You did it! You planted your garden and now it’s starting to grow! But don’t sit back and relax just yet. Now you’ll need to take care of your new garden so it will continue to grow healthy and strong. The main things you’ll need to do for your garden this month are watering it thoroughly and consistently, fertilizing it occasionally, keeping the weeds away and controlling the pests. All of these things can be done easily in a safe, organic way. Why use harmful chemicals if you don’t need to?
Hopefully, you mulched your garden but if you haven’t already, it isn’t too late. I am a devout believer in heavy mulching. I mulch my entire garden with a 4-6 inch layer of wheat straw in May and then again in July. Mulching this heavily virtually eliminates the need to weed your garden. I find that laying down a bunch of straw is easier (and much more pleasurable) than hoeing the weeds away. The straw you put on your garden will decay and add valuable organic matter to your soil, greatly improving the structure and fertility of your soil. Another awesome benefit of mulch is its water retention abilities. The need to water your garden will be dramatically reduced because the mulch protects the soil from drying out so quickly. This will save you a fair amount of time and money. You will only need to water your garden once or twice a week if you mulch it thickly. When you do this, make sure you water thoroughly so that it gets down to the root system of your plants.
Fertilizing your garden plants is necessary for optimal growth and yields. I only use organic fertilizers because they are better for the earth. Synthetic fertilizers are made from petrochemicals and they are harmful to the beneficial organisms in the soil. They also contaminate our water supply and leach heavy metals in the soil. Organic fertilizers are made from animal and vegetable matter, substances that are good for the soil. They are also slower acting so you are less likely to “burn” your plants. There are many great organic fertilizers to use during the growing season. I use liquid seaweed, kelp and fish emulsion diluted with water every two weeks during the summer and my plants flourish from it. It is also beneficial to spray the foliage of your plants with this solution. Just make sure you do this on an overcast day or right before the sun goes down.
Dealing with some pests is a natural part of gardening. However, I’ve found that if your soil and plants are healthy, then pests are not a big deal. I have never had an outbreak of pests where I felt that I needed to use a chemical insecticide. I rarely even resort to using an organic insecticide for that matter. Most pesky critters, such as aphids, can be easily sprayed off with a garden hose. Bigger critters, like tomato hornworms and cabbage loopers can be picked off by hand. Slimy slugs can be trapped in saucers of beer. You can even make very effective sprays in your own kitchen using trusted ingredients such as soap, garlic and cayenne pepper. There are recipes all over the internet. Try some of them before you resort to harsher things! You can also buy organic pesticides, like Bt and diatomaceous earth, which are less harmful than synthetic pesticides. I have heard good things about neem oil. I would still only use these products as a last resort, though, because they’ll kill some of the good bugs as well as the bad ones.
Gardening organically can be a little bit more work but it is definitely worth it. You will prevent the poisoning of groundwater and soil. You will be living in harmony with nature. And you will have peace of mind knowing that you are feeding your family fruits and vegetables that haven’t been sprayed with toxic chemicals.
Join me back here next month and I’ll talk about harvesting and succession planting to get even more veggies from your garden this year! Until then, happy gardening!