NEVAJAG Garden Maintenance, Planning and Soil Management

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Are your vegetables yielding as well as you expected? If the answer to the question is anything but “Yes”, then perhaps it would pay you to stop and try to determine why your garden didn’t perform as it was expected to.

Of course, there may be many reasons. I suppose you might conclude that it was too dry this year – at least for parts of the growing season in some areas. Perhaps insects and disease went unchecked and thus reduced a potentially good yield. Maybe you didn’t put on enough fertilizer or nitrogen side dressings – or maybe you put on too much fertilizer. Did the weeds compete too much with the vegetables?

Good gardens are the result of:

  • Careful planning.
  • Continuous maintenance.
  • 400;”>Good soil management.
  • Insect and disease control.
  • Irrigation, and reasonable cooperation from the elements.

Were you lacking in any of these essentials for a good garden? If you are honest with yourself I think you can readily find where you were having difficulty.

It’s an undeniable truth that there is work attached to gardening. You don’t have often heard that you get out of something just what you put into it. But you have also heard of the expression, there’s an easy way of doing things and a hard way. So why not garden the hard way? And the easy way is to grow our needs in as small a space as possible. This calls for top-notch yields of all vegetables.

To get top-notch yields, select the best varieties, have soil in good physical and chemical conditions. Provide an even soil moisture level, keep down weeds, and control insects and diseases. If you religiously follow these basic steps and get reasonable cooperation from the weather, your garden will be a huge success and your efforts will be amply rewarded.

Garden Maintenance, Planning and Soil Management
Garden Maintenance, Planning and Soil Management

Something to think about right now to help improve the physical condition of your soil. Plant roots thrive on three things: air, water, and minerals. These must be in proper balance or root growth suffers. A loose, friable soil can provide all three. However, a tight, compact, hard soil may not let air, water, and to a certain extent, minerals, penetrate to the regions of active root growth. If this is your problem organic matter is your answer.

Some gardeners have been relying a little too much on mixed fertilizers to feed their vegetables. And this is only natural because it is easy to use. But they may have neglected the organic matter content of their soils to where water and air are limiting. Then, no matter how much mixed fertilizer they use, they get a poor response. Actually, the secret of maintaining the organic matter content of garden soils is to add a little each year. Try to maintain an organic matter level of around three percent. Organic content can be determined by soil test.

How do you get organic matter into soils? The old reliable barnyard manure is one good way. It’s getting scarce, however, when applying manure, put it on before you fall plow the garden. The chief disadvantage of barnyard manure is the host of weed seeds that you introduce into your garden. Leaf mold, compost, and sawdust also are good organic matter additions. Don’t use too much sawdust, though! Not because it will make your soil acid, but because it tends to tie up the nitrogen in your soil. As a result your plants don’t get enough nitrogen.

If you have a rototiller available for turning under your soil, a crop of rye will do a good job of adding organic matter to your soil. Plant the rye anytime from September 1 until the middle of September. It will make good growth in fall, and resume growth next spring. When it is about knee high next spring, turn it under. Add a little nitrogen to the rye before turning it under.

Then wait about three weeks before planting. Do not seed rye in the area this fall where you intend to plant your early garden next year – peas, potatoes, onions, lettuce, etc., instead, rotate your early and summer gardens. This will give you a rye green manure crop on half of your garden each year and will adequately maintain the organic matter content of your soil.

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