Best garden practices to increase your chances for a successful garden

You finally started a garden this year! Don't let all that effort to plan and prep your garden go to waste. Getting a garden in the ground is one thing. But what about maintenance? We've put together a short list of best garden practices and some tips that will help you to keep your garden beautiful and productive. From spacing to watering, fertilizing, to crop rotation, it briefly touches on the most important topics so you can better care for your garden in the seasons to come.
Give your plants some space
Don't be afraid to thin out your seedlings. It's tempting to want to leave them all, but you'll encourage larger and healthy plants by giving them the space they need. On the same token, don't leave too much room in between you plants. Look into your plants' typical sizes at maturity and space accordingly. Allowing your garden to fill in will help to minimize weeds.
Advertisement
Water when needed
It's not the best idea to water your garden on a set schedule. The best way to water is to check your soil and water when the top 2 to 3 inches are dry (but you still feel moisture below that). Water in the morning, and water deeply. And be aware of your plants' needs. For instance, tomatoes get stressed when they go from dry to wet and back again, so consistent moisture encourages the best fruit. A few helpful tips are: Use a rain gauge to keep track of weather patterns, water directly around the plant's root zone to minimize evaporation, and for large gardens look into using a soaker hose, which minimizes runoff and allows for a slow, deep watering.
Fertilize
The best practice for feeding your plants is to feed your soil. Ideally, apply a 2 to 3 inch layer of fresh, organic compost at the time of planting and gently mix with the top few inches of existing soil. Do this yearly to start building your soil naturally over time. Mulching with compost is also helpful, and if you've already planted, this is a good option. For heavy feeders, like broccoli, spinach, and Brussel sprouts, try compost tea or an organic fertilizer every few weeks or so throughout the season. There are some great homemade options out there, like this one formulated by Steve Solomon, writer for Mother Earth Living:
Mix uniformly:
4 parts seed meal
1/4 part ordinary agricultural lime, best finely ground
1/2 part agricultural lime (or 1/4 part gypsum)
1/2 part dolomitic lime
Add for best results:
1 part bone meal or rock phosphate
1/2 to 1 part kelp meal (or 1 part basalt dust)
It's a good idea to test your soil when getting started and every few years or so after that. Adding too much fertilizer can do more harm than good, so checking your soil's nutrient and pH profile now and again is a good way to ensure a healthy soil profile.
Rodale's Organic Life
Mulch
Mulch makes a big difference. It helps to retain moisture, regulate soil temperature, reduce weeds, and if using an organic mulch, it adds organic matter to the soil. Mulch when seedlings are a few inches tall, adding anywhere from 2 to 6 inches of material. Some gardeners swear by deep mulching methods and mulching year round, so it may be something to look into. Over the years you'll figure out a method you love. In the mean time, save your grass clippings and pine needles, as both make great organic mulches. However, you'll want to go a little lighter on the grass clippings, adding a couple of inches at a time throughout the season. Grass clippings have a tendency to mat together if too thick, but they break down pretty quickly. A couple of other helpful tips: Keep the mulch thinner around the base of the plant so as not to smother it or cause moisture to rot out the stem, and mulch paths heavily, maybe even lining them with cardboard first to prevent weeds. The last thing you want to use your precious time in the garden for is weeding pathways.
Keep it clean
Pruning plants can make a big difference in productivity and general garden health. It allows for better airflow and it also allows for plants to put more energy into the desired areas, whether that means flowers, fruits, roots, or leaves. Raspberries and tomatoes are great examples of plants that benefit from pruning. You'll also want to make sure to clean any dead, infected, or insect-infested plant material out of your garden on a regular basis. This is the number one maintenance method to keep damage to a minimum. However, be sure to destroy infected plant material. You don't want any pests or diseases overwintering in your compost.
Keep it moving
To the best of your ability, put your plants on a crop rotation schedule based on plant family. The reason is most plants that are related, like tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and potatoes, often have similar nutrient needs and are the hosts to similar pests. So planting them in the same spot year after year, or one after the other, depletes soil nutrients faster and simultaneously encourages pests and diseases to stick around. So, even if you have a small garden try your best to rotate your crops. Here's one suggestion: Corn and tomatoes are heavy nitrogen feeders, so follow them up with a legume, like beans, which returns nitrogen to the soil.
Advertisement
Pull weeds
Planting a full garden and mulching well will help to minimize weeds. But inevitably, they'll pop up. The key is to keep up on weeding. Whenever you stroll past your garden, pick a weed or two. When weeds get out of control they steal nutrients from the soil and harbor additional pests and diseases. A few more words of advice are: Weed when the soil is moist, get as much of plant's root as possible, and don't let weeds go to seed.
Share on Facebook

The ultimate list!
September 20   ·  
Advertisement
September 19   ·  
We've rounded up some practical, organic, and frugal solutions to help get rid of common pests, including four-legged ones, or diseases that might be affecting your garden.
September 18   ·  
 
Recommended
Advertisement