family garden

The air is just beginning to warm and the gardeners among us are hearing the call of the outdoors. This is the season to plan for the days ahead, before temperatures climb and it’s time for full-on garden glory. Here are 6 tips to keeping an organic garden productive, plentiful, and picturesque all season long. –

1.  Attend to infrastructure. Now, while your beds are mostly bare, pay attention to the bones of your garden.

·       Build or repair raised beds, fences, and walkways.

·       Add easy-to-reach, protected spots to stash your tools. A classy mailbox by the garden gate can hold hand tools. A sturdy wooden crate stores larger implements and doubles as a rustic garden bench.

·       Find creative ways to match form with function,like Chanticleer Garden, featured in the April/May issue of Organic Gardening magazine, where built-in window boxes near the tops of tall walls to allow vining plants to hang down in trailing swags.

 

2.  Make a plan. Don’t waste time later trying to decide whether it’s too late to plant your favorite flowers. Now, while you’re itching to feel the sun on your face, spend time planning. Set up a planting schedule.  Enjoy a little productive daydreaming,visualize what you’ll plant where and when. In vegetable plots, plan to plant shorter plants to the south and tall plants to the north to avoid unwanted shade. In ornamental gardens, plan to plant trees and shrubs first so you know where shade will fall.

3.  Get creative with water. For organic gardens, water can be a valuable medium for carrying natural nutrient boosters. As you start planting in the early spring, try these:

·       Use cooking water. After you boil pasta or vegetables, the leftover water is full of nutrients and vitamins. Don’t pour it down the drain; add it to a watering can instead.

·       Make compost tea. Steeping compost in water and then applying it to leaves or soil can give your organic plants a healthy boost.

·       Water with chamomile tea. Ward off infections (both bacterial and fungal) and prevent baby seedlings from damping off by using cooled tea when you water.

·       Use soaker hoses and sprinklers to minimize the time you spend actively working on watering. Use hose reels to keep hoses stowed out of the way but ready to go.

4.  Compost constantly. Compost is a renewable resource that acts as mulch and fertilizer at once. Food scraps, egg shells, grass clippings, leaves, and weeds can all be converted to this sustainable black gold. If you have chickens or other animals, their waste can be added to compost bins as well. Just make sure the compost has plenty of time to break down before you spread it on the garden, to avoid burning plants just as you can with a high-nitrogen fertilizer. The early season is the best time to get started.

5.  Learn the magic of mulch.  Mulch will keep down weeds, protect plants from temperature change, provide nutrients, and keep the soil moist. Wood chips, cotton hulls, straw, compost, and newspaper are all easy-to-procure mulching options. A layer of newspaper and straw on the walkways between your beds in the spring will keep your pathways neat all season and become dark, crumbly compost by fall that you can tip into your beds quickly and easily.

6.  Know your critter deterrents. Manage invading insects and herbivores without harsh chemicals.

·       Erect chicken wire at least two feet high and bury it a foot deep to deter rabbits.

·       Add in a bird feeder or two to attract birds that will eat your aphids and other buggy pests.

·       Introduce or encourage beneficial insects such as lady bugs and praying mantises that eat or otherwise outcompete pests like aphids or squash bugs.

·       Plant aromatic herbs. Companion planting with herbs can deter certain problem insects. Basil deflects mosquitoes and flies, spearmint repels ants and aphids, and rosemary inhibits some moths and beetles.

·       Use insecticidal soap or diatomaceous earth as last-ditch organic insecticides.

Early spring is the time to make additions, changes, and upgrades, so you have everything you need to baby your new plants as the weather warms. Take the time to lay the groundwork and do your planning now. You’ll know what to do and when your biggest planting rush will happen, so you can make the best use of your time when it comes.

 

Greta Jenkins

Greta Jenkins

Greta Jenkins has been writing for Families Online Magazine since 2004. She is a mom, nurse andcommunity volunteer.
Greta Jenkins
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