Getting the Tools Ready for Gardening Season
By Jos Van Hage
Saturday, April 07, 2012 03:45 AM
Having a beautiful, healthy garden doesn't just happen. It takes planning, work, and staying ahead of any problems or pests that arise. Now is the time to start planning for this years garden.
In the vegetable garden crop rotation is an important step in keeping pests and disease to a minimum as well as growing strong healthy plants. Different plants attract different pests. For example carrots attract the carrot rust fly which leads to maggots in the carrots. Members of the Brassica family that include cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, can get maggots that burrow into the main stem of the plant just below the soil surface and this will kill the plant. Onions are also prone to maggots that can kill the plant. Potatoes can get scab.
To help prevent these problems from re occurring you want to be able to rotate the crops every 3 years. This means that carrots are not planted in the same spot for the next three years. Crop rotation is also beneficial in growing strong healthy plants because different vegetables take out different nutrients from the soil, and so by moving the vegetables to different parts of the garden, the garden soil will not be depleted of certain nutrients. This is a good time to plot out the garden and decide where the different vegetables are going to be planted.
Before using any garden tools clean them first. Spades, rakes, water cans, hoses, pruners, hand tools etc should all be cleaned with a mild solution of bleach mixed with water. Make this a regular routine to prevent any disease from spreading. This is also very important if you are reusing last years pots, containers, or trays, even if you cleaned them out last fall. Give them a quick rinse with 1 part bleach mixed with 10 parts water before planting.
The time to work the soil is when the soil is dry enough. It should break down into fine particles; if it is too wet it will be muddy and clump up. Before tilling the soil, remove any of last years debris, especially if there were disease or pest problems last year. All diseased debris should be thrown into garbage bags and thrown out and not be put into the compost pile. You don't want to spread last years problems to this years garden.
Adding manure or compost to the garden before rotor tilling will integrate it into the soil. If last years garden was not as good as other years you may want to do a simple soil test. Take several samples from different areas of the garden and dig down a few inches to get an accurate reading. There are easy to use soil test kits available in the garden centre that take only minutes to use.
Weeds are another common complaint for many gardeners. Try to get rid of as many weeds as possible before you start planting. Get rid of the first crop of weeds before planting so that young seedlings are not fighting with unwanted weeds for nutrition, moisture and light. If you have a problem with grass in the vegetable garden, you want to dig it out or apply a herbicide such as 'Round Up' before tilling, so that the grass is not spread into other parts of the garden creating an even larger problem.
Taking the extra time now will save time and problems in the long run and will give you that healthy garden you are looking for!
Jos Van Hage owns and operates two Art Knapp Garden Centres in Prince George:
- Highway 16 west at Kimball Road
- Highway 97 north at Northwood Pulpmill Road
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