Read tips from our staff experts on the process, challenges, and the tricks you need to know to grow outstanding crops.
14 JUN 2015
Good soil preparation is the single most important thing you can do for your plants. Soil preparation can be a fun job, much like preparing the nursery for a new baby. You need to make sure that your plants get plenty of water on their roots, not on their foliage. One thing many people do not think about is the resources that are in the soil. Have your soil tested to see if it is good ground for growing. If it is not, you can either purchase topsoil, or you can improve your soil by mixing in compost early spring before you plant and fall after everything has died off. This may take several years, but eventually your soil will be good for any plant you want to grow.
Follow these steps when preparing your soil:
Most plants are content with 6 to 8 inches of good ground for their roots to grow in.
If you're planning to grow substantial root crops (potatoes, say, or carrots), go deeper still — up to a foot or more (yes, you can use a technique called hilling, where you mound up good soil around crops like potatoes, but this method doesn't excuse your making a shallow vegetable garden).
Fill 'er up.
Add lots and lots of organic matter! Try using compost, dehydrated cow manure, shredded leaves, well-rotted horse manure (call nearby stables), or a mixture. If your yard happens to be blessed with fertile soil, adding organic matter is less crucial, but most soils can stand the improvement. Mix it with the native soil, 50-50, or even more liberally.
Maybe your area's soil is notoriously acidic, or very sandy, or quite obviously lousy for plant growth. The good news is that organic matter can be like a magic bullet in that it helps improve whatever you add it to. You have to replenish the organic matter at the start of every growing season or maybe even more often. (If the soil stubbornly resists improvement, resort to setting raised beds atop it and filling these bottomless boxes with excellent, organically rich soil.)
8 JUN 2016
Watering can cause perfectly lovely people to become serial plant killers. They either water too little or too much. Many first-time gardeners or potted plant owners water plants more than necessary, believing that the more water the plant gets, the better. This is true for certain plants, but too much water can kill other plants. Water is the essence of life: everything living thing on this world needs to have some sort of water. In many cultures and stories over the centuries, water is the most basic symbol for life. Although there are some plants that you may decide to grow that do not need to be watered by you, most plants will have to have at least a little bit of watering.
Although most people know that over watering plants can kill them, many people do not know what level of watering they should do. Indoor plants of course will never receive any natural rain water, so you will have to water them by hand on a regular basis. Make sure you research how much water the plants you are growing need in order to avoid over watering them.
Outdoor plants must be treated very differently from indoor plants. When you first put your new plants in the ground, they will need a good watering. You should keep watering them for a few days to help the plants get the nutrients they need. After a few days of watering, however, you should leave them alone for the rest of the growing season. This is especially true for your bedding plants.
Many people do not realize how bad constant watering can be for your plants. If you give your plants too much water, or even give them a little too much over a long period of time, your plants will become lazy. If you do not let the plants struggle to find water on their own, they will never develop a good root system, and will never have what they need to survive over a long period of time. You could spend your time continually watering plants, which will help them survive, but it will not allow your plant to mature into a good, healthy plant.
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