Zamzows Gardening 101
Zamzows Gardening 101
It can be easy to get overwhelmed when you decide to grow your first garden. One thing I know for sure, for every gardener, there is a slightly different and equally legitimate way to grow a garden. Over time, with practice, you will become one of those unique growers of produce. There is not one "correct" way to be a successful gardener. It takes time, failure, imagination, and patience. Gardening is a collection of experiences shared by one person to another. If you've found yourself here, you've taken the first step in joining this vast pool of knowledge, gleaning from others, and contributing to the experience of those that will join us in the garden in the future.
Sorry to sound so melodramatic. I start this way to, hopefully, reduce your anxiety. Growing a garden is fun, relaxing, and rewarding. It's like anything else in life that is worth doing; it's hard when you start. When you harvest your first tomato, pepper, pea, radish, or squash, all the effort will be worth your time.
This article won't get into planting and caring for specific veggies. We will cover the basic concepts that will help you get started.
It Begins in the Soil
To have healthy plants, you need healthy soil. The health of your soil correlates to the health of your plants. The soil provides water, nutrients, and support. Soil consists of several components in varying amounts. Sand, clay, and loam are the building blocks. The amount of these three basic blocks will vary from town to town, neighborhood to neighborhood, and sometimes from one side of the yard to the other.
In general, gardeners in the Treasure Valley are going to have clay/sand soil. There are exceptions of course, but often, our soils will have more clay than the other two. This presents a few difficulties when you are getting started. Clay soils hold onto a lot of water. The number one killer of plants is overwatering. Clay soils are also very hard, making digging difficult and can slow down root growth. Conversely, sandy soil is very easy for roots to grow, but it will drain very quickly.
To fix either of these conditions adding organic matter or compost will improve your soil. Compost will loosen clay soil improving drainage and making it easier for roots to grow. It will also help sandy soil hold onto water.
As a rule of thumb, you will want to add one to two inches of composted organic matter to the top of your soil every year.
Location, Location, Location
Choosing the correct location for your garden comes down to one major factor. Sunlight. A productive garden will need at least eight hours of sunlight each day. If you are growing tomatoes, peppers, or corn, it is ideal to get them closer to ten hours.
Plants need sunlight to do everything, without it they will not reach their full potential. Your rows and plants should be planted running north to south to maximize exposure throughout the day. Don't choose a location that has shade trees or is too close to a fence that will block the sun during critical times.
Plants Need to Eat Too
There are many ways to feed your plants. The organic matter you add to the soil every year will provide a lot of important trace minerals, also referred to as micro-nutrients. Equally as important are what we call macro-nutrients. There are three macro-nutrients, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These are also referred to as N-P-K, the chemical symbols for the elements found on the periodic table. Fertilizers will always have three numbers associated with the N-P-K. For instance, a 16-16-16 fertilizer consists of 16% nitrogen, 16% phosphorus, and 16% potassium.
Your vegetables are heavy feeders. They work hard to grow from seed to produce fruit in a few months. To get the most out of your season, Zamzows recommends that you feed your plants well while they grow and produce fruit. There are many fertilizers to choose from, so to give you a good place to start here is a short guide with rough dates.
During the early spring, you won't have any plants in the ground yet. It might seem odd to fertilize while there are no plants in the ground, however, when using Zamzows natural fertilizers it's good to give them time to break down. These feedings will also wake up and stimulate the beneficial microfauna living in your soil. Start by adding compost and Zamzows Nutri-Rich 3-3-2 which is an organic fertilizer with added calcium.
May is planting season! The average last frost is usually around May 5th-10th. After getting all your starts and seeds in the ground, simply water them in with some Zamzows Thrive. Thrive has everything your young plants will need to get started while reducing transplant shock. For your tomatoes and peppers, add some Zamzows Tomato Boom into your planting hole, then water them in with Thrive.
These are the growing and producing months. Once your plants are established you can continue to feed them every two to four weeks. There are several options and none of them are wrong. You can continue to feed them Zamzows Thrive or switch it up with Dr. JimZ Chicken Soup for the Soil. Continue this schedule until harvest.
There are many fertilizers and strategies for feeding your garden. This is meant to be a starting point. The products listed above are easy to use and organic or naturally based, so they are very forgiving.
Watering Made Easy
Your garden will need about one inch of water each week. In general, it is better to water deep as infrequently as possible. It's good practice to allow your plants to dry out a little in between watering. Try to water two to three days a week and be as consistent as possible. You also want to avoid watering the leaves of your veggies. Delivering water to the base of your plants will keep the water where your plants can use it and prevent the spread of disease.
There are many systems and sprinklers available, but all you need is a hose and some time. When it comes time to water, turn the water on to an easy flow, you don't want the water to move the soil around. Leave the hose under your plants for a few minutes and then move it to the next. If you have rows of plants, you can leave the hose at one end and let it fill the row, then move it to the next. Simple as that. There will probably be instances where one plant needs a little. As you spend time doing this every few days, you will quickly see how much water your plants need.
Mulching your garden is a great way to suppress weeds and conserve moisture. A mulch can be a variety of organic materials such as grass clippings, straw, or hay. Spreading these organic materials around your plants and covering bare soil will make weeding easier while shading the soil and preventing evaporation.
Weeding Doesn't Need to Be a Chore
If you are going to grow a garden, you are going to encounter some weeds. There is no avoiding it, they will find a place to grow where you don't want them. Using things like mulch can suppress a lot of them, but eventually, life finds a way. However, I have good news! This means you get to spend more time in the garden! The best way to keep weeds from becoming a chore is to spend time in your garden every day. Using your hands or a hoe can make short work for even a large area. Spending 10 to 15 minutes every day removing small weeds will be easy and keep the unwanted greenery from getting out of control. Believe it or not, it can even be relaxing. Spend this time reflecting on your day, observing your plants, and soaking in the sunshine with them.
Learn more about mulching your garden.
Bugs and Disease
Several bugs and diseases will attempt to ruin your hard work. When you are just starting it can raise your anxiety to think about all of them. An important thing to remember is, early detection is key. While you are spending time weeding and watering your garden, inspect your plants. It's common to see holes and damaged leaves and they won't always be caused by bugs or disease. Early detection will allow you to identify the problem and seek a solution. Diseases are often caused by bad habits, like watering your plants from above. Having a good organic spray like Zamzows Last Call with Spinosad or Neem Oil will give you a good arsenal to combat most pests.
Here is a list of some common bugs and diseases to look out for.
- leaf miners
- leaf hoppers
- horn worms
- squash bugs
- early/late blight
- mosaic virus
- end rot (not a disease, but looks like one)
Take some time looking into these pests so you can be prepared and have a plan if they show up.
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