Though plants have been growing on this tiny blue dot we call Earth for hundreds of millions of years, modern domesticated plants need some help from their human friends if they are to perform successfully.
The accompanying pages below this one, contain our “Best Practices” for your gardening success. Gardening success is easily attained by following a few simple rules. These rules in general apply to most garden plants and the individual pages offer specific instruction on the various types of garden plants, both veggies and flowering plants.
Rule #1) Don’t plant too early. It’s very tempting to put your plants in the ground during a warm spell in early May. Here in Vermont as well as other locations in the north, we get spells of “Yo-Yo Weather” which can be tempting, but more often than not will spell death and disaster for the garden. Just because some “BIG BOX” stores have Impatiens for sale in March and Tomatoes for sale in April, DOES NOT mean its ok to plant them. Please take the time to speak with your local growers to find out what is appropriate to plant and when.
Rule #2) Soil tests are your friend! Often folks will ask me what they should do to amend and improve their soil. I’m not sure why people resist having their soil tested? They would never allow a doctor to prescribe medication without first doing basic diagnostic testing. The same principle applies to soil health as it does to human health. Here in Vermont, you can have a very quick and inexpensive diagnostic test done through UVM. http://pss.uvm.edu/ag_testing/
Rule #3) Eliminate the competition. WEEDS! It is very important to eliminate or significantly reduce the competition between YOUR plants and Natures/Gods plants. Weeds rob your garden plants of many vital nutrients and water, they can also be host plants for insects vermin that will damage or kill your plants. The ONLY good weed… Is a composted weed. I know, I know… I’m a broken record, but a half hour a day with a hoe or “Stirrup” style weeder is all it takes for an average kitchen garden.
Rule #4) Amending your garden soil. Once you have the results from your soil test… You can begin tweaking your garden soil for maximum benefit of both your plants and your harvest. The soil test will tell you what exactly you need to do to bring your soil to peak useable fertility. I say useable because your soil may already contain vast amounts of nutrients but they may be “Bound” to the soil particles and unusable by your plants if your soil PH is either too high or two low. In New England soils usually are very Acid or LOW PH and usually require lime to bring the soil to a more favorable PH of 6.5 to 7. But without the test, you have no idea what amount of lime should be added.
Rule #5) Let there be light! Plants eat sunshine, carbon dioxide, water and trace elements. But without adequate sunshine, they will just languish and fail. We recommend a MINIMUM of 6 and preferably 8 or more hours of DIRECT sunlight daily. Have your (or your neighbors) trees grown taller since you established your garden? Have you (or your neighbors) planted any new trees which now shade the garden area? Any building additions, new garage, shed ect.? Most veggie garden plants will only perform as well as the care they are given, and part of that care is access to sunshine.
Rule #6) Balancing water needs. Once you’ve tested and amended your garden soil, kept the weeds at bay, given the access to sunshine, there’s water to be considered. I’m a huge fan of drip watering garden plants. It’s much more efficient and less wasteful. Drip watering puts the water right at the base of the plants at the roots where it’s needed. Water sprinklers are old-fashioned and not very efficient. Sprinklers also can contribute to many leaf diseases because it creates warm inviting droplets of water which can breed fungus, bacteria and viral pathogens which will infect your plants. Drip watering will also only water your plants and not the weeds. Well… water fewer weeds anyway. LOL
Rule #7) Predators! There are predators both above and below the ground which would love to sample your produce. Insects such as cutworms, beetles, weevils, stink bug, caterpillar, birds, rabbits, woodchuck, squirrel, mouse, deer. Each insect/animal has its favorite plant. It is important that you remain vigilant and examine your plants regularly for signs of damage/attack. A sturdy fence can keep out most land critters of any size. Floating insect excluding row covers can eliminate or greatly reduce insect/bird threats. There are many environmentally friendly insect or animal repellents on the market nowadays which can be very useful to the gardener.
The one thing no gardener can control is the weather… unless one is lucky enough to be growing in some form of enclosure like a greenhouse or high tunnel or cold frame.