Gardening season is upon us and many are harvesting greens, peas, radishes and more. Since there is still plenty of time to grow vegetables here are some fact-based tips to keep those plants growing and producing.
It all starts with a plan. What do you really have time to do? It might be better to think smaller and be very successful than larger and have it get out of control.
Sunlight, it’s what gives life and most vegetables prefer at least six hours of good direct unfiltered sunlight. While vegetables will grow in shadier areas, you aren’t likely to have the productivity you would with more sunlight.
Your soil is the foundation. While vegetables will grow in our un-amended soils, they thrive with good soil preparation. This means plenty of organic matter to improve water and nutrient holding capacity, expanded root growth and to increase the good soil microorganisms. Those microorganisms make for a living soil further improving water and nutrient uptake, lessening the chance of diseases and improving yields.
No living entity can survive without good nutrition, which leads to good health. A quality soil holds the right amount of plant-necessary nutrients. Ideally, you did a soil test sometime over the last few years to know where you stand. Those who have been regularly applying fertilizers or composts and manures will likely have plenty of phosphorus and potassium since those nutrients are used less than nitrogen so don’t overdo it. Most gardens fall short, though, in not having enough nitrogen to get that green basic structure of plants. Nitrogen, being water soluble, needs to be applied yearly and in appropriate quantities to maximize growth without hampering the production of the plant.
Water, how can we live without it? This most basic of needs is often misunderstood. Does limiting your personal water maximize yourself? Many think they can limit water expecting the plants to perform regardless. What you should do is to consider the size of the plant and know that roots spread both out and down and want to do so. However, they will only spread out and down if there is sufficient soil moisture. In our sandy loam soils only about one-half of the water in the soil is actually available to the plant. So water considering the spread and depth of roots and actually check the soil moisture periodically to help you determine how often your plants need to be watered.
All that said it’s not all sunshine and juicy tomatoes. Insects, diseases and weeds are problems. To combat insects check your plants regularly, picking the insects off and disposing of them. If pests or diseases overwhelm your plants it’s best to remove the entire plant. No plant needs competition so keep the weeds down by using mulches, hand pulling or hoeing. If you haven’t tried a shuffle hoe, also called stirrup or loop hoe, it does a pretty good job cutting down weeds especially younger ones. The end of the hoe looks like a stirrup on a saddle and you push and pull the hoe along the ground.
Lastly, to help our plants we need pollinators and beneficial insects. So grow flowering plants to provide pollen and nectar for all types of pollinators and to encourage beneficial insects that help control our problem insects to make your garden their home.
Previous articles can be found on The Times-Independent website. If you have a topic you would like to know more about call the Utah State University Extension Grand County office at 259-7558 or email Mike at [email protected]
ByBy Michael Johnson
Utah State University Extension Agent, Grand County