The garden has been planted. Seeds are up and transplants are growing. The plants contain within their DNA all the instructions to do their jobs. In an ideal world we would do nothing. BUT, most conditions are not ideal so that is why we “TEND “to our gardens.
Several critical areas will be covered in this article, watering, mulching, thinning, feeding, pruning, weeding, protecting from weather and bugs, and harvesting.
WATERING: All living plants need water. Consistent watering provides the best results. A drip irrigation system can achieve this and conserve water by reducing evaporation. Watering the soil around the plant is more effective than watering the plant itself. Plant roots need the water most. The roots provide water and all nutrients to the plant. Do not flood your plants either. Too much water causes wet feet and rot. A happy balance is needed with plant watering. Letting the top inch get dry before watering is a good idea.
Wind is an issue in our climate. It dries everything quickly. MULCHING the garden will help with this. Organic mulch works best. Watering in the morning or evening when it is cool is best.
THINNING: After your seeds sprout they may need to be thinned. Each seed has its optimal distance to grow. The seed package will tell you how far apart each plant should be. When plants are too close together, they will be crowded and cannot get the water and nutrients they need for maximum growth. They are also more susceptible to disease.
WEEDING: Pulling unwanted weeds is also important because weeds compete for water and nutrients. They are frequently FAST growing and can overwhelm a garden in no time. Do this while they are small and your plants will be happy.
FEEDING: If your soil was prepared at the end of the last season or the beginning of this season with organic compost, well aged manure, worm castings, etc. you do not need to spend much time feeding your plants. You may want to supplement with organic fertilizer midway through the season just for safe keeping. If you did not add organic matter before you planted, fertilizing will help your plants grow to their optimum.
PRUNING: Tomato plants will produce more fruit if you prune them correctly. This topic needs some detailed instructions. Google “How to Prune Tomatoes” or go to https://www.wikihow.com/Prune-Tomatoes. This site has good instructions as well as illustrations.
PROTECTING: As I write this, my gardens need protecting from frost. It is the first day of summer and we are getting snow and sleet this weekend. Some of my seeds are not up and so are okay because I only plant cool weather crops. Light freezes are tolerated. But flowers that are blooming and plants that have just pushed through the soil need protection. Frost cloths provides some protection, especially for light freezes. Covering plants with anything (plastic containers, buckets, etc.) will also provide protection for light freezes down to 26-28 degrees). For hard freezes one needs to bring the plants inside the house or put them inside a heated greenhouse. High altitude gardening has its challenges.
We are not the only ones who love our plants. Insects do too. We have to watch our plants daily to catch insect infestations early. Healthy plants are less likely to be infested. Feeding plants with organic fertilizers will keep them healthy. Not allowing them to be crowded, will provide good air circulation. Giving them proper water will keep them healthy. Buying plants and seeds that have resistance to certain common infestations will help. Yearly crop rotation can prevent last year’s insects from infecting the same plant. Floating row covers that allow water and sun in but keep insects out are very useful for mountain crops. These covers also protect plants from cold temperatures. Berries need protection from birds. Cover them with bird netting. Use of organic herbicides will frequently kill the infestations. Insecticidal soaps can also be used. Remove infected leaves and stems. When all else fails remove all infected plants and discard in a closed trash can. Do not use these plants for compost!
Here are several websites that have useful information about plant pests,
My personal experience has taught me to do a little maintenance every day. This way it does not become overwhelming. I love to spend the end of my day in a garden quietly doing a few maintenance chores—maybe with a glass of wine?! Watching a sunset. Early morning is also a good time to spend in the garden, with a cup of tea or coffee, watching the world awake. I hope this information is useful to you.
“A GARDEN IS NOT MADE SITTING IN THE SHADE”