Now that the growing season is fully underway, two of the most critical components of cultivating a successful home garden is: nutrition and pest management. There are many organic and natural options to promote healthy plant growth and flower/fruit production that are safe to use around adults, children and pets. Avoiding pesticides means that beneficial bacteria, worms, and other soil inhabitants thrive.
To ensure adequate plant hydration and preserve water resources, water in the morning, when it’s cooler; this way less water will be lost to evaporation. Watering in the evening leaves the plants wet overnight, which may promote fungus or mold growth. For most efficient watering, use a soaker hose to aim water at the roots.
Proper watering will support nutrient uptake. If you plant your garden in the same place year after year, it is likely that the soil will require supplemental fertilizing. Organic forms of fertilizer include pulverized oyster shells, manure, and compost. A well-balanced garden will only require one or two fertilizations each season, less if the garden soil is supplemented with rich compost. Many agricultural extension offices and universities with agriculture programs offer soil testing for pH and essential nutrients at no cost; there are also home testing kits available for purchase online.
To keep garden pests at bay, grow a variety of plants to limit the offerings for plant-specific problematic bugs, which will make the garden overall less attractive to them. Natural predators such as frogs, birds, and bats should be encouraged to help keep pests under control.
Chicken wire installed flush with the ground and secured with garden staples will keep out larger pests such as rabbits, which love young green sprouts and tender new leaves. Be sure to seal off any gaps beneath fencing or between sections of your garden with logs or other solid materials that will not harm any curious creatures but will ensure they stay out. Sprays and oils that contain scents such as cinnamon, peppermint, and garlic are especially effective at deterring squirrels, chipmunks, and rabbits. These smells are pleasant to humans and harmless to animals. Be sure to reapply after heavy rains to maintain effectiveness.
With a bit of planning and maintenance, you can be assured that your garden will be healthy and prolific all season long.