I was walking along the path of a quaint bed and breakfast, admiring the lush green ferns and velvety rich blossoms and wondered in awe, How do they do it? What are they doing, that I’m not? As luck would have it, the staff gardener was tending to plants at the far end. Determined to do better with my own flower beds, I marched over, intent on learning her secret. “Pardon me,” I softly interrupted.
She turned from her work to gaze up at me, pleasant smile intact. I took this for a good sign and asked, “How do you get these plants to look this good?”
“Water and fertilizer.”
Startled by her curt answer, I thought, Is she teasing me? Sweeping a glance over the sumptuous palette of color, the deep greens and luscious pinks, I thought, there’s gotta be more to it for this kind of success. “No, really,” I pressed. “How do you do it?”
“Water and fertilizer,” she repeated. Then, with only the slightest hesitation, the nice woman returned to her work.
I stood by, dumbfounded. Really. That’s it? No tricks, no magic meal… Wow. Could it really be that simple? Mumbling a thank you, I kicked myself into action and continued my stroll.
Yes. It’s that simple. Everyone knows what it takes to grow a healthy plant - water and food. The trick, is to water every day and fertilize once or twice a month. Hence, my problem. I can’t remember where I left my list, let alone accomplish the daily duties listed! But for the normal gardener, this proves an easy task.
By using a sprinkler system, you can cover the area with minimal effort. Don’t have one? No problem. Run down to your nearest hardware store and purchase a sprinkler attachment for your hose. You can set it on the ground or place it on a post for broader range. And while you’re there, pick up a timer. It’s a battery run device that affixes to your hose bib and allows you to set the time of day and length of time you want to water. Mornings are best for me, but evenings work well, too, just watch for leaf spots, etc. as the leaves tend to stay damp longer at this hour of the day.
Another thing to keep in mind: fruits and vegetables are comprised mostly of water, so be sure to give them enough. Using mulch, watering early mornings and late afternoons will help in this endeavor, as will using a watering can. Applying water directly to the plant cuts down on waste – important during drought conditions – and waters deeply, which helps in the development of a stronger root system, capable of enduring the dry spells. When in doubt, give them extra. My plants never look so good as they do after a few days of rain. Nitrogen-laced, yes, but water remains integral to the process.
As for fertilizer, you can make it easy on yourself and buy an organic all-purpose type. If they have one specifically formulated for fruits and veggies, all the better. Me, I don’t tend to gravitate toward easy (for reasons unknown) and I buy individual bags of bone meal, blood meal, sulfate of potash, fish emulsion and the like. Then, like a mad scientist on a mission, I create my own concoctions to disperse among the rows. It would behoove me to remember chemistry was not my favorite subject, nor did I excel, but that’s a discussion for another page entirely!
But you can stay sane and enjoy a robust and healthy garden–the key is to visit every day. This way you’ll be able to spot any deficiencies immediately, well in time to correct them. Ed Smith’s book, The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, is a great resource for identifying problems and anything you can’t find there, surf the internet! I’ve found some of my best advice on blogs like mine.
Compost is a great source for nutrition and easier to accomplish than you think!