Step 5 - Maintain plant growth

It is important to maintain plant growth once you have planted your vegetable seeds and transplants. The best advice I received from a farmer when I was woofing in England was to take the time to walk through my garden and observe.

Every day or two I take the time to keep an eye on my vegetable plants. I look for signs of garden insects or other pests like slugs or aphids that can cause damage. A little bit of damage is alright for most plants, however if you can catch this early your plants will be healthier and more productive.

Your type of soil as well as observing your plants will give you some indication when other requirements are needed for good plant growth. These requirements are watering, weeding, proper fertilization, and plant protection.

Watering:
You will need to water often enough to keep your vegetable plant growth steady. Too little will cause your plants to wilt and ultimately kill the root; too much water will drown the roots resulting in the same thing. Check out growing vegetables for more specifics.

Weeding:
A weed is just a plant growing where you do not want it. A lot of what we call weeds are actually very beneficial to our soil and plants. Learn more about this on my page about companion planting.

Even though some weeds can be beneficial keep your seedlings and sprouting seeds free of weeds. They can rob young growing vegetable plants of moisture and nutrients which are vital for good growth. It is best to pull weeds when they are small and the soil is a bit damp. Never let weeds mature and go to seed. Once a vegetable plant is bigger you can use mulch to help protect them.

Weeding techniques:

  • Pulling by handmost time consumingsafest way to remove weeds near plantspull weeds when small trying to get the whole rootremove from the garden to the compost
  • Hoeingbest on areas away from the vegetable plantkeep blades sharppick up chopped weeds and compost them
  • Using machines (for example rototiller, tractor)good for large garden areasused to control weeds rather than eliminate them, weeds turned over may grow back

Fertilizing and Amending:
Vegetable plants need nourishment for proper plant growth. Different soil fertilizers may be needed to give your plants a boost during the growing season. Do this once the plants are established, usually starting 2-4 weeks after planting. See my vegetable garden journal for when and how to fertilize your vegetables.

Some gardeners confuse organic soil fertilizers (used to increase soil fertility)with soil amendments (used to improve soil texture).

Fertilizing techniques:

  • Side dressing:lightly till the dry organic fertilizers into the soil around the plant base, using your hand is probably the easiest or place well rotted compost around the plant basegently water in both
  • Compost tea or manure tea:fill a bucket or garbage can 1/4 full with compost or manurefill the container with waterlet this sit at least 24 hoursdilute this mixture with water (1 part tea to 2 parts water)water plants with this mixture

Protection:
During the growing season you can have a variety of weather conditions. Plants may need to be protected from too much heat, cold or frost, wind, pests and larger animals. Learn the 10 ways I protect my plants.


Trellis and staking :
Some vegetables grow best if they are trellised or staked for example pole beans, snow peas, tomatoes and cucumbers.
By trellising or staking you can save space as well as keep fruits from touching the soil. Put supports in when planting so as not to disturbs roots later and train and tie as the plant grows.

Trellis and staking techniques

  • wire cages
  • tepees made from bamboo or sticks
  • sturdy wooden frames
  • tall wooden sticks from wood, metal, bamboo
  • plastic pea trellis
  • string between sturdy sticks

The next step to planting a vegetable garden is probably the most fun! Learn more about your vegetable harvest.


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