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Caring for the Garden

Watering

In most areas the garden requires a moisture supply equivalent to about an inch of rain a week during the growing season for best plant growth. It requires roughly that amount of watering a week to maintain good production if the moisture stored in the soil becomes depleted and no rain falls over periods of weeks.

An inch of rain is equivalent to about 28,000 gallons on an acre, or 900 gallons on a 30- by 50-foot garden.

It is much better to give the garden a good soaking about once a week than to water it sparingly more often. Light sprinklings at frequent intervals do little, if any, good. 

The best way to apply water, when the soil and slope are suitable, is to run it the length of furrows between the rows until the soil is well soaked. If the soil is very sandy or the surface too irregular for the furrow method, sprinklers or porous irrigating hose must be used.

Controlling Weeds

Weeds rob cultivated plants of water, nutrients, and light. Some weeds harbor diseases, insects, and nematodes that re-infest garden crops in succeeding years.

As soon as the soil can be properly worked after each rain or irrigation, it should be thoroughly hoed or cultivated to kill weeds that have sprouted and to leave the surface in a loose, friable condition to absorb later rainfall.

The primary value of hoeing or cultivating is weed control. This cultivation should be shallow so as to avoid injuring the vegetable plant roots that lie near the surface. Although it is desirable to keep the surface soil loose, there is little to be gained by hoeing or cultivating oftener than necessary to keep weeds out of the garden.

In small gardens, weeds can be controlled with black polyethylene mulch supplemented by hand weeding such as pulling, hoeing, and wheel hoeing. Mulching vegetable crops with organic material also is a common practice in small gardens.

The best organic mulches are partially decomposed hay, straw, or grass clippings. The mulch should be applied 4 to 6 inches deep when the plants are about 6 inches tall. Cabbage, tomato, and other transplants usually are tall enough soon after they are set in the garden.

Before applying mulch, hoe out all small weeds. Not only does mulch control weeds, it also conserves moisture, keeps the soil from packing, and increases the humus necessary for vigorous plant growth.

Herbicides for the home garden

Herbicides are generally not recommended for home gardens; however, trifluralin and DCPA are registered for use in many vegetable crops. If these are used, care must be taken to insure proper application. Soil fumigants usually kill most of the seeds or vegetative reproductive organs of weeds present. The non-selective, broad spectrum herbicide glyphosate may be used prior to planting to control many perennial weeds, and many gardeners use it with hand-held weed wipers to selectively control weeds in the garden.

Controlling Diseases, Insects and Nematodes Garden crops are subject to attack by a number of diseases and insects. Preventive measures are best, but if an attack occurs and the gardener is not familiar with the nematode, insect or disease and the proper treatment to protect his crop, he is advised to consult the county Extension agent.

Among the most important disease-control measures are the use of disease-free seeds and plants, and the use of disease-resistant varieties.

Great progress has been made within recent years in the development of varieties that are resistant to certain diseases, insects and nematodes.

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