Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Tips for Planting and Growing a Garden

Written by Michael Toney

Gardens come in all shapes and sizes. Depending on the size can produce an abundant amount of vegetables and herbs. A garden does not need to be large in order to produce a large amount of vegetables. A garden continues to produce good things to eat over the growing season rather than a one time occurrence. The goal is to have a on going harvest of healthy, fresh foods for you and your family to enjoy. If you plan your garden right you can squeeze a big variety of vegetables in a smaller area. Choose smaller varieties so they don't overwhelm neighboring plants. It may be necessary to completely remove older plants in favor of younger ones. You can harvest and replant continually, if you want. This can be a year-round practice if you live in a mild climate

Generally, gardens are meant to be productive rather than pretty, but there's no reason you can't make them as attractive as you would like. Paths that crisscross the garden allows access to your vegetables and can also give the garden a geometric layout, the result are unquestionably pleasing to the eye, and make maintaining the appearance of your garden easier.
Planting borders of flowers around your garden to attract different bird species and butterfly or not only great for the birds, but a bonus for you . Sunflowers attract different types of birds such as, Cardinals, Chickadees, Finches, Sparrows, Blue jays, and Tufted titmice. Hummingbirds are drawn to the pink, purple, and red tubular blooms, of the Penstemon. The Purple Majesty attract Mourning doves, Finches and Sparrows, these plant can grow up to 5 foot tall, it loves the sun.

If you've never had a garden before, it's sensible to start small. The right spot is very important. A full 6 hours a day of sun is required for good growth and ripening vegetables and herbs. Morning sun light is favorable to afternoon sun, because it'll dry dew, reducing the risk of disease and be less stressful than the hot sun later in the day.

Good soil is necessary and will guarantee healthy productive plants. Organic matter helps keep soil loose, so water can drain at a good rate for growing plants. It also enriches fertility and improves the overall soil's ability to hold moisture. Homemade compost or commercial compost, dehydrated cow manure and dampened peat moss are great sources of organic matter and can be found at local garden center or farm supply store.

To make your own compost bin a 50 gallon drum makes a good compost container. First, remove both ends to make and open cylinder. Set it upright in the corner of the garden or out of the way area. Gradually fill it with compost material such as, kitchen leftovers, alternating 6-in layers of kitchen waste (no meat scraps, grease or bones), garden debris (no weed seeds) and soil. Add a sprinkling of high-nitrogen fertilizer, 10-6-4 composition is ideal, to each layer. A little lime will also be beneficial. Let the mixture age for about 3 to 6 months, adding water regularly. Shredded cardboard and newspaper, weathered saw dust from the lumber yard can also be added to the compost bin. Don't use ashes from the barbecue, dog or cat droppings, or shredded magazines, they may contain sulfur oxides, disease organisms or inks that are bad for the plants. Any animal produces like meat or grease will attract other animals that could destroy the bin. After 3 to 6 months, lift up the drum to release a pile of garden ready humus.

Planting time is when the ground warms in the Spring. Seeds of all kinds can be found at your local garden center, farm supply store, and from friends and neighbors who save seeds. Always read or understand the planting directions before planting. Some seeds have different times and instructions for planting, so always follow these direction for the best results from the plants you chose for your garden. Sow seeds directly into the prepared garden at the recommended distance apart. Some plants will need to be thinned soon after sprouting. This allows preferred plants to grow to the ultimate size to produce the greatest amount to their ability. Overcrowding of seedlings as a rule never produce well because they are all struggling for the nutrients in one small area.

A trick to ensure proper spacing and eliminate the need for thinning is with a homemade seed tape. An added bonus, the seeds will sprout faster. Lay a strip of damp paper towel on top of a strip of plastic wrap, then set out the seeds at the intervals recommended on the seed packet. Cover with another strip of damp paper towel, roll the paper and plastic up together, place in a plastic bag, and store in a warm place. As soon as roots begin to emerge take the tape to the garden and unroll it onto a well-tilled bed, peeling the plastic away. Cover with a fine layer of soil or sand and water thoroughly but gently. Don't worry about the paper, it will act as mulch and will help stop dehydration. The result will be perfectly spaced rows of young plants.

To give seeds a jump start, sow seeds indoors in late winter or early Spring.
The most common seeds to start this way are tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and most herbs. Herbs can also be grown inside in a pot, placed on a window sill and use all through the year and they don't have to be transplanted unless you want to.
To get the plants ready for the outside, place them in the shade of a tree or on a cool sun porch for a few days before planting. Bring them indoors only if frost is predicted. You will need to adjust watering and stop fertilizing until they're planted in the garden.
Try to plant on a warm , windless day and water them thoroughly. Put an inch or more of mulch at their base. Some plants may need a protective covering for a few days, such as milk jugs or 2 or 3 liter soda containers, and there is also protective coverings that can be purchased from the garden center. The coverings can be removed once they have took root.

Some vegetables need some extra attention just for convenience sake. Pole beans and sugar snap peas can be accommodated on a trellis or tepee, and large tomato plants can be bound or supported with wire cages made for this purpose.

No garden is complete with out some insects. Garden beetles can be controlled by cleaning up debris to remove winter hiding places. Dust plants with diatomaceous earth or spray with kelp extract, soap and water, or various concoctions of onions, red peppers, and pungent herbs, steeped in water and strained. Try planting beetle repellent plants, such as mint and catnip, among your vegetables. To protect developing melons and squash, cover with paper bags, stapled or pinned shut. To control onion maggots and bean beetles, scatter wood ashes around plants or on the foliage. Kill mites with a spray of butter milk. Kill slugs with a 1/2 inch of beer or dry yeast. Mealybugs, aphids and other soft-bodied insects will die instantly when sprayed with full strength rubbing alcohol. Avoid spray alcohol on young plants it could damage them. Queen Anne's lace, buckwheat, fennel and sage attract insects such as stinkbugs, flies, hover flies, lace wings, these bugs are helpful at doing their own pest control. So don't cut down those Queen Anne's lace.

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