By Jane Milliman
Is your garden like a watched pot that never boils? If you’re frustrated with its performance, consider the things that can go wrong and how to fix them so you can enjoy a bountiful summer of delicious vegetables.
Planting the Wrong Crops for Your Region
Sure, we know not to plant tomatoes, peppers and the like before the soil warms up; however, some garden plants are just plain difficult to grow if you live in a cool northern area. Take melons, for instance. Some are bred specially for colder areas, but a lot of them simply don’t have time to mature between the last frost of fall and the first of spring. Check the days to maturity on every seed packet or plant label and make sure there will be enough time to harvest a crop. Visit Cornell’s “Vegetable Varieties for Gardeners” at Cornell.edu to get recommendations and ratings on specific crops from other home gardeners in your region.
Watering Tomatoes Inconsistently
One of the most popular plants to grow in your own backyard? Tasty tomatoes. Yet inconsistent watering can cause all sorts of problems for this veggie, including blossom end rot. This disease is caused by the plant’s inability to take up calcium, and that’s often because there isn’t enough water steadily available for the roots to absorb the water-soluble calcium. Tomatoes are thirsty buggers, so water them at the roots with a high-volume hose-end attachment like Gilmour’s Front Control Watering Wand. For a no-hassle way to water regularly, set your veggies up with a soaker hose on a timer and program it to water deeply twice a week.
Never water tomatoes with a sprinkler. If there are fungal spores on the soil around them, those spores can be carried in the bouncing water droplets to the leaves, infecting the plant. And if you see the lower leaves looking yellow, remove and toss them—not in the compost pile, but in the garbage. Take watering timing into consideration as well. Morning is ideal, as it gives the plants access to the water in the soil during their busy day of growing.
Watering too much can lead to problems for your vegetables, as excess water changes the texture of the soil and can drown the plants. This is why you won’t want to place a vegetable garden in a boggy area that collects water easily. If you’re growing in containers, make sure there is adequate drainage in the bottom of the pot. If you tend to be an over-nurturer, consider putting your watering system on a Gilmour Dual Outlet Electronic Timer to better control the length of your watering sessions. If your plant looks limp and wilted even though you’ve consistently watered it, you’ve probably given them too much—and if you have, your plants unfortunately cannot be revived. Instead, replace them and try again with a more careful watering schedule.
Good garden soil should be rich in humus and full of nutrients, which is key in giving your vegetable plants a healthy base. One of the best ways to improve soil is by adding organic matter. You can mulch with all kinds of materials—straw, for example, is excellent for vegetable gardens. Just make sure you apply it on a still day and water it well. Gilmour’s Elevated Sprinkler is perfect for this application, because it rains down on the straw without disturbing it. Keep it moist until it melds into a cohesive mass in your garden.
Barring a few exceptions (including lettuce, peas, potatoes, asparagus and broccoli), most vegetables can’t grow in an area with less than half a day of sun. If this sounds like it could be a problem, you may have to relocate the garden to another area of your yard. Before planting, keep an eye on various areas of your yard throughout the day to see which area gets the most sun. Need more sun but don’t want to dig up a new garden area? Try raised beds right on top of the soil, or containers. At my house, the only place tomatoes will grow is in a big pot on the back deck. If you do use containers, keep in mind that you should water more frequently during the week, but for a shorter duration.
With some smart watering and planting tips, your troubled vegetable garden can be saved—and thrive for months to come.
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