Is your veggie garden looking a little droopy? Is your soil hard or dry? Are your plants not producing as they should?
Vegetable gardening is not an easy job, let me be honest, there's always something that needs to be done and it can be very frustrating when things aren't looking the way you want them. But don't worry, here are my top 5 tips to a healthy happy garden. These are things I've learned over the last couple years and they really form the foundation and building blocks to a vibrant garden.
Let's dive right in!
Soil is the number one most important thing in a garden, it is literally what your entire garden is built on, which is why its so important to keep it healthy and full of nutrients. The first thing you need to know about soil is what type of soil you have in your garden. This will allow you to care for your soil and add the correct amendments in order for it to be optimal for plant growth. Soil can be divided into 3 main categories:
Clay Soil - clay soil is made up of very fine particles and very little organic matter. This means there is not much aeration in the soil and water will drain very slowly, leading to either waterlogged soil or very hard dry soil.
Sandy soil - sandy soils are the opposite or clay soils. These soils are made up of large particles, of mostly broken down rock, with no pockets to hold water. This means that water and nutrients drain far too easily resulting in poor soil.
Loam Soil - Loam soil is a gardener's ultimate goal. Loamy soil is made up of different parts sand, silt and clay and the balance of those different soils together create magic! Loam is the ideal soil for plants to grow in and provides them with plenty of nutrients to grow.
You can determine what type of soil you have in your garden by performing a simple soil test. The beautiful thing about soil is that you can improve it! So if you happen to have soil that is either clay or sandy, you can actually work to improve it by adding different soil amendments.
That brings me to my next tip and that is compost. Compost is one of the best soil amendments you can use on either sandy or clay soil, as it is full of nutrients and organic material to improve the texture and balance of your soil, plus there's no need to go out and buy it, because it can all be done in the comfort of your home! Making your own compost is really not that hard and there are many different ways of doing it that can suit you and your lifestyle. You can check out my guide and tutorial to making your own compost here.
Mulch, mulch beautiful, glorious mulch! Mulch is one of the BEST things you can do for your garden and for yourself. Mulch is basically a layer of organic material that you lay on top of the soil. It could be anything from dead leaves, dry grass, straw, or wood chips and we do this in order to protect the soil. If you look around in nature, you'll probably notice that the ground is usually never bare (deserts are an exception!), there is always some plant, grass or tree covering it. That's because nature doesn't like to have bare soil as this causes it to dry out quicker. The same is true for your garden. If you leave your garden beds open to the elements, even if they have plants growing on them, the soil will dry out quicker, you'll have more weeds (because nature is trying to cover up!) and rain will hit your soil harder, compacting it. There are so many benefits to mulching and I guarantee you will notice a difference!
4. Plant Spacing
So this tip sort of leads on from the mulching and that is your plant spacing. When you look at the back of seed packets or in garden books there will often be a recommendation for how far apart you need to plant your plants. This is to allow each plant optimal space to spread and grow. But in my experience plants actually like to be planted closer together. Yes, of course they do need some space in order to grow and for there to be proper air flow, but I've actually noticed that my plants grow better when I plant them a little closer together than otherwise recommended. This allows the plants to support one another and it also means that more soil is covered, trapping more moisture and preventing it from drying out.
5. Companion Planting
In today's modern agriculture industry, and even on small scale farms, monoculture is the dominant from of farming.
MONOCULTRE: the agricultural practice of growing or producing a single crop, plant or livestock species, variety or breed, in a field or farming system at a time.
This method of farming leads to many problems and defies the natural way plants grow - with many different species growing all together. It eliminates biodiversity and causes deficiency and disease as the soil is continually depleted of the specific nutrients needed by that certain crop. It also requires vast amounts of water and the use of chemicals such as pesticides and fertilisers.
Companion planting on the other hand is the practice of growing beneficial plants together. Believe it or not, some plants actually grow better together than others and have preferences for their 'companions'. This is because different plants offer different benefits to each other and to the soil. So for example, tomatoes like being planted with basil. Basil is a strong scented herb and so will deter pests whilst attracting beneficial insects such as bees. Planting basil with your tomatoes will also produce a higher yield of tomatoes with better flavour! On the other hand things like beans and peas don't like being planted with any member of the allium family (onions, chives, shallots etc) as this hinders the production of flowers and beans. It is a really fun, interesting way of gardening and there are so many planting guides to be found online that you can get started right away!
I hope you found this helpful and you start incorporating some of these tips into you garden if you haven't already! I'm curious - do you have any good gardening tips or tricks you've learned over the years? Share them with me on social media, I'd love to hear them! My social media handles will be linked below.
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