By: Christina Mann
I was talking to my friend Inger today, a blogger on this site, and she called me a “gardening guru” and said she’s learned so much from me. It was a very humbling statement and I had to laugh because I think I’ve had as many failures as successes. I do believe I had mentioned in my Gardening for Beginners Part Two blog that I would talk more about gardening, so to kill any ego I may have I am going to start by telling you some things I’ve done wrong. Ok the main reason I’m telling you my failures is so you can learn from them and not repeat them!!! I’m hoping I will catch some of you before you ruin a perfectly good garden, like I pretty much did this year. (Yah that’s right this “guru” just about killed off her garden.)
Oh…where to start…like I said there are several “whoops” here.
I suppose I’ll start with water. It is one of the hardest things to keep right here in the desert. One of many ways gardening goes wrong is good intending people thinking they can hand water their garden enough in this desert. I actually started by hand watering my garden to realize quickly that I don’t have that much time! It would take hours every day. Currently it is July. My in ground plants need watered three times a day. I think I have it set for 16 minutes in the morning and evening and thirty minutes mid-day. My “troughs” I have on for about 12 minutes three times a day. My containers in the shade I have on for two minutes three times a day. I have now started using adjustable valves on the plants so if one needs more or less I can adjust it accordingly. The “everything gets the same thing” approach doesn’t account for plant types or the amount of sun they may get in a certain area.
So how do you know if you’re getting enough water on your garden? Good question. This year I tended to lean on the whoops, not enough water side myself (We had a record heat wave. Rumor has it we had 39 days straight of triple digits). If you are not getting enough water you will see a combination of the following:
1) Your plants look weepy unless you just watered them. In my case not just the leaves slightly weepy, the stalk too.
2) Your plants may look yellow,pale in color, or crispy. (Brown leaves may be sun burnt.)
3) Your fruit isn’t setting, it just turns yellow and dies.
4) Your plants are small in size and the leaves are small.
5) If you dig into your soil before the next water cycle and it is dry.
What about if you’re plant is getting too much water? I rarely have this problem, but I have had it. It is important not to drown your plants or fungi will set in and rot the roots. Look for the following:
1) The soil is “soupy” wet. The top should be a bit dry before you water again. You shouldn’t be able to pour water off or have it dripping if you were to take some in your hand. It should only be moist enough to stick together.
2) The plants will have yellowing leaves or stalks.
The other big water mistake I have made is that I did not regularly check my timers if I saw my garden getting wilted, or I did not check my garden daily. I had a battery operated timer and the battery died, or a child changed it a couple times. I since have changed to a wired system, but turned off my breaker one day, not realizing that I had to turn my timer back on. So watch out for that!
Here is how I almost killed off my garden this year and could have killed some trees:
1) I took vague gardening advice from some well meaning friends. In this case it was to make an “insecticidal soap”. A couple people I know said to use soapy water mixed and spray your plants with it to prevent bugs. It was supposed to be a “green” option. When I asked what kind of soap I was told, “You know dish soap”. So… I mixed some dish soap with water, put it in a spray bottle and did mistake number two…
2) I did not test a new product on a single plant or area of plant. I sprayed this stuff everywhere!!! On healthy looking vegetables, on healthy looking fruit (I was trying to be proactive), and even on trees.
Now in my defense, I was smart enough to make sure the soap didn’t say “antibacterial”, that clearly would mean it was meant to kill plants. I also knew not to spray anything on my plants in the middle of the heat or they would be sunburned. Despite my precautions a couple days later they started having yellow spots, then brown. I happened to have a gardening friend over and discussed it and realized that there was something in the soap I used that must be the problem. I then quickly went and rinsed off my plants and trees for quite a while. This probably saved my plants, but it has taken most of the summer for them to recover as many of the leaves completely died off. Unfortunately many may have missed their prime fruit producing time, so my yield for this year’s spring garden is not good at all. It was a costly lesson.
There are other mistakes I’ve made, but I don’t want to completely discredit myself. :)
How about you? Have you made any garden blunders you’d like to warn others about? Do you actually have any tried and true organic, home-made insect repellants you’d like to share?