Summer is in full bloom, vegetable gardens are thriving, and now we can sit back and enjoy. Yes, we can. Up to a point. Garden chores will always be there, but taking things a bit easy will go a long way to keeping you happy. There’s no need to be in a mad scramble all the time.
In order to keep a handle on the garden and prevent becoming overwhelmed, here are a few things you can do through the summer to keep your garden doing well. And, if something isn’t working, change it. That’s the fun of gardening.
Slow gardening works with nature’s cycles. When left alone the garden will progress through a sequence of growth and decay. It may not be as tidy, but it will progress. And it will be balanced with predators and prey, food plants and pollen plants.
So, take nature’s example and don’t pull back your leaves. Last year’s leaves will be the carpet that feeds next year’s plants. This year, sit back and enjoy the show, make every effort to relax, and spend more time simply being in the garden. Enjoy the fact that it’s all a grand experiment.
Compost is pure gold for the garden. A home compost pile may not be the best solution for everyone, but happily, there are simple ways to compost. If you already have a full-blown composting system, good for you! Don’t forget to add shredded junk mail (without the plastic windows), egg cartons, stale bread and even corrugated cardboard boxes.
If you don’t have a compost pile, now is a great time to start one. Layer it liberally with soil after each addition to keep out critters, odors and to keep the pile working. No meat or dairy products of any kind, no cat or dog waste, no oils, and plenty of air and moisture to keep it decomposing.
Check out our article on composting to help you get started and to learn some tips: https://organicgrowersschool.org/gardeners/library/composting/
Be in the garden daily
There’s a lovely phrase: “the best thing you can put into your garden is your shadow.” The more time you spend in your garden, the healthier it (and you) will be.
Daily walks will let you will spray those aphids starting on tomatoes with a strong burst of water. Dispatch squash bug eggs with your thumbnail.
Pull tomato leaves with fungal disease. Watch moisture levels in your containers. Drop Japanese beetles into a bucket of soapy water before they decimate a plant. Harvest zucchinis when they are three inches long instead of baseball bat-sized. Learn to distinguish between good and bad bugs.
Perhaps more importantly, you won’t miss a single garden event. You’ll see plants emerge, show off their wares and then mature and let seeds fall. You’ll get to watch changing foliage colors, blossoms come and fade, and vegetables mature, letting you know when you need to plant more. And you’ll get to appreciate the butterflies, bees and birds that visit your garden daily.
Weed weed weed
There is a wonderful saying that one person’s weed is another person’s lunch, and I love that sentiment. So, what exactly is a weed? Some say it is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered. Others define it as a plant that is simply in the wrong place. And still others say it is any plant that chokes out another, more desired plant.
Some weeds have beautiful flowers while others have culinary virtues. But we sometimes need to remove these plants lest they take over our cultivated gardens.
Weeds compete with desired plants for sun, nutrients and water, so it’s important to slow them early. Since you will be in your garden daily (see above), set your sights on doing five minutes of weeding every day. Longer if you consider it meditative.
Stop annual weeds like purslane or chickweed from spreading thousands of seeds by a quick pull or a slice below soil level. If perennial weeds become hard to pull, pour vinegar or hot water in the crown.
A great homemade weed killer is 2 cups of Epsom salts and ¼ cup of dish soap in a gallon of water. Spray in the crown. You may have to spray more than once, but you can take comfort in the fact that you are not poisoning the ecosystem.
Keep a journal
You don’t have to be a writer to create an invaluable resource to help you with next year’s garden. As good as we think our memories are, spring planting time often brings with it a bit of amnesia about last year’s garden.
Make notes and a sketch for next year. Spend just five minutes jotting down notes about what’s blooming, what you like and don’t like, what you will change for next year, where the bulbs are that you want to transplant. No masterpieces here – it is only for you unless you want to share.
And when you pull it out in January to muse over next year’s garden, you will be flooded with wonderful memories of this year’s garden. What a nice way to spend a winter evening.