Summer is here, and for many, the struggle begins to keep their vegetable garden healthy, productive, and well-maintained throughout the hot summer months.
Gardening in the summer can certainly be a challenge. Weeds can overtake your garden in the blink of an eye. And, it seems as with each passing day, a new insect or disease arrives to take it’s toll on plants as well.
It’s enough to make many give in and let the garden go. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, it’s easier than you might ever think! Here are 5 simple tips to help keep your vegetable garden healthy, and your plants productive well into September.
5 Simple Tips To Keep Your Garden Healthy, Productive And Beautiful
#1 Spend Five to Ten Minutes A Day, Every Day In Your Garden
The absolute biggest garden tip of all is to walk and work your garden a little every day. Not only does it keep everything manageable and neat, but it cuts your overall workload to a mere trickle. (See our video garden update later in the article)
Spending 5 to 10 minutes each day is simply not the same as 35 to 60 minutes once a week. It may work out to the same time, but not the same results!
If you let your garden space go for days at a time, small weeds will turn into a jungle. Even more, a few damaged or blighted limbs can turn into a dead plant in short fashion.
#2 Remove Damage / Diseased Plants Quickly
As you walk your garden daily, always remove any plant material that has been damaged by pests, disease, strong winds or storms.
Disease and pest-damaged limbs and foliage put a great amount of stress on plants. They can weaken a plant’s structure, and make them an easy target for a pest or disease infestation.
They also direct a plant’s energy towards healing the damage, and not towards producing more vegetables.
#3 Pick Vegetables Early & Often
One of the best things you can do to keep your garden productive and healthy is to pick often.
Many vegetable plants, such as tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers stop producing new blooms when the plant becomes overloaded with ripening produce. And no new blooms means no more vegetables.
Picking regularly also helps to keep pests at bay and leads to a healthier garden. Soft, over-ripe vegetables and fruit are a magnet and breeding ground for pests and animals.
#4 Stop Tilling Between Your Growing Row
Summertime tilling between rows is not only time-consuming, but detrimental to your garden.
Although it may seem like a great way to eliminate weeds, frequent tilling of the garden is hard on your soil and your plants. Even more, it actually causes way more weeds than it ever eliminates! (See : 2 Reasons Not To Use A Rototiller)
Bare soil results in moisture loss, and allows for new weed seeds to blow in and take hold. And every time you till, you re-plant more weeds seeds that were sitting dormant on the surface. As you can see in the video garden tour below, keeping the soil covered really does work to keep weeds out.
A Tour Of Our No-Till Garden In Mid-June
Believe it or not, hoeing plants has the same effect too. Every time you disturb the soil, you create more weeds and issues down the road. So what is the answer to a low-maintenance, weed-free healthy garden? It all starts with the very next tip!
Instead of tilling, mulch! Start by placing down a heavy mulch of shredded leaves, straw or natural shredded bark in your walking rows. This will help to keep weeds out permanently, and the soil structure in tact.
And the same mulching magic work right around plants as well. We use a heavy 2 to 3″ layer of compost, grass clippings, and straw around each of our plants. It helps keep weeds out, moisture in, and the compost provides a bit of fertilizer too as it leaches into the soil.
The best part of all, it eliminates all of those tilling and hoeing chores! Here is to a healthy, productive vegetable garden – all summer long!
Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary.
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