It seems simple: give plants enough sunlight and moisture in the right soil conditions and, other than whatever thinning is required to establish non-competitive space, they’ll thrive pretty much stress free. But if one of those requirements is short-changed, our plants can suffer.
The most common stressors include lack of water, poor soil and other physical stresses. When plants are stressed, they’re more vulnerable to pests and diseases. Plants compromised by stress are stressed further as bugs and spores spread. In worst cases, it’s a death spiral. Below are some tips to ensuring a healthy, stress free garden all summer long!
It’s important, as we seek to conserve water even as we give our garden enough, that we recognize drought and low-moisture damage to plants. Hand-watering — with a sprinkling can! — is a great way to give specific plants just what they need where they need it. But make sure you’re giving them enough.
Gardens are also designed to capture rainfall and direct it where needed. These gardens do best with native plants.
Too much watering, mostly a rookie mistake, can also cause problems. Allow the last watering to dry completely at the root line. Stick your finger in the dirt (don’t damage the roots) and see where the moisture starts. When your finger tells you the soil is dry to a depth of an inch, it’s time to water most crops. Shallow rooted plants, especially leafy greens, will need water when the soil is dry to a half inch. Don’t want them wilting!
Sunlight may seem out of your control, but placement is not. Consider where the shadows fall and plant accordingly, doing your best to position plants calling for full sun in a place where they’ll get it.
Be on the look out for sun damaged leaves which have a washed-out or bleached look. Check them carefully. Drying and leaf curling is also a sign of attacks by gnats and mites.
Give plants the space they need to prosper. Most seed packets give spacing recommendations. Use them. Crowded plants compete for water and sunlight. When you notice plants are shading or crowding each other, thin them. Crowded plants invite pests and, once in your garden, encourage those pests to be fruitful and multiply.