“Gardening adds years to your life and life to your years.”
Whether you started your garden for homegrown produce (sweet, juicy, tomatoes picked right off the vine are pretty irresistible) or just as a hobby in your extra time (maybe you started during lockdown) you are one of the millions of Americans who attend to their personal gardens, small or large, across the U.S. But gardening is not always as easy as it seems; here are the secrets every gardener should know when growing to a lush and successful flower or vegetable garden.
Soil – Healthy and Wholesome
Planting in healthy soil is one of the best ways to have a truly spectacular garden.
Even if you’ve already planted for the year, it’s never too late to improve your soil by carefully adding a product (we recommend compost but more on that later) around your plant as the nutrients can sink into the soil. Make sure the consistency of your soil is correct according to instruction; you don’t want hard, compact soil or a very sandy consistency either.
Fertilizer – A few caveats
Fertilizer may come to mind when considering the best way to grow a healthy garden, but though fertilizer can be helpful, there are a few things when you consider whether or not to apply it to your garden.
Specifically, there are two possible issues with applying fertilizer to a vegetable or flower garden.
The first issue concerns a lack of water. Hot summer days can be the death of plants that aren’t well watered, and the last thing you want is for other sources to stunt a plant’s ability to access this water. Too much of any fertilizer can burn the roots of your plants, diminishing their ability to absorb water and at times even killing the plant.
The second problem with many types of fertilizers specifically impacts vegetable gardens. Nitrogen fertilizer especially can improve these plants in some ways, by making a large, lush, leafy vegetable plant, while unfortunately reducing the size of fruit and vegetables down the road. The plant may look very nice, but the harvest can be small. Fertilizer is definitely not all bad, it can provide necessary nourishment to your soil and give plants the specific nutrients they require, but these are problems to be aware of when considering your options in creating a healthy garden.
We are a compost company, but don’t take our word for it – gardeners such as Joe Lamp’l from Growing A Greener World affirm again and again that a great way to ensure wholesome and nutritious soil is to add compost.
Compost is decayed organic material that’s rich with many different kinds of nutrients that are absorbed by the plants.
Many people find the idea of composting at home an attractive one, but unless it’s done extremely carefully, at home composting can be a recipe for diseased plants.
Composting at home
Composting at home can be a good idea and is quite popular as an option for organic recycling that can help your garden at the same time. That being said, composting at home is unlikely to yield the amount of compost needed in a garden, and it also carries the danger of spreading plant diseases from infected plants thrown into the pile, to the healthy plants that would have otherwise been out of danger.
Cheap brands of compost can have similar problems, and buying quality compost to enrich your garden is the key.
For quality assurance, STA certified compost is the way to go.
The STA certification (standing for Seal of Testing Assurance program) is awarded by the US Composting Council, an organization dedicated to high-quality compost manufacturing.
Buying STA certified compost from your provider will ensure you have the quantity you need for the size of your garden as well as the high quality you need for healthy plants.
An STA certification provides buyers with the list of ingredients for their product, the results to any tests conducted on it, and a recommendation on the use of their compost. Back 2 Earth is proud to have reached this STA certification.
In general, experts recommended mixing compost into the natural soil or potting soil until the soil makeup is composed of roughly 20% compost.
Water – Do’s and Don’ts
Water is an integral part of a healthy garden, but believe it or not, watering is not as easy as simply spraying your garden with a hose every so often, there are several tactics that have been proven to be more effective.
There are several things to keep in mind to have a well-watered garden:
Do – Water consistently and often
Over-watering and under-watering plants are both a problem. An easy way to check if your plants need water is to push a finger into the soil to find out how deep the moisture goes. If the soil seems fairly dry, or only wet on the top, it’s a good idea to water the plants. If it’s deeply saturated with moisture then there’s no need to water for the time being.
Keep in mind, however, that water can evaporate quickly on hot days, especially for plants such as fruits and vegetables that need more water due to the water-filled fruits they’re growing. Consider watering these plants more often to prevent wilting and keep them healthy – enough water can make a large harvest much more likely.
Don’t – Water at the wrong times
Believe it or not, the time of day when you water can have a huge impact on how effective your watering is. The main objective is to avoid watering in the hotter parts of the day to keep it from evaporating instead of feeding the plants.
The best time to water is early in the morning so that the water can soak into the soil. This gives the plants a chance to absorb the water before it evaporates in the sun as it would later in the day. Later afternoon and evening are also good times to water.
Do – Use mulch
Mulch is highly recommended by experts for any garden. When it comes to watering, mulch helps lock the moisture into the soil, reducing the amount of water wasted through evaporation. Many different materials can serve as mulch: wood chips, shredded newspaper, pine needles, straw, store-bought, anything that can keep water from evaporating.
Don’t – Water the wrong way
A common mistake of watering is spraying your plants over the top with a hose. Unfortunately, this watering technique, though easy, is not ideal when trying to grow healthy plants. Instead of spraying plants from above with a hose, try spraying close to the ground, near the roots, and under the foliage.
Wetting the leaves of the plants just isn’t very helpful, as plants are not able to take in very much moisture through their leaves. At best, it’s a waste of water. At worst, watering foliage can multiply the risk of plant diseases. It also can foster diseases that thrive on damp vegetation and it increases the risk of many different types of diseases based on whatever plant you’re watering.
Sunlight – Perfect Placement
Though sunlight is an integral part of every plant’s growth, the fact is that some plants require more sun than others. For instance, the amount of sunlight tomatoes need (6-8 hours, otherwise known as full sun) is different from the amount of sun a carrot needs (they prefer partial sun). There are major differences between plants and too much or too little sun can be harmful while the right amount grows a healthy and robust plant.
Too Little or Too Much
The death of a plant from too little sun comes down to plant disease. Different plants are subject to different diseases and an incorrect amount of sun throws off the plant’s immune system.
Scorching will kill a shade plant if it is in the sun too long. These plants that thrive on only a few hours of sun a day will shrivel and dehydrate if they get too much sunlight. To be safe, check the recommendations for your plant and don’t go above them.
Knowing The Recommendations
In order to grow truly healthy plants, check the sunlight recommendations for them. When buying a plant, the plants will likely be tagged with the sunlight information so you know where it’s best to plant them in your garden. Otherwise, you can do a quick internet search for the information you need about your plants.
If you already planted but the plant seems to be suffering, it may be best to transplant it to a better spot with either more or less sunlight, especially if it seems likely to die in its current location. Just keep in mind it’s not ideal to transplant a more mature plant, especially if it’s flowering or producing fruit as the shock to the roots can damage or kill it. For safer transplanting make sure to dig a wide hole around the plant, wider than seems necessary so as not to disturb the roots which leads to transplant shock.
Though you may be new at gardening or even gardening for years, these few tips will help ensure that you grow a beautiful, healthy garden. With healthy soil enhanced by STA approved fertilizer, a good amount of water, and the right amount of sunlight – your plants will be ready to thrive!
Any questions about gardening? What’s the best gardening tip you’ve ever received? That’s what the comments are for! Please leave us a note!