Give your plants a chance!
Not too much N (Nitrogen) It imbalances your plants, just like too much sugar for us. You get lots of leaf, no fruit, growth is too fast and ‘soft,’ inviting to pests and diseases.
Watering practices make a difference. Overhead watering is not good for most plants, but especially not for fuzzy plants that like it dry – tomatoes, eggplant. Too much nighttime wet equals mildews and more slugs and snails, more remedies and pest prevention, more costly. Plants drink during the day – water in the AM when you can. Make furrows, water deep, let it soak in laterally. Make basins to keep water where you want it. Drip systems usually don’t work in a veggie garden you are planting biodiversely, mixing things up. Also, veggies come and go pretty quickly in an active garden. If you are row or patch planting, if the area is long or big enough, a drip system could work well.
- Water soaked soil is dead soil. Soil organisms, soil builders, simply drown. If in a low spot, check your drainage options; build a raised bed. Add organic water holding compost, water less no matter how much fun it is!
- Dry soil is dead soil. Nitrogen off gases, your soil organisms die or go away. See if you can channel some water to that area. Install furrows or build soil walls or basins to keep water where it is needed, avoid wasteful runoff. Again, add organic water holding compost. Water deeply. If you are gardening at home, busy and forgetful, perhaps you could install drip irrigation on a timer.
Avoid spreading viruses that can spread diseases. Really check those plants you buy at the discount nursery. Remove diseased plants and don’t compost diseased plants. This is a tough decision when it comes to disease tolerant plant varieties. They can have a disease yet still produce. They are bred to do that. Is that ethical? If you are gardening at home and make that choice, that is one thing. If you are in a community garden, and the disease is windborne, is it fair to your garden neighbors? Maybe we all need to get tolerant varieties.
Some diseases lurk in garden border weeds. Or you can bring them into the garden by walking through weeds. Insects bring some diseases and so do animals, like our skunks, raccoons, possums. If the ‘weeds’ are habitat for beneficial insects, be careful what you remove, consider the balances.
Ants. Whether you mind them or not probably depends on how many there are and what they are doing. If they are tending aphids, no! Not only are there ants with aphids, but white flies are attracted to the aphid honeydew as well. Otherwise, ants are virtuous hard working cleaner uppers! The take away dead insects. Balance is the key.
Varieties matter. Planting a variety out of season makes that plant struggle and be vulnerable to pests and diseases it can’t handle. In Santa Barbara we have the cool damp ocean areas and the hot dry foothills. Different varieties will thrive in one and not the other. Planting too early or too late, your plant will try, but may not be able. Some gardeners are totally pro Heirloom, against hybrids. But Nature herself hybridizes, it is a natural process. It occurs naturally by area and plants that grow there do the best there. In a way, we subtly do a similar thing ourselves when we select seed from our best plants. I think being flexible in your choices will get the best all around results.
Planting at the Right Time makes a big difference. Sometimes you just won’t get germination if it is too cold or hot. Or a plant thrives in temporary weather, but dies when it goes cold again, or too, too hot. They need certain temps and day length. Some may survive, but never thrive later. That is sad to see. So respect them. Know them well enough to honor their needs. Planted at the wrong time, pests they aren’t equipped to handle may eat them alive. If you are a big risk taker and financially don’t mind a few losses, go ahead. Some will succeed, for sure. You may or may not get earlier production. Sometimes plants can be planted a month apart, but the later one will ‘catch up,’ and produce at the same time as the earlier plant! Same can be true of smaller and larger transplants because it all depends on temps and day length.
Once your plants are going, sidedressing keeps them going! Sidedressing usually starts when your plants start to bloom, make fruits. Scatter and lightly dig in a little chicken manure and/or lay on a ½” of tasty compost, some worm castings, water on some fish emulsion, blood meal if they are yellowing and could use a quick Nitrogen boost. Water well.
Plant appropriate varieties on time, water and amend well, keep watch on pests and diseases. Robust happily producing plants are worth it, and a joy to watch!