I’ve seen posts from people new in the gardening life on Mastodon recently, maybe because of the lockdowns but, some seem to be stressing over some simple things or having to rely a lot on infomation to grow the vegtables. I wanted to clear the air of some the knowlege that floats around, confusing new gardeners.
Take this with a grain of salt, these are just my personal tips from years of growing a garden.
First up, soil is soil. You don’t have to run to Lowes or Home depot to buy the most exspensive potting soil for your mini garden or raised beds. You could dig up dirt from just about anywhere and grow something in it with the right nutrients. That being said there are some warnings that will contridict my previous statement. Soil from side of the road is a no go, it contains the oils from the road. Also, you need a healthly layer or top soil, but, don’t fret you can get this free from just about anywhere, even the woods. Black soil tends to be a sign of a healthy top soil and grows best, but in reality you can grab some dirt from your back yard, from someone digging out a pool, or from a farmers store. Just don’t waste your money on the most expensive bag.
As I said soil is soil, you will most likely need fertilizer to help grow some healthy plants. You can buy some cheap bags from a local farmer’s co-op or farmer’s store for this. Each plant requires something a little different, so be sure to search the Internet or ask a local gardener on the amounts and of which fertilizer your plant needs. Corn for example, takes more nitrogen than some other common crops. I usually use a bag of triple 13 at most for this. Those burnt ashes from your fire pit (for family smore/marshmellow roasting nights) will work as well in addition to the fertilizer. Remember, do NOT place a lot of fertilizer around the plant, it will “burn up” the roots, causing it to die, small amounts goes a long ways. Also, sprinkly the fertilizer around and away from the base of the plant, not directly next to the base.
Wood structures for raised beds can be made out of pretty much anything. I recommend cedar. Sometimes you can find dog eared cedar fence boards for cheap. You could cut the ears off to square the boards. Another note, try to use woods that are untreated unless you really needs treated, for example, the framing of a raised bed. You could always cover the treated boards with some type of landscapers fabric. My reasoning behind this is treated boards (really depends on the treatment and method) tend to leech the chemicals into the surrounding soil, possibly stressing the plant. Some plants may not be bothered by this, others maybe so. Hence, I use cedar mostly or bamboo.
Pests can cause issues as well. Keep a check on the looks of the plant to help identify stress and maybe what could be causing the stress. Grub worms, ants, yes ants, army worms, catapillers, etc can stress a plant causing it to not produce or to die. 7dust tends to work pretty well at keeping away pesky creatures.
Drainage of soil is always has a big impact on the health of a plant. Some plants like their “feet” wet and others do not. This information can be found online or by visiting a farmer’s co-op for advice. Usually you shouldn’t have to worry though, the soil will normally drain well enough to keep most plants happy. It’s the amount of watering that makes the big differnce on plants that like to keep their roots wet. Simpley water the plant more for those types.
I recommend bark for small flower beds and gardens to help retain soil moisture on hot, dry days. Especially depending on where you live, it can help keep the plant alive. Or if it’s a bigger garden just simply hoe it with a garden hoe or weed it by hand to keep the weeds at bay.
Water the base of the plant, not the leaves. Whatever you do, do not water the plants during the hot parts of the day or late at night! During the day the water will focus the sun on the leaves causing it burn the leaves, thus stressing the plant. Watering at night where the plant will not be able to dry, can cause the plant to develop a diease or allow some fungi to grow on it. With that being said, do not touch the plants or handle them a lot when they are wet. Especially if you are a user of dry tobacco or dip. The chemicals from your hands can stress the plants and you can transfer spores or dieases from your hands to the plants. Same goes for gardening tools, once a while clean those tools to help prevent spreading of unwanted nasty to healthly plants.
Seeds can be tricky, I personally by my seeds or plants from local farmer’s markets/stores, nurseries, or farmer’s co-op as they tend to have higher quality seeds for much cheaper than a bigger box store. And the plants tend to be in better, more natural healthy state instead of the always watered with miracal grow mixture that Lowes Hardware, Walmart, etc tend to use.
It’s all a trail and error and what works for you, just remember gardening doesn’t have just a “right way only” and doesn’t have to cost an arm and leg to get into. Lastly, enjoy your plants and their gifts they bear! It’s all about relaxing, growing your own vegtables, fruits, or an array of colorful flowers for your enjoyment!
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