The easy way to maintain a healthy crop

July 29, 2015

A healthy garden requires a great deal of attention to maintain. Follow these guidelines to learn how to properly care for your crop and watch it flourish.

The easy way to maintain a healthy crop

After preparing the ground and planting, give some attention to routine chores that will ensure the continuing success of the garden. Ideally, the garden should be planned to reduce maintenance wherever possible, to produce the maximum yield for the minimum time and effort. Once established, the average family-size vegetable garden requires only 10 or so minutes a day to check and set out watering systems. Devote a couple of hours on weekends to planting, feeding, watering, mulching and harvesting.

Use this list to help organize chores:

  • Water thoroughly: Light sprinkling leads to shallow-rooted plants. A long soaking every few days is better than shallow watering daily. Water seedlings more frequently, especially in hot weather.
  • Mulch thickly: Organic mulches of compost, leaves, straw or well-rotted animal manure keeps weed growth to a minimum and feeds the plants as the nutrients leach into the soil. A mulch 10 to 15 centimetres (four to six inches) deep reduces the need for watering by keeping the soil moist.
  • Fertilize frequently: Even fertile soil needs several fertilizer boosts during vegetable growth. There are many choices, including liquid seaweed, liquid manure, well-rotted compost, well-rotted manure, mushroom compost or blood and bone. Leaf crops, in particular, should be encouraged to grow rapidly. Fruiting crops need extra nutrients during the period when the fruit is forming.
  • Weed routinely: Weeds will compete for space, water and nutrients. Young seedlings are most at risk of suffering. To minimize the amount of weeding that is necessary, mulch.
  • Check for insects and diseases: Watch out for unhealthy soil, diseased plants or an increase in insect activity. Spotted early, most problems can be easily overcome. Check plants routinely when you are watering them.
  • Harvest early: Many vegetables should be harvested as soon as they are mature or they will go to seed (lettuce, broccoli, cabbage) or become tough and woody in texture (kohlrabi, turnips, beets). Other crops can be picked over a period of weeks; frequent picking actually encourages new growth and increases yields (peas, Swiss chard, beans, squash, cucumbers).
  • Eat the harvest promptly: Vegetables are at their most nutritious when fresh-picked. In hot weather, delay harvesting until evening or early morning, to give the plants a chance to recover from the heat of the day's sun.
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