Did you plant your first small garden this year? Exciting right?!?! I hate to break it to you (since I was the one that talked you into this mess) but now the hard work starts.
It is easy actually, but not exactly fun. There are four chores that you need to do on a regular basis to keep the plants healthy and happy and soon the veggies will be there for the taking.
Chore 1: Watering
This chore is best done daily. The gardening books always say that your garden needs an inch of water a week or some damn thing like that. That is not super helpful unless you religiously follow that weather reports. So my recommendation for you, dear friend, is to water every day unless it is actually raining or you are having a streak of gloomy and rainy weather.
If you have just a few plants, go the watering can or hose route. If you have an already installed irrigation system for the lawn, you may already be set, just keep an eye on the watering patterns to make sure your plants are getting enough. I love these AquaCones, and you can set a cheap sprinkler system with a timer attachment and a hose (with a sprinkler or added drip lines).
Can you water too much? Yes, but it is hard with garden plants. The wind and sun usually dry up plants faster than you can water them, so I wouldn’t worry about it too much. If you are doing container gardens it is possible to waterlog the pots, but if you have drainage holes in the bottom of your pot you should be fine.
Pro tip: If you are using sprinklers (for anything other than running through) run them early in the day. If they are on during the hottest most of the water is evaporating.
Chore 2: Weeding
Weeding is probably the worst of the gardening chores, but when your plants are small, it super important. When you are doing your daily watering, pull any weeds nearby. Try to get the little buggers out by the roots if all possible.
Weeds are not bad, exactly, but any plant that is stealing the water and nutrients away from your veggie needs to go.
Pro tip: To minimize this task, mulch the shit out of your plants. Use whatever natural materials you have available (grass clippings, straw, bark mulch). Don’t pile them right up on the plants. You will need to give them a few inches of breathing room.
Chore 3: Feeding
If we lived in a perfect world the plants would be able to get all of the food that they need from the soil. Since we live on planet earth you will need to feed your plants. There are a few ways you can do this.
First up is a slow release fertilizer that you put in the soil around the plants. This comes in a pellet form that will slowly break down and release the good stuff in the soil. Ideally, this should be done before you plant the garden, but it really doesn’t matter. Just sprinkle it around the plants and throw some mulch on top.
Another option is concentred liquid fertilizer. Add the recommended amount to the water can when you are watering and you are all set. If you got a bit behind on watering and your plants are super dry, skip the feeding.
How often should you do this? Once a month for slow release and every two weeks for liquid.
Can you overfeed? Yes, but it will probably not harm the plants. The veggies will take what they need and leave the rest, then water and rain will wash the rest away.
Pro tip: if you are growing plants that are considered ‘heavy feeders’ you can do both. Think corn, tomatoes, beets, broccoli, cabbage.
Chore 4: Supporting
I know what you are thinking – ‘My plants are tiny, why should I worry about supports now?’ Because it is far, far easier to get a cage around a tomato when they are a foot high. Trust me on this, the struggle is real.
If you don’t have cages or supports for your bigger plants, get some and install them now. If you are growing any type of vine-like plant, get the support set up and as you do your watering and weeding chores secure any new growth to the supports.
Pro tip: I love Gardener’s Supply selection or supports and tools. But you can also get them at your local gardening center and many big box stores.
Water, Weed, Feed, and Support. See friends, there are just four things you need to do to keep those newbie plants going on for the summer. You can do this!
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