GROW YOUR OWN FOOD GUIDE - 17
Welcome Back! 🤠
If you’ve been following along and your weather is permitting, you hopefully have a nice garden going now. This has really been fun putting all the steps down in writing here on substack. I’ve learned so much over these past few months and I hope you have too!
I want to take a moment and sincerely say how thankful I am for every one of you. It’s unbelievable how many subscribers are here with me now. You guys keep me growing and learning. I promise I’ll do everything I can to keep new, useful information coming every week.
Sometimes the articles may seem rushed or may not be worded perfectly, but just know, I’m really trying hard to bring you my best every single week. I’m also trying to balance free articles and also provide alpha to the paid subscibers. Please forgive me if you are turned off by a paid article. I’m trying to think of a way to provide a good experience for both paid and free subscribers while also being able to get all my chores around the farm done, lol!
Anyways, please know that I appreciate each and every one of you, and I mean it.
Even with me telling you good gardening tips and procedures, I still do stupid stuff! For instance when I planted my garden I used plastic crop markers and when I wrote the name of the plants on them, I used a WASHABLE MARKER! So now I have white plastic plant markers everywhere in my garden, can’t read a damn one of them!!! 🤣
I’m telling you this, because, I want you to know, it’s ok if everything isn’t perfect. Gardening is not ever really going to be perfect. You’re gonna have some weeds, you’re gonna have some bugs, it’s just part of this fallen world we live on. Try to make it enjoyable and don’t stress about it, kinda like life in general.
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Garden Maintenance 🌱
Now that we have our garden planted we can relax just a little bit while we wait for the seeds to sprout and grow. However, we can’t relax too much, because now our focus is on MAINTENANCE. In order to keep your garden going and harvest food, we need to become versed in the various aspects of garden maintenance.
Here are the top garden maintenance areas we’ll cover:
Watering your garden is extremely important. If you planted seedlings, they need to be watered daily for the first two weeks. Freshly planted seeds can probably get by every other day after a heavy watering the first two days.
You will eventually be able to tell by looking at your plants and soil if your garden needs to be watered. If you are new and unsure, simply stick a finger down in the soil right next to a plant and if the soil is moist just under the surface, it’s probably fine to wait another day.
With raised beds you need to be careful of overwatering. Depending on how your beds are built, it’s possible that the beds don’t drain well. So you must check the underlying soil moisture content to make sure it actually needs water. A raised bed that holds water can be a problem because it will create a wet, soggy soil condition that can rot your roots and attract pests.
Keep an eye on your garden daily to make sure there aren’t any issues and fix them promptly. Wilted plants probably need water, if they are wilting and the soil is moist, it could be that the soil is too soggy.
If you have raised beds that are holding water, you can drill some holes at the bottom of the beds with a large drill bit depending on how you built the bed. If you can’t drill holes, you may be able to dig up under the sides in a few places to allow for proper draining.
In ground gardens should drain fairly quickly. If you see standing water in your garden area after a rain, those plants might not do very well, keep an eye on them and see if they are struggling, and if you can, move them to a better draining area of your garden.
If you had a day of rain, then obviously you wont need to water it. Once your plants have been growing for about 2-3 weeks, it’s usually safe to water them every other day, unless it rains. If it rains, just wait a day or two after the rain and water them.
There is obviously so much more to the watering section. Later on, we can get into automatic watering systems, running underground plumbing to your garden, sprinkler systems, and much much more. If you are capable of adding automatic waterers to your garden, by all means, have at it. I would caution, that this is not a way to disregard your garden area, lol. You will still need to visit your garden daily to make sure everything is working properly and maintain your crops accordingly.
Old farmer still does things the old fashioned way with a hose and a wand sprayer. It’s kind of a hassle, but it’s also relaxing to go out in the sun and water my garden. You can’t rush it, it’s just you, your thoughts, and your crops!
A sprinkler is helpful when you don’t have time to water your garden. Depending on the size of your area, you can get a way with a normal garden sprinkler and move it around the garden. Later, when your plants get taller you may need a sprinkler with a stand or some way to get it up off of the ground.
Culling is usually something you need to do for newly planted seeds. If you are like me, I overplant my garden with seeds. In some areas I have 4-5 seeds sprouting in less than a 6 inch space. This is because I want lots of seeds sprouting just in case one of the seeds was a “dud”. After they grow up to 5-6 inches tall, I’ll pick the strongest looking seedling and pull up the weak ones around it. The goal is to have evenly spaced, strong seedlings every 12-16 inches along your rows.
You can replant these culled seedlings if you pull them up gently without damaging the roots in another location of your garden if you want. You must plant them right away and keep them watered daily for a few days for them to make it.
Plants that are sprouting too close together may damage the root system when you try to pull them up. If it looks like the seedling you are trying to keep will be disturbed when you pull up the weaker ones around it, you can use scissors and snip the weak seedlings at ground level so that the roots aren’t disturbed on the good seedling.
Pruning is needed in some cases for certain crops later in the growing season. Tomatoes will grow wild and crazy if you let them. It’s good to cut some of the branches off at the main trunk in order to allow good air flow. Other crops like okra can be pruned at the base of the stems after you harvest the fruit. Cucurbits may need to be trimmed back if they start to grow too wild.
We’ll cover pruning in detail later.
Pest Control 🐛
Pest control is a hot topic for backyard gardening. The whole point of growing your own produce is to reduce the amount of chemicals ending up on your dinner plate. I covered natural pest control methods in a previous post. The fact of the matter is pests are going to be a problem no matter how robust your gardening methods are, all we can do is try to put as many preventative measures in place and take action quickly.
There are several chemical free and organic solutions you can use for various pest problems. At the end of the day, the best method is to try to grow more than one of each crop and try to get as much produce as you can before the pests take over.
Its very frustrating seeing pests on your tomatoes like stink bugs. They are a huge problem where I live and I’ve tried just about every organic method to keep them off of my fruit. Honestly, the only thing I have found to actually work for stink bugs is liquid sevindust. I don’t use it anymore, but in the past I’ve used the liquid version and it does not affect honey bees. However, it is a chemical and it probably shouldn’t be applied to your garden vegetables.
I visited a successful organic gardener and asked him what he does about stink bugs and he didn’t really have an answer. He told me he flicks them off of his plants as soon as he sees them. Now obviously this won’t prevent an infestation of stink bugs and it won’t solve the problem. But the moral of the story is even the best gardeners have pest issues. If you’re in your garden daily, you can see the pests and remove them as soon as possible. Or you can try some of the organic methods in my prior post.
Usually you can use a water hose to spray the bugs off of your plants, I know this sounds stupid, but if you do it daily, it can help.
Weed Control 🥀
Weeds are the next issue that you must stay on top of. Weeds left unchecked will take over your garden and make it difficult to walk in, harvest, and can actually attract more pests. Young plants have a difficult time competing with weeds for water, nutrients, and sunlight.
Raised beds that were set up properly with good soil shouldn’t have too many weeds since the soil shouldn’t have any seeds in it. If you see weeds popping up in your raised bed pull them up immediately. Make a habit of cleaning up weeds in your raised bed as you water it.
For in ground gardens, weeds are going to be a big problem since the soil is jam packed with seeds from all types of weeds and grass from years ago. You have a few options here. The best thing to do is pull up the weeds that are coming up close to your seedlings as soon as possible. Since you have small seedlings that you don’t want to disturb, you can’t really use a hoe yet because you risk damaging the young plants.
It’s a good habit to start pulling weeds as you can as you water your garden. The small weeds are easy to pull when they are young right after a good watering of the soil. Once your plants are 6-7 inches tall you can put mulch, cardbord, or straw down around them to help keep the weeds in check.
If you don’t want to put something down around the plants to control the weeds, you will need to use a hoe to weed around the small plants. This should be done at least weekly. A wheel hoe is a huge time saver with weeds in between your rows, you can buy one here at Hoss Tools.
If you have a small tractor, there is a tool called a cultivator which drags tines on each side of your plants and scrapes all of the weeds out of the soil.
The only other option you have is to try to run a tiller in between your rows to clean them up.
Crop Care 🍅
Many crops you’re probably interested in require supports or trellis. Tomatoes need something to lean on so they don’t fall over or break their branches from the weight of the fruit. Tomato cages can be purchased or made by hand. I use goat fencing wrapped in a circle. Put the cage over the tomato plant and stick it into the ground. You can use a t post to support them as well.
Below is an example of the tomato cages I make with goat fencing and a T post. The plant in the picture is not a tomato, but it’s the same idea here. One note, is to use fencing with bigger holes than shown in the picture! I couldn’t fit my hands through the holes to harvest the tomatoes that year! 🤣
Trellis has been covered in a previous post. You still have a few weeks before your plants will be big enough to need a trellis. Use this extra time to get decide on how you will build your trellis and get to work on it asap.
This is the easiest way to build trellis in my opinion. Buy a section of “hog panel”. Put two t-posts in the ground and attach the hog panel to the t posts directly above your plants.
Here is a picture of a hog panel, they can be purchased at any animal supply store.
T Posts are available there too.
Great Gift Idea 🎁
I want to share this awesome gift idea for mother’s day. It’s a click and grow for your kitchen counter top, or anywhere in your home. This is a cool way to easily grow plants indoors and would make a great conversation piece!
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Here is a video demonstration on how it works:
Well that covers just about all of the garden maintenance you need to have a good harvest this season. I hope you guys have a bountiful harvest this year.
This sums up the grow your own food guide. I’ll come back in a few weeks and cover garden harvesting and food storage. The next guide series is going to be on building Fences.
We’ll cover that soon, in the meantime, don’t hesitate to ask questions or give me suggestions for what you want to talk about!
See ya’ll next time.