General Garden Care
Once you’ve planted your seeds and seedlings into the garden beds, your gardening focus changes from planting to caring for your plants.
Plants do best when their growth, from planting to harvest, is steady and interrupted. Although vegetable plants might yield some sort of a harvest even if you might not be as meticulous as you should be, to get the earliest, biggest and best-tasting harvest you’ll need to properly cater for your plants’ needs.
This means supplying water whenever there is insufficient rainfall, keeping out weeds that compete for the air, light, and moisture, and applying mulches to help create a favorable environment for continuous growth.
Your approach here should be proactive first and reactive second. You should try to prevent and avoid problems, and if you fail to act quickly enough you must try to remedy the negative effects.
This guide is split into three sections: Part 1 deals with watering, Part 2 with weeding, and Part 3 with mulching.
Vegetable plants need water for germination, photosynthesis, nutrient transfer and transpiration. Whenever a plant has less water that it needs, it suffers, its growth slows or stops, and the plant becomes less healthy and palatable. Its leaves get tough and bitter, its fruits less tasty, it goes to seed prematurely, and it ultimately becomes a magnet for pests and diseases.
By the time you see signs of water stress, such as wilting, the plant is already in trouble and is suffering physical damage. That’s why you want to act preemptively and water the plant before it shows signs of water stress.
Keeping up your watering is one of the most important things you can do to make your vegetables thrive.
What you’ll need?
- Watering can.
- Shutoff valve.
- Watering wand.
- Moisture meter (optional but preferable).
Weeds are unwanted plants that compete with garden plants for growing space, nutrients, water, and sunlight. In general they germinate and grow faster that the garden plants, so that’s why they always become an issue in a garden.
Ideally, you should prevent them from growing in the first place by using no-till practices, sheet mulching the entire beds prior to planting, and using weed-free compost as the top layer, but some level of weeding will always be necessary.
If you fail to prevent them, you can anticipate them and perform preventative weeding as or before they germinate (option 1), and if they start growing you can eradicate them physically with tools (option 2), and, if they establish, with your hands (option 3). The earlier in their lifecycle you can kill them, the easier the weeding will be for you.
What you’ll need?
- Propane torch weed burner.
- Swan or colinear hoe.
- Circle or wire hoe.
- Stirrup or scuffle hoe (optional).
Mulching in the gardening context helps remedy watering and weeding issues as it simultaneously reduces the evaporation and suppresses the weed growth.
Additionally, it can moderate the soil temperature, keeping the soil cooler or warming it up and certain forms of mulch can provide additional nutrients.
What you’ll need?
You have a variety of mulches, both organic and inorganic, to choose from, so select the ones that are appropriate for the type of vegetable bed in question.
ORGANIC MULCHES – dead plant materials: compost, straw, hay, grass clippings, leaves, bark, cardboard or newspaper.
INORGANIC MULCHES – plastic mulch and landscape fabric.
- The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener: How to Grow Your Own Food 365 Days a Year, No Matter Where You Live
- The Market Gardener: A Successful Grower’s Handbook for Small-Scale Organic Farming
- The New Organic Grower, 3rd Edition: A Master’s Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener, 30th Anniversary Edition
- The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, 2nd Edition: Discover Ed’s High-Yield W-O-R-D System
- The Urban Farmer: Growing Food for Profit on Leased and Borrowed Land