and more time getting the job done. Consider storing all your tools conveniently and garden-ready in a mobile tool storage cart (gardeners.com). It has room for tools with short and long handles, a bucket for collecting weeds, wheels and a handle for easy maneuvering.
Spread a layer of shredded leaves, evergreen needles, or other organic material on the surface of the soil surrounding your vegetable plants. This layer of organic matter helps retain moisture, so you will need to water less often. It also helps suppress weeds and improves the soil as it rots.
As your seeds germinate and start to grow, you will need to do a bit of thinning. Remove the additional plants, leaving enough space for the remaining seedlings to reach their maximum size. The seed pack recommends the proper spacing for the vegetables you have planted. Good news, some seedlings like radishes, beets and spinach are edible, so think about harvesting instead.
Once you’ve made your first harvest, leaving some space in the garden, fill it with another planting. Succession, also called relay plantation, allows you to grow several different vegetables in the same space. Just make sure the second planting has time to mature and produce before the end of the season. Seed packets and plant labels contain information on the number of days between planting and harvest. Compare that to the number of days until the first average fall frost.
Keep plants healthy with proper watering and fertilization. Water new plantings often enough to keep the top few inches of the soil slightly moist. Wait until the top few inches of the soil are crumbly and moist to deeply water established plants. Watering deeply, moistening the top six inches of the soil, encourages plants to develop a more drought-tolerant root system. Frequent, shallow watering keeps the roots close to the soil surface where they dry out quickly. A lack of water means fewer and smaller vegetables.
Follow the recommendations of the soil tests to fertilize your plants. If these are not available, consider using a fertilizer recommended for home gardens. Apply it according to the label directions.
Providing plants with space to grow and keep them healthy means fewer problems with insects and disease. This means a bigger harvest for you and your family, which you can enjoy throughout the season.
Melinda Myers is the author of over 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses DVD series “How to Grow Anything” and the television and radio show Melinda’s Garden Moment. Myers is a columnist and editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and was commissioned by Gardener’s Supply for her expertise to write this article. Its website is www.MelindaMyers.com