Gardening Hints: Easier on You and Better for Your Garden, Too
Do you have dirt under your fingernails, blisters on your hands and a sore back? It must be that you have a vegetable garden to maintain. Gardening gloves help eliminate the blisters & the proper size hoe should help lighten the back ache. Use a good nail brush for your nails and don’t forget to moisturize those hard-working hands. If you are working in the garden on a hot sunny day, please don’t forget to wear sun screen and a wide-brim hat and drink plenty of water.
Early morning or late afternoon is the preferred time for garden work. If you become too hot and exhausted, you will be tempted to quit and the weeds will win! It’s best for the weeds to be pulled in the cool of the day and then let them lie on the ground and bake in the hot sun, and not you.
Mulching is a method used for weed control. Mulch is a layer of material spread on the garden that shades the ground and prevents weeds from growing by depriving them of sunlight. It holds moisture in the soil by reducing evaporation. It keeps the soil cooler on hot days and warmer on cool nights by acting as insulation. Grass clippings are one of the best and most common mulches. They don’t contain weed seeds, but don’t use them fresh. They must dry out for a day or two in the sun otherwise they will get slimy and foul-smelling. Using old hay or straw may bring weed seeds to your garden and also attract rodents, who like the weed seeds.
If you mulch too early in the spring, you may find that it sets your crops back a week or two. Wait until the soil has warmed up in the late spring, then put mulch right around the stems of your plants, covering the ground completely. This should eliminate all weeding and cultivating. The very best time to mulch is right after a heavy rain. If the mulch is thick enough, it will help the soil to retain most of this moisture for the entire growing season.
Some people look at their garden on a hot afternoon and see some of their plants wilting and immediately rush to water it. A lot of plants will droop in a strong hot sun late in the day. This is normal. If the plants still look wilted when you awake in the morning, you should give them some water.
Don’t water just for the sake of watering. Water only when it is really necessary. It will do more harm than good when you sprinkle water on the ground just to keep the dust down or to moisten the soil surface. Encourage your plants’ roots to grow deep as possible. If the plants get used to finding water near the soil surface, they will grow only shallow roots. When you water, soak the soil. Make sure that it is very wet, at least three to six inches below the surface.
There are several ways to obtain the correct amount of water. One is with a perforated hose or soaker hose. Second, an overhead sprinkler works well if you leave it in one place long enough. On a hot day, sprinklers seem to use up a lot more water because so much moisture evaporates before it reaches the ground. To measure the amount of water the sprinkler delivers, set a few cans at various distances from the sprinkler. Take note how long it takes for an inch of water to accumulate in the various cans. (It will probably take longer than you think.)
All your hard work and efforts will soon be rewarded when your garden produces mouth-watering and delicious vegetables that are so healthy for you. If there are children in your home, let them help with the harvest and they will learn so much from the experience and will enjoy eating really fresh vegetables!