Healthy Harvest: 3 Ways to Make This Year’s Garden Better for You

Planting a vegetable and fruit garden promises high quality, nutritious and delicious food at a fraction of the cost from the grocery store. To get the most nutrition and yield from the garden, the plants need ideal growing conditions that include quality food and ample room for root growth.

Test the Soil

Soil testing kits are readily available and take just minutes to use to find the nutritional conditions of the soil. Optimal plant growth depends on the nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium levels in the soil, as well as its pH. Before planting, test the soil for these four conditions.

Without enough soil nutrition, the plant’s roots won’t be able to supply the maturing plant with enough food for it to reach its optimal vitamin and mineral content. Unlike chemicals, organic fertilizers like Nature Safe build the soil to increase the vitality of the soil and food. Natural, organic fertilizers won’t burn the plants’ roots or build salts in the soil.

Just as the plant needs nutrition, it also needs a narrow range of soil acidity or alkalinity, known as its pH. Some plants, like fruiting plants like tomatoes and strawberries, like more acidic conditions, while leafy greens prefer neutral to slightly alkaline soils. Organic materials like elemental sulfur will create more acidic conditions, while wood ashes from untreated firewood, ground eggshells, or calcite increase the pH.

Keep the Weeds Down

Pull, hoe, or smother the inevitable weeds that will grow in the garden. Pulling is easier when the soil is damp, not wet, and hoeing can be done damp or dry. Smothering involves placing mulches between rows to prevent the water, sunlight, and oxygen from reaching the plant.

Seasoned gardeners acknowledge that the best way to manage weeds is by hand-pulling, even though it’s the most work. A weed that can’t form a seed head won’t be a problem in subsequent years. It’s important work because weeds steal the water and soil nutrients from the plants.

Keep an Eye on Water

Plants require water to grow and produce the highest level of nutrition. Rain gauges or a moisture meter are helpful tools to tell when it’s time to irrigate the garden if rain isn’t imminent. When roots don’t have adequate water, they will take it from the plants’ leaves and flowers, along with all the nutrition.

Most plants benefit from flood irrigation as opposed to overhead sprinkling, which can promote fungal growth on susceptible plants like greens and tomatoes. Short, frequent watering causes problems with shallow root development that hampers plant growth.

Preparing the garden and giving the plants the root and moisture that they need will provide the freshest and most nutritious food. The effort it takes pays off in high yields and sustainable soil conditions.

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