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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

4 Simple Ways To Improve Your Garden

When spring comes around, so does the annual planning of the summer garden.  No doubt, there were also fantasies of walking through a robust garden clipping off tomatoes for salad, and pulling off bountiful ears of corn for supper.  The gardening process begins with finding the perfect garden location, waiting for the right temperature, and planting the minuscule seeds that will inevitably become a harvest.  But there is more to gardening than just planting a seed and watching it grow.

Watering the Garden

Even moisture is an essential key to maintaining plant growth.  Plants should have on average about 1-2 inches of water per week.  More water should be provided during hot summer months where there is drought like conditions.  Soaker hoses and other methods, such as the use of rain collection barrels can assist in water conservation and at the same time, providing water during the rainless summer months.  Another method of crop irrigation is the use of ollas, or unglazed clay pots buried in the dirt.  These clay pots get water to the roots, as well as alleviating water evaporation.  This type of irrigation is 50-70% more effective than modern day irrigation systems and it also assists in eliminating disease caused by excessive watering.

Mulching the Garden

Mulching around the base of the plants is another essential method in maintaining healthy plants.  Adding 2-3 inches of natural mulch will assist in retaining more moisture in the soil, discourage unwanted weed growth, prevent soil erosion and help eliminate unwanted pests and insects.  Mulching also helps the soil have an even temperature which will assist is healthy growing roots.  Additionally, natural mulches such as grass clippings and straw will provide added nutrients to the soil in the decomposition process.

Feed Your Garden

Native American Indians planted fish at the base of a garden mound as a gift for the plants.  That gift of fish, when decomposed, provided needed nutreints for the plant to grow and bear it’s fruit.  Using natural fertilizers will condition the soil, or growing environment for the plant.  Plants need certain “foods” to grow and become more productive.  Typically, “foods” that plants need to thrive are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.  These elements will promote strong, healthy root systems and healthy fruits.  Natural fertilizers can be purchased at gardening centers, or a person can try and create their homemade version of fertilizer in the form of compost.  Composting is a great way to give back to the garden.  This natural soil amendment is a process that needs to be started before the garden is grown as it takes time for the weather, and nature to break down particles that will become compost.  Depending on the size of a compost heap, compost would be ready for use in the garden after 4-6 months.
Another way of feeding plants is  companion planting.  Companion plants have a symbiotic relationship and equally benefit from being planted near eachother.  Some of the benefits are pest control, higher yield, and added nutrients in the soil.  This fertilizing method, simplifies the gardening process to a minimum.

Pruning Your Garden

Many do not like to take the time to do this essential step, but it truly makes a huge difference in the health of the plant, as well as assist in helping the plant redirect it’s ergy on the growing of fruit.  Taking time to prune dead foliage, branches, non-producing limbs, etc will assist in developing better sized fruit.  Pinching and pruning are two methods of controlling the growth of vegetables.  Plants are very adaptable, and prefer to be pruned or pinched from time to time.
What to Pinch
Pinching is used to remove growth buds, flowers or immature fruit.
  • Pinch branch tips throughout the growing season to grow more bushy and full instead of lanky and tall.  Remove only the last set of two leaves, including the stem, each time you pinch a branch.
  • Continuously remove any dead or faded foliage.  Keep only the growth that is green and healthy.
  • For flowering fruits and vegetables, pinch off 1/3 to 1/2 of the blooms that appear in order for the plant to concentrate on growing larger fruits.
What to Prune
Pruning is used to correct or remove branches or prevent the spread of the plant outside it’s growth area.
  • Prune plants when they are growing too large for their allocated area.  Use sharp, clean shears to prevent the spreading of disease.
  • Remove entire unwanted or non-blooming branches to keep plants contained.  Keep some foliage to shade the developing fruit and prevent sun scald.
  • Continuously remove any dead or faded foliage.  Keep only the growth that is green and healthy.
If practiced, these simple gardening methods will help a person grow healthier plants with higher yields.  Growing fruits and vegetables requires constant practice, and learning from mistakes.  These methods listed above can help a person establish a better understanding of what plants need in order to thrive.  Happy Gardening!