Your Gardening Enjoyment
by CR Lawn
I have found the following to be most important
to gardening success:
Make your own compost. You don’t have to
be an expert to make perfect plant food. Even if you know nothing
about carbon-nitrogen ratios, and turn your pile(s) only once a
year, you can make great compost by piling varied organic matter
in thin layers. It’s amazing what compost can do for your
plants. In June, 1989, when it was too wet anywhere in my garden
to set out my tomato plants, I spread a 6-inch layer of compost
over a small area, and set them right in it. Those plants were the
healthiest and most prolific I’d ever grown. Carrots and onions
also respond spectacularly to the same treatment.
Overcrowding plants is a common cause of failure.
Thin, thin, thin! Throw away those books that tell you to plant
broccoli 16 inches apart. You will get spindly plants with puny
heads if you space them that closely. An apprentice at my farm once
planted sweet corn seed too deep. The resulting stand was about
one half as dense as I would have liked, but the roomy plants ripened
better than three full-sized ears apiece! Joann and Gene have encouraged
me to thin everything from sweet basil to bachelor’s buttons,
bush beans to senposai, with great results. The surviving plants
quickly become healthy, robust and productive! To get maximum benefits,
start thinning early when your plants are small.
Get the jump on the weeds. That first cultivation
when your plants are just emerging is the most important one. Time
invested in weed control early in the season pays ninefold dividends
in saving backbreaking labor later. Many crops such as onions and
carrots have no chance in a weedy patch.
Work with the weather, not against it. Pulling
weeds out of soft moist soil when the sun first comes out after
a rain is so much more rewarding than trying to tug them out of
dry, baked soil. Your soil and plants can teach you the optimal
times to sow, cultivate, mulch and harvest. Learn to be an amateur
weather prognosticator by studying clouds, wind direction, temperatures,
the moon, and your barometer. It will make you a better gardener,
and besides, it is fascinating. When you get good at it, you will
not only be able to laugh at errant television weather “experts,”
but you will also be able to get away with a high percentage of
what look to outsiders to be garden gambles, but really aren’t!
Feed your soil. Heavy cropping takes an enormous
toll on soil nutrients, which must be replaced if your plot is to
maintain fertility. We apply animal manures, compost, and spoiled
hay in liberal quantities to ensure optimal growth. If your squashes,
greens, sweet corn and brassicas don’t develop deep rich foliage
color, they need more nitrogen. If their foliage is streaked with
purple, your plants aren’t getting enough phosphorus.
Plants need abundant water, particularly early
in their growth cycle. Even in my boggy spot, I have had to water
in recent years.