In our last two installments we planned our garden and then planted our seedlings and sowed our seeds. In this, “The Witches Garden: Part Three” we will be discussing how to maintain your newly planted garden.
Our first step in maintaining our garden is to thin our newly sown seeds. If you’ve planted nursery plants, you’ll be able to skip this step.
As your seedlings emerge, use the information on your seed packet to thin them out. The cilantro plants shown here need to be thinned to 6 to 8 inches apart. Thin your plants when the second set of leaves have appeared. Thinning your seedlings, gives them the space the require to grow to maturity without being crowded.
If you placed a mesh screen over the tops of your seedlings, remove it once the new plants are pushing up against it. Otherwise, your plants will bend sideways and their growth may be stunted.
Protecting Your Witches Garden
Maintaining your garden includes protecting your plants and seedlings from the attack of predatory insects. Snails, slugs, earwigs, aphids and mites love to munch on young plants, often with devastating results. There are several organic methods that can deter or eliminate these predators.
- Diatomaceous Earth – This powdery substance can be used to both deter and desiccate slugs, snails, earwigs and other insects. Sprinkle it around your new plants to act as a barrier. Note: Be sure to get “food grade” product for best results.
- Organic pest control products – There are several pellet pest control products to save your plants from the onslaught of insects. I recommend Sluggo or Sluggo Plus (registered trademarks by Monterey) for snails, slugs and earwigs. Both products contain Iron Phosphate and the plus adds in Spinosad. While the labels say it is safe around pets and wildlife if you have animals that may ingest the pellets, I would suggest placing them under pots and out of reach. Iron poisoning can occur if large amounts are ingested.
- Organic Soap Insecticide Sprays – For aphids, mites and other flying insects that may insist on eating your plants, an organic insecticidal soap spray is best. There are many on the market – just be sure that the label reads “OMRI-listed and USDA-approved for organic gardening”. Soap sprays kill on contact, they do not penetrate the plant membranes. These sprays are very effective in eradicating pests, but they can also kill beneficial insects as well so be mindful.
- Homemade Soap Sprays – For the ultimate in DIY pest control you can create your own soap spray. There are many recipes out there for these sprays, but I personally like to use a combination of Castile Soap, cayenne pepper and water.
Weeds – Your Gardening Nemesis
Weeds are the bane of most gardeners existence. These persistent plants seem to pop up exactly where we don’t want them. Unfortunately, if you wish to keep your garden as organic as possible the best method to rid yourself of weeds is to pull them.
Note: Let your seedlings grow a bit before weeding. If you are unfamiliar with how your new plants look you may inadvertently pull them instead of your weeds. When in doubt, do a quick internet search. Information and images of your plants in all stages is readily available to you.
Pulling your weeds doesn’t have to be a chore if you do it a little every day. Weeding is actually a wonderful way to enjoy the sun, play in the dirt and listen to the earth around you. The act of pulling weeds can even be meditative as long as your entire focus is on the repetition of pulling out the weeds.
The most effective way of ridding your garden of pesky weeds it to be certain to pull the entire root of the weed. Merely yanking the tops of the weeds does nothing because the roots will continue to shoot up new plants. Loosen the soil gently around the weed and then pull the plant close to the root ball or tendrils. Weeds such as clovers may have an intensive root system so they may require a bit more work to eradicate. Be patient!
Keeping Your Plants Growing Strong
In order to keep your garden blooming and thriving you must have two things: 1) Water; 2) Food – in the form of fertilizers.
Different plants have different water and food requirements. Always check your seed packets and information provided with your plants to determine how much water they require. Some plants may like moist soil, which means you will have to water more frequently than those who like dry or sandy conditions.
How you water is up to you and your location. Some areas get a great deal of rain in the spring and summer so your plants may only need an occasional hand watering. Here in the California Central Valley our summers are extremely hot and dry. I have many of my plants on automatic drip watering systems to insure that they are not getting parched under the summer sun.
Be cautious. You can overwater your plants. If your plants are yellowing or losing leaves, back off on the water. Conversely, if your plants are drooping and turning brown, they need more water. It takes a bit of trial and error to determine a successful watering schedule. A few minutes each day observing your plants should be all it takes to determine what they require.
Feeding your plants is fairly simple as well. Most plants will require additional nutrients every 3 to 6 weeks, depending on the type of plant and the fertilizer being used. Check your labels for amounts and timing, as each type differs.
Following the manufacture’s direction, sprinkle or spray your plants about three weeks after planting or after new seedling have gotten their second set of leaves. Fertilizers may have to be worked into the soil around the plant a bit. Water immediately after fertilizing to help release it into the soil.
Watching Your Witches Garden Grow
You’ve planted, watered, fertilized and then protected your new Witches Garden. Now is the time to sit back and watch your garden grow. Maintaining your garden doesn’t have to be overly time consuming or difficult. On the contrary, if you take a few minutes every day to maintain your garden you’ll find that you’ll spend more time enjoying and less time working.
Part Four of the Witches Garden – Harvesting and Preserving – will be coming in a month or so. Until then, may your garden bring you hours of joy, lots of beautiful flowers, herbs and veggies.