Keeping a garden healthy, happy and producing can sometimes feel like a full time job. With so much that needs doing, many gardeners become reactive, only taking care of problems once they notice them. Unfortunately, by the time you notice a problem in the garden, it may already be too late to fix it.
Proactive gardening requires a little more planning and understanding of what your garden needs to stay healthy. We have 6 proactive gardening tips that will keep any garden lush and productive.
1. Take care of the soil
The health of your garden starts with the health of your soil. For many people, soil is nothing more than dirt. But the reality is that soil, whether store-bought or native topsoil, needs a range of factors to sustain plant life. These include appropriate moisture levels and drainage, essential minerals and chemical compounds, organic matter, oxygen, the right pH balance and microorganisms. While good soil may start out healthy, over time it will require feeding to replace lost nutrients.
Adding compost is essential for ensuring the health of your soil. Compost feeds the soil, improves structure and drainage and helps the soil retain nutrients and a healthy pH. Compost also provides nourishment for worms, which are useful for aerating and enriching the soil.
Testing the soil is also important to ensure that it’s healthy and has the appropriate pH and nutrient levels to promote plant growth. Soil testing kits will usually test for pH levels, magnesium, sulfur, potassium, phosphorus and calcium. Organic additives are readily available to replace these lost nutrients and rebalance the soil.
Rotating your crops through growing seasons is another important way of ensuring healthy soil. Different plants extract different nutrients from the soil. Planting the same crop in the same place is a surefire way to deplete the soil. By using an appropriate crop rotation system, you can ensure that the soil has a chance to replenish across growing seasons.
Using manure or other organic fertilisers is also important for improving the structure, health and fertility of your soil. Be sure to use organic manure that comes from animals that haven’t been exposed to chemical pesticides and herbicides.
2. Appropriate watering
Everyone knows that watering your garden is vital for its health. However, there’s more to it than just getting everything wet. Different plants require different amounts of water and different methods of watering. Knowing when to water can also be important to give the plants adequate opportunity to absorb the water.
Remember that overwatering can increase the risk of some plant diseases, promote the growth of root-rotting fungi and, in some cases, can even drown the roots.
It’s worth doing some research into your different plants to find out how much, how and when they should be watered for best results.
Mulching is important for retaining moisture, preventing weed growth and creating beneficial microclimates around plants. Besides this, a good natural mulch will also gradually decompose, adding valuable organic matter to the soil.
Some common organic mulching materials include wood chips, shredded bark, sugarcane straw, pea straw and lucerne hay.
4. Plant spacing
When plants are crowded together they may end up competing for moisture, sunlight and nutrients. Crowding can also restrict airflow and increase humidity, which heightens the chance of moisture-borne diseases like mildew, rust and mould.
To prevent this, ensure that plants have adequate space and that they are trimmed back as necessary to prevent crowding. Different plants will require different spacing to thrive, so be sure to do your research before planting.
5. Be proactive with pest control
Insects and other pests can wreak havoc in the garden so proactive pest control is vital for the health of your plants. Often, by the time you notice the pests, the damage can already be done. However, there are a number of things you can do to prevent pests from getting a foothold in your garden.
Carrying out regular inspections will help you to notice the first signs of insect and pest activity in your garden. Make sure you do your research so you can recognise the tell-tale signs when you see them.
Where possible, avoid using chemical pesticides on your plants. Instead, look into natural alternatives. For example, soapy water can deter aphids and mites, while soapy water with baking soda and vinegar can work as a natural fungicide.
Netting your plants is another great way to protect your plants from insects and other pests without having to resort to chemical sprays.
You can also use companion planting to keep unwanted insects away from your plants. Some herbs give off smells that drive away certain insects. These herbs include basil, citronella, lemongrass, mint and fennel.
6. Address damage and disease
Always try to remove any damaged or diseased plants, leaves or branches as soon as you see them. Diseased or pest-damaged limbs or foliage put stress on plants. The plant will direct energy towards healing the damage instead of growing or producing fruit, vegetables or flowers. Disease or damage can also weaken a plant’s structure and leave them vulnerable to further pest or disease infestations.
To really stay on top of your gardening it can be helpful to call in a professional gardener periodically or around the change of seasons. They can provide a range of garden services that will help set your garden up for a thriving season.