Once you start gardening, it becomes a lifelong learning process. There is always more. But there are certain things that are essential for a new gardener to learn first. These basics will give you a good start, and soon you will be harvesting produce from your own garden.
You may think your soil is something you are just stuck with; there is nothing you can do about it. But think of the soil you have now as just a starting point. You can improve it a lot over a period of years. Start by having your soil’s composition analyzed. Then you can start working to improve it.
Studying soil nutrients and how to enrich your soil will definitely improve your garden crops.
Instead of having those autumn leaves you rake hauled off, spread them over your garden before winter sets in. By spring they will be decomposing and can be plowed or roto-tilled into the soil to add a lot of humus, enriching it. Earthworms will like it too. Ants and earthworms do a service few people understand. They break up the soil and bring air into it, and even enrich it with their droppings.
Clay retains too much water, while sand lets water pass through it. A combination of these two soil elements is best. If your soil is extreme in one or the other, you may want to have a load of good topsoil dumped on your garden plot.
Once your garden is planted, use a cultivator to lightly turn the soil on top and keep it aerated. Believe it or not, roots need to breathe. Cultivating will also keep weeds from growing.
There are many fertilizers you can use. But why buy expensive chemical fertilizers when there are natural ones that can do the job? Ask a farmer to give you some old manure. It should be at least a year old, so as not to burn the soil. Spread it on your garden in the spring or fall and work it into the soil. It provides rich nutrients for the plants.
Nature works through constantly recycling materials. Dead plants and leaves, manure and food scraps decompose, providing the nutrients for new plants to grow. The nitrogen from this year’s decomposing foliage goes back into the soil to be used by next year’s seeds. But it is not a zero sum game. By putting these composts into your soil, you will gradually improve its quality.
Most insects are helpful in some way in the life cycle. There are some, such as lady bugs and preying mantis, that you want to welcome into your garden. But a few are a scourge to garden crops. Keep a close eye on your garden so you have early warning of a problem with pests or disease developing. A very wet year is likely to produce mildew and diseases in plants. Get advice from an expert if you see a problem starting.
Take these basics and add your own knowledge through experience. Join a garden club to get advice from experienced gardeners. Soon you too will be an old hand at gardening, and enjoying the bountiful crop of vegetables you have harvested.
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