Let Love Grow: Creating a Gardening Routine
Last week, in my gardening series, I talked about how the basics of how to get started with your garden. And that's all fine and well...if you put in a little bit of time to maintain your garden as it begins to grow. Without giving it a little TLC, it will probably end up being a dried up bed of brown leaves, mushy vegetables or flowers that never grew, and weeds.
Getting in a gardening routine doesn't have to be very time consuming, though. Once you set a timeline that works well with your schedule, it's much easier to manage your garden, and for the time you spend in your garden to be relaxing and fulfilling!
Here are some things to keep in mind when creating your own personal gardening routine:
Set aside time to water your garden several times a week
You want to ensure your garden is getting plenty of water, so if your area is prone to dry spells in the summer, you'll likely need to do most of the watering yourself. I, personally, am in a location that gets very hot in the summer and doesn't get enough rain, so I set my timer on my hose to run for a few minutes before sunrise and again a few minutes after sunset. It's best to water at the least hot time of the day so the water doesn't quickly evaporate. If you are able to get an inexpensive timer at your local hardware or gardening shop, I personally think that's the best route to take because you don't have to worry about doing any of the watering! If not, set aside a few minutes each morning and/or evening to water your garden. You'll be surprised how relaxing it can become, and how much you enjoy it! In fact, there are many days where I remove my hose from the timer and water everything myself just because I enjoy it.
Keep an eye on pests and weeds
You'll want to keep an eye out for pests and weeds as your vegetables or flowers begin to grow, so you can stay on top of managing them before they take over your garden and kill all the plants you put so much hard work into planting. When you see weeds starting to sprout up, try and remove them immediately so they don't suck up nutrients from the soil that should be going to your vegetables and flowers. If you catch them early, weeds are very easy to remove by the root and don't require any tools besides your hands. For pests, you may begin to notice insects crawling on the leaves or even see tiny holes in the leaves where pests have gnawed through. There are several ways to combat pests, depending on the type of plant they are interested in. Anything from eggshells to planting flowers they resist to essential oils will help keep pests away. Once you've determined the type of pest, you can do a little more digging into the best remedy to get rid of them. And pests don't go away after your vegetables have grown and are ready for harvesting! Many larger animals will be more than happy to pluck off of your fruit and vegetable plants. The best remedy I've found for more mature plants is either netting over top of them, if they are small enough plants, or large, plastic snakes and owls sitting near your plant in question. Quickly check your plants for pests and weeds 1-2 times a week, and you'll be in good shape!
You won't need to do hardly any pruning when your plants are very small, but as they start to grow, you'll want to stay on top of keeping them in shape. For vegetables, remove any dead leaves and edibles that are overripe or decaying. This is also a good time to make sure all plants are getting plenty of sun and their vines or leaves aren't overlapping another plant, preventing it from getting enough sunlight and water. For flowers, remove spent flowers and leaves to encourage more blooms. For large trees and bushes, the best time to shape them and cut them back is after they have bloomed and the blooms have fallen off. I know it seems counterproductive to cut them back, but believe me, they will grow back much more lush and full!
As your vegetables and flowers begin to ripen, you'll want to set aside time to harvest everything - the part of the process you've been waiting for for months! Depending on the size of your garden, you may need to harvest vegetables and flowers every day when they've matured. For smaller gardens, set aside time a couple of times a week to harvest all the fruits of your labor. Take a large basket or bucket with you, a pair of clippers, and clip all those ripe fruits, vegetables, and flowers! They'll continue to grow as long as the climate stays ideal and they are getting enough water.
As you can see, your gardening routine may change over time as your plants mature. As long as your setting aside some "gardening time" several times a week, you'll have plenty of time to make sure your plants are healthy and growing! If you have plants scattered throughout your yard, try to tend to all of your plants during your dedicated gardening time to ensure everything gets proper attention. Keep your gardening tools in a designated area so you never have to search for anything, and you'll be set up for success.