If you, like many other Americans, started a victory garden this spring, you’re probably now wondering how to keep your vegetables going for the rest of the season. Here are some tips on maintaining your vegetable garden all season long.
Beginning with the basics, plants need consistent water in order to thrive.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to water your garden every day. But check on your plants frequently to make sure they’re not drying out.
When you’re determining whether or not your plants need water, don’t just look at the plants themselves. By the time a plant is visibly wilted, it’s entered a crisis mode of dehydration.
The best way to determine whether or not your plants need water is to stick your hand in the soil. The soil should feel moist (but not muddy) several inches down.
Watering the soil enough so that moisture spreads several inches down will encourage your plants to develop deep, healthy root systems.
The key to weeding is being proactive. Small, newly-emergent weeds can easily be killed by the thousands using a stirrup hoe or something similar.
Once those same weeds get large enough that you need to pull them out by hand, however, you’re in for hours of additional work.
Most importantly, never let weeds in your garden go to seed. If you notice weeds that are going to seed but don’t have the time to pull them all out right away, simply snip off the seed pods. This prevents the next generation of weeds from becoming established in your garden.
Finally, invest in a weed guide that’s specific to your growing region. Many weeds only thrive in certain soil conditions, so identifying which weeds are present in your garden can help you better understand what’s going on in your soil.
Although it may feel like a lot of work up front, mulching your victory garden will make your plants happier and your life easier. In addition to suppressing weeds, mulches will also break down over time, adding organic matter to your soil.
At a minimum mulch all of the walkways in your garden. But don’t be afraid to mulch around the plants in your growing area as well.
Many different materials can be an effective mulch, so go with what’s free and abundant in your area. Leaves are a great mulch, as is seaweed, grass clippings or straw.
Woodchips are an effective mulch in a walkway, but it’s best not to use them to mulch around plants in your actual growing area.
Check for Pests
Similarly to weeding, the key to managing pests in your garden being proactive. Frequently, squishing the first few aphids or potato beetles will stop a would-be infestation in its tracks. Once your plants are already covered in pests, however, you’ll most likely have to turn to some sort of organic insecticide to help bail you out.
Generally, however, pests are attracted to stressed or otherwise unhealthy plants, so keeping your crops healthy is one of the best ways to prevent infestations. It’s also helpful to have a good guidebook to help you identify the “good bugs” and “bad bugs” in your garden.
Some of the beetles crawling on your tomato plants might be predators helping to keep the aphids in check. So it’s best to do some research before you start squishing.
Taking care of your victory garden takes diligence and attention to detail. But at the end of the season, the rewards are well worth it.