Last weekend we went over the bare bone considerations of gardening for those who have never done it before. This week I’m going to teach you how to not kill all the green things you have decided to plant! Whether you’ve chosen to container garden a few pots on the porch, or went full tilt and dug up half of your yard, the following tips will apply to all. Though we will really only be covering two main subjects: Watering, and Things that want to eat the plants.
How do I water a plant?
These seems like a no brainer, but is pretty much the most important factor in not killing a plant. First off, don’t dump water on the leaves, those don’t absorb water, roots do. Instead, water the soil and avoid getting the plant itself wet.
Different types of plants utilize different levels of water to stay healthy and grow, and over watering can kill a plant just as quickly as under watering. The effects of either can be hard to gauge. The dirt around your plant is the answer to this again. It’s the where the action happens. Looking at leaves to see if a plant is thirsty is like staring at someone’s hair to see if they are dehydrated; if it’s falling out, they are probably pretty close to dead already. It’s better to pay attention to the soil around your plant than the plant itself to gauge how much water it needs. When the top inch of soil near the plant is dry, it’s time to water. If the soil one inch down is still damp, leave the plant be!
The times you water, particularly with outdoor plants also affect the plant’s ability to use the water efficiently. Watering in the middle of the day when it’s sweltering out is hard on a plant. Instead water them earlier in the morning. You can water in the evening, but remember, plants can get sick just we can and while not all plants are prone to mildew and rot, it is gross when it happens, followed by a dead plant. If you were left out all night in the damp, you’d get sick too. Morning is best!
Things that want to eat the plants.
Indoor potted plant people, you are not exempt from this! Dogs like to eat plants, small children like to eat plants, pretty much any thing with a mouth in your house will eat the plants, even cats will eat plants. In fact, we have a seed tray in a window right now. One of the plants is catnip. My cat tried to eat it. Unfortunately for him his dine and dash mode of plant murder resulted in bad aim on his part. He ran out of the room with a mouth full of neighboring baby rhubarb leaving everyone involved unhappy in the end.
The main point for you indoors people is this, research to make sure what you are planting is not poisonous to the various members of your household.
Outdoor plants will have your classic dinners of course, rabbits, bugs and so forth. Pesticides and rodent control are a huge topic to cover all by themselves but since we are going with way newbie intro with this series I’ll give you the spark notes version here.
Pesticides: from conventional, to organic, there are endless options for you to chose from here. Plant nursery workers will be able to point you to what you need, all you have to decide is what sort you want to put on your plants based on your lifestyle. I prefer organic because we grow a lot of veggies and I like my food chemical free. It is important to realize different insects are susceptible to different control methods and what works well for one may not have any effect on another for example, what works on aphids does not work well on slugs.
Rodent control. A chicken wire fence does really nicely, but can spoil the effect of all your hard work to make your plants look nice. Even if you are growing vegetables and aesthetics aren’t really a factor it’s not always sure-fire to keep munching bunnies out. The two most effective anti’ munching methods I found are the following. Scatter the scooping’s of our cat litter around our garden. The “predator smell” freaks rabbits out. Seriously, this works, mostly. Sometimes the lure of the plant is too strong. Such was the case with the basil I planted. I mixed cayenne pepper in some olive oil and rubbed it on the leaves. Bunnies are not much for spicy food, they left the herbs alone after that. That may seem really out there, but keeping rabbits away from your hyacinth and petunias is an age-long battle that really has yet to be won.
Keep in mind, growing plants is a literally a science all its own and there is trial and error involved. You can spend from now until the day you die studying the best way to care for plants and never really be done. You may find you really like it and then again you may find that you hate plants like you never knew you could hate anything before in your life. You never know.
- First-Time Vegetable Gardening for the Black-Thumbed (volpelife.wordpress.com)
- Jamie Hancock: Proper soil produces stronger plants (cjonline.com)
- How To Plant An Urban Garden (proplants.com)
- Fertilizer 101: Keeping Your Plants Healthy (sandiegogardeningandlandscaping.wordpress.com)
- Four Gardens to Grow With Your Kids (theepochtimes.com)