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Tips to Get the Most out of Your Garden

06/04/2018 08:53AM ● Published by Digital Media Director

By: Jennifer Hoesing, Stockyards Ag Experience

1.     Plan ahead and think about what to plant and when. Farmers are making plans and budgeting for months in advance. Think about what you want to plant before you head the to garden center!

2.     Learn about your soil. If it is heavy, peat moss can be added. Compost can be added to soil if soil structure needs to be improved. You can have your soil tested so you know exactly what it needs.

3.     Speaking of soil, be sure your soil is at the right temperature for planting. For example, farmers plant corn when the soil temperature is 50 degrees and 54 degrees for soybeans. Tomatoes and marigolds can be transplanted at 55 degrees but need 60 degrees to grow. If you’re growing seedlings, they sprout best at 65-75 degrees.

4.     Thinking about warmth and light. If you’re starting from seed, cover with plastic wrap and keep your containers in a warm spot. On top of the refrigerator (where heat comes from the bottom) is a good place. Once seedlings have sprouted, remove the plastic wrap and place in bright light. I have a south facing patio window that works perfectly.

5.     Think about how you’ll encourage growth. Just like farmers, you have lots of choices about inputs to help plants grow and control weeds and pests. There are plenty of options for fertilizers, from homemade compost, coffee grounds, egg shells to products you buy at a garden center or nursery. Something I want to try one day when I have a big garden: planting marigolds with vegetables to keep pests at bay.

6.     Have you heard of precision agriculture? Precision ag is farmers responding to specific conditions with their crops. This means optimizing returns and preserving resources. Home gardeners can do the same thing! Not every plant you grow will need exactly the same things. Some may need more (or less!) water, for example. Others may need more help keeping weeds and pests away.

7.     Know that you may experience some loss. Weather conditions, pests, and an abundance of water may take some of your crop. There’s risk involved in growing.

8.     Farmers need the right equipment to get their job done. For home gardeners, the same thought process applies. Have the right tools for the job, and take good care of them. Sand mixed with a little bit of motor oil can be used to clean gardening tools.

9.     With the long winter we’ve had, no one’s ready to think about the return of cold weather. Enjoy the long days, the summer sun, and eventually, the bounty of the harvest. Think about what to prune back before winter to maximize your blooms next spring. Consider covering your garden with mulch or even growing a cover crop like farmers do if you have a large garden. Remember that growing is cyclical and something we can be thinking about even when the snow flies.

10.  Look for inspiration and be proud of your hard work. Growing food, flowers or other plants can be challenging. Celebrate your successes and learn from what didn’t work. Keep trying! Farmers will tell you: for better or worse, there’s always next year.

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