Photo Source Simon Howden
Organic gardening can be very satisfying. Or it can be a nightmare and make a person feel like a total failure with the blackest of black thumbs.
There is nothing worse then working hard to grow a row of vegetables or a container garden then to watch it fail miserably because of pests or disease.
But even the seasoned gardener has problems some years. The weather plays a major factor. Too much sun and your scampering around with the hose or a watering can trying to get those droopy plants to stand back up.
Too much rain and your battling the likes of sooty mold, fungus or mildew along with the pests that will flock to your garden.
Once your plants are stressed every tiny pest in the neighborhood has heard the dinner bell ring and they are chowing down on your plants and leaving you scratching your head wondering what went wrong.
Gardening in it’s self can be difficult if you are just starting out. I’ve been gardening for twenty years or more. My garden has ranged from a huge plot to a few containers that I have now.
Gardening is not something I like to do but something I HAVE to do. It’s in my blood. If I don’t have something growing, even if they are just house plants something is missing from my life.
I started organic gardening before it was cool. I was the only kid on the block that was doing it and I didn’t care. Even back then before everyone was on the internet and could read the thousands of blogs and news reports on how bad chemicals are in and on our food source I knew.
There are many things one needs to learn when they attempt to garden. Take it slow and learn as you go.
- Know your zone
- Plant during the correct planting season
- Plant healthy seedlings or plants
- Properly space plants
- Fertilize correctly
- Water correctly
- Closely check your plants daily. Look at the bottom of leaves for insects.
- Properly ID pests
- Treat at first sign of pest or disease.
- Properly dispose of infested or disease plant material
1. Know your zone. Check the link above and find out what planting zone you live in if you don’t already know. Plants need the proper climate to thrive in. I’m in Florida and there are many plants that I will never be able to grow because I live in a tropical climate.
I am in zone 9B where it is hot, humid and wet the majority of the year. Now that may sound like fun tropical vacation for those of you who live above the Mason Dixie line but hot, wet and humid makes for a perfect breeding ground for many plant diseases most of you up north have never had to deal with.
When purchasing seeds or starter plants read the information on the proper planting zone and harvest dates. Planting at the proper time is also very important. If you live in an area where your first frost may be in late August and you planted cucumber plants that take 80 day’s to maturity and you planted them in the middle of July odds are that your first frost is going to kill or damage the unripened fruit and you will not be able to harvest your cukes.
2. Plant during the correct planting season. For me lettuce is a fall vegetable. It bolts once the temperatures start getting hot. We had a few days during the end of March and beginning of April where it hit in the 90′s this year. My lettuce has started to set seeds. I should have picked it already but by then I decided to harvest some seeds from the plants.
Tomato plants will not develop fruit once the night time temps start hitting 90+ . You may not have that issue where you live but here in S.W Florida it happens around the beginning of July and sometimes earlier. Many gardeners plant tomatoes during the winter growing season here. There are tomato varieties that have been bred to set fruit with the higher temperatures. I like growing heirlooms and most of them can not tolerate the high temps.
Excuse me…………… Okay I am back. I had to go plant a couple of heirloom tomato plants. Black Krum, Zebra Strips and a Yellow Delicious.
3. If you start out with struggling seedlings or leggy starter plants you can expect problems. Healthy plants can survive transplanting much better. Start seeds under the proper lighting if you live where you must start them in doors. Make sure starter plants are not getting root bound or leggy before replanting.
4. Properly space planst in your rows according to the information on the seed pack or plant stick you’ll find with starter plants.
5. Fertilize correctly. Read as much info on the varieties you are planting. You will often see heavy feeder listed. These plants will need to be fertilized more frequently. If you compost prepare a compost tea and use it to supliment your heavier feedings. A correctly fertilized plant will grow better, give you more fruit, be able to sustain an attach of pests better.
6. Water correctly. Plant plants with the same watering needs in the same row. When planting in containers this doesn’t matter but if you are planting in rows or beds pay attention to the watering needs of the individual varieties.
7. Check your plants daily. Walk your garden and randomly look underneath the leaves. Some pests like aphids and white flies hang out on the bottom of the leaves. Gently brush the plants as you walk by them. If you see a cloud of white flies your plants have been infested with white flies. Even if you just see one or two insects fly away from the plant closer inspection is needed.
8. Properly ID pests once you see them. If you do not own a book of pests that are in your area I suggest you get one. You don’t want to bring your laptop or ipad out into the garden where they may get damaged. ( LOL this was never a problem for me when I started gardening.)
Many local extension office sell laminated flash cards for pest and disease identification. Check your local office.
9. Treat at first sign of pest or disease. Do not make the mistake of thinking that if you only see a few they will have a snack and move on. This is a big mistake! Within a matter of days you will have a full blown assault on your hands.
If you find aphids or mealy bugs use your hose to spray them off the underside of the leaves. Spray from top to bottom working your way down. You can also rub them off with your finger and rinse again. Be sure to rinse your hand before touching the plant in another area. You will transfer pests to that plant and other plants in your garden if your not careful.
10. Proper disposal of infested or damage plant material is very important. Never throw plant material that you have trimmed off because of insect or disease damage into your compost pile. If you have a burn pile burn it. Or place it in a trash bag and tie it up tightly. Store it away from your plants and garden until trash day.
I hope you’ve found this informative. It’s a new subject here on my blog but not new to me.