Written by Emma Croft from Get Gardening
Many people who go into vegetable gardening enthusiastically can end up losing some of their motivation if their garden is more work than they expect, or less productive than they’d hoped. Of course, there are advantages to gardening even if it doesn’t reward you with a bountiful harvest of fresh, delicious, and nutritious produce. It’s good exercise, and a chance to learn more about the natural world. But the real pleasure is collecting that harvest. Here are some tips for keeping your garden as beautiful and productive as possible.
Prepare your garden plots.
Having good soil is the first step toward gardening success. Ideally, choose a piece of ground that slopes slightly, faces south, and gets plenty of sunshine. The soil should be rich, loamy, and filled with earthworms and organic matter. Look out for mossy soil because that can sometimes indicate higher acidity. If you don’t have such a perfect plot available, don’t worry: you can build up your soil with layers of compost, leaves, grass clippings, and mineral amendments. Or you could try container gardening.
Choose your seeds, seedlings, and plant varieties with care.
When buying seed, be sure it comes from a good supplier, so you aren’t getting old, poor quality, or even contaminated seed. Be sure the seed you buy is intended for planting for your year, not leftover from last year. Similarly, if you are transplanting seedlings into your garden, be cautious about where you source them. And read up on the species and varieties that work well for your growing season. For instance, tomato or pepper varieties that need many hot days may not do well in Canada. On the other hand, long-day onion varieties might do quite well.
Make sure your plants have constant access to nutrients.
Even if you start with rich and healthy soil, that doesn’t mean it has all the nutrients your plants need to thrive. And if you plant in the same plot repeatedly, this can deplete the soil. It’s a good idea to do a soil test to see whether you need to add any nutrients or alter soil pH. And make sure you keep giving back to the soil, whatever you’ve taken out of it. You can enrich your soil with organic fertilizer, compost, and various minerals. There are also safe additives you can work into the soil, to get your pH balance right.
Keep the weeds at bay.
Aside from the fact that weeds can significantly reduce productivity, they also make a garden difficult to work in, and unappealing in appearance. Regular weeding and surface cultivation can help keep weeds away. Or consider trying ground covers such as heavy mulching or garden-safe plastic. Using a good ground cover will also reduce the need for irrigation and protect plants from stress caused by uneven moisture levels. Especially if you are considering putting your home on the market, it’s important to keep invasive or noxious plants at bay, so they don’t detract from home value.
Be prepared to deal with garden pests.
Different plants will attract different insects or other species that look forward to snacking on the fruits of your labor. Be aware of which pests to look out for and how to deal with them. For instance, you can control destructive larvae like cabbage worms with the help of a safe, organic bioinsecticide powder. And you can keep deer from chomping on your garden with the use of netting or row covers.
Plant for year-round success.
Growers in northern areas may wonder what they can do to keep their gardens producing through cooler weather. Heavy mulching, again, will help extend growing seasons. So will the use of heavy row covers that let light permeate while protecting plants from frost. You could also build a few cold frames that will provide extra protection for plants such as beets or greens that do well in cooler weather.
If you haven’t had success growing produce in the past, you may start thinking gardening just isn’t for you. But it’s just a matter of knowing techniques that save on time and labor while optimizing plant health and productivity. If you are invested in local growing and need flowers for an event or gift, see what we have to offer at Courtney’s Gardens.