Monday, May 24, 2010

Gardening Season!

Gardening time is here!

How does your garden grow? With rich Midwest soil, abundant and sunshine and adequate water you can grow just about anything.

The picture posted to the left is the first picture of our garden for the season. It always amazes me how something that starts out so sparse ends up to be so full of plants you can barely walk through by the middle of summer.

We have a variety of plants growing this year. The ones you see in the foreground are potato and onion plants. Those have been in the ground since Easter weekend. The potato plants took a good hit in the freezing temperatures we had a couple weeks ago, but they have recovered well. We also have planted asparagus, lettuce, tomato, sugar snap peas, peas, pole and bush beans, radishes, brussel sprouts, broccolli, yellow/orange/red peppers, muskmelon, watermelon and, of course, sweet corn. Galen's grandpa grew peanuts on his farm in Nebraska one year, so we are going to try Spanish Peanuts this season. We have some berry plants as well, the only berries in the actual garden are strawberries. We do have raspberries and blueberries elsewhere on the property, and rhubarb, too. 

We enjoy gardening, but admit we are rather neglectful gardeners. Due to the nature of our work life we have very little time to devote to maintaining our garden space. We water when it needs water and weed when we can, but otherwise leave the plants to their own devices. I do admire folks who have beautiful weed free gardens. I have tried to convince my children to invite their friends over for weeding parties but they never take me up on it!

All gardens need water. If the weather patterns are not providing your garden with adequate moisture you will need to provide supplemental moisture. We have a highly technical watering system that involves a sprinkler head on a post and a hose hook up for spot watering. Not really high-tech at all, but it does the job. If you have an underground sprinkler system the options are almost endless as to how you can water your garden.  We have customers who opt for the raised head option, like we have, and some that have drip irrigation that they re-install to match their garden layout each year.

How much should you water? It is dependent on many factors. Your plants will tell you what they need. I did find an article from "How Stuff Works", titled: "Watering a Vegetable Garden" by C. Colston Burrell, that explains very well about watering I will paste it here in it's entirety:
Some plants are composed of up to 95 percent water. Water is vital from the moment seeds are sown through sprouting to the end of the growing season. Plants need water for cell division, cell enlargement, and even for holding themselves up. If the cells don't have enough water in them, the result is a wilted plant. Water is essential, along with light and carbon dioxide, for producing the sugars that provide the plant with energy for growth. It also dissolves fertilizers and carries nutrients to the different parts of the plant.

Watering, whether for rows of crops or in containers, is often necessary to supplement
rainfall. Ideally, water for plants comes from rain or other precipitation and from underground sources. In reality, you'll often have to do extra watering by hand or through an irrigation system. How often you should water depends on how often it rains, how long your soil retains moisture, and how fast water evaporates in your climate. Soil type is another important factor. Clay soils hold water very well -- sometimes too well. Sandy soils are like a sieve, letting the water run right through. Both kinds of soil can be improved with the addition of organic matter. Organic matter gives clay soils lightness and air; it gives sandy soils something to hold the water.

Other factors may also affect how often you need to water your garden:

    * More water evaporates when the temperature is high than when it's low. Plants can rot if they get too much water in cool weather.
    * More water evaporates when the relative humidity is low.
    * Plants need more water when the days are bright.
    * Wind and air movement will increase the loss of water to the atmosphere.
    * Water needs vary with the type and maturity of the plant. Some vegetables are tolerant of low soil moisture.
    * Sometimes water is not what a wilting plant needs. When plants are growing fast, the leaves sometimes get ahead of the roots' ability to provide them with water. If the day is hot and the plants wilt in the afternoon, don't worry about them; they will regain their balance overnight. But if plants are wilting early in the morning, water them immediately.

So much depends on climate and the ability of different soil types to hold moisture that it's difficult to give specific directions for watering your garden. Generally, however, vegetable plants need about an inch of water a week. The best time to water your garden is in the morning. If you water at night when the day is cooling off, the water is likely to stay on the foliage, increasing the danger of disease. Some people believe that you shouldn't water in the morning because water spots on leaves will cause leaf-burn when the sun gets hot; this isn't the case.

When watering your vegetable garden, there is one rule you should follow: Always soak the soil thoroughly. A light sprinkling can often do more harm than no water at all: It stimulates the roots to come to the surface, where they are killed by exposure to the sun. 
So, fellow gardeners, that is how, when and why to water your garden. If you ever have a hankering to pull some weeds, I know a garden where you can get your hands dirty!

Have a super week!

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