Urban Gardening: Maintenance

Welcome back, Gardening Friends!

It has been a fun few weeks at Beanster’s Bytes as we have been participating in the lead up to Food Revolution Day, which was on Friday, May 17th. We have covered everything from going to an orchard to going to the Farmer’s Market with your toddler. Tending a garden is another great idea with activity to do with your little ones. Not only do they learn how vegetables and fruits grow, but they get to help… err play in your garden.

Beanster "helping" out in the garden!

Beanster “helping” out in the garden!

Last month, we talked about how to plant your garden and before that how to get started. Now, that your vegetables and fruits are planted and have had time to grow, its time for a little maintenance.  Tending to your garden, at least once a week will ensure that it has the optimal conditions for growing and producing the food you want!

How to Thin Plants

You may be wondering why thinning plants may be necessary when you could have planted fewer seeds. Sometimes seeds do not germinate after being planted and planting extra seeds ensure that some of them will grow. Thinning plants helps give the healthiest plants enough room to grow and flourish.

You will need some kitchen scissors or clippers. First, begin by selecting the healthiest plants. If you have many plants in one area that are doing well then pick one in the middle to thin out (this may give each plant enough room without having to thin out other plants).

Before thinning the corn and cucumber plants

Before thinning the corn and cucumber plants

The easiest the way to thin out your plants is to take scissors and clip the plant at the line. If you were to pull the plant out of the soil it could disrupt the soil and other plants.

About to cut the seedlings

About to cut the seedlings

If you want to keep the seedlings and replant them, then gently dig them out. Handle them by their roots or leaves. Grasping the seedlings by the stems could damage them. Then replant them. Now your plants will have enough room to grow.

After Thinning Plants

After Thinning Cucumber and Corn Plants

Pests

There are a lot of different pests that can take up residence in your garden, which can be wonderful and frustrating. Sometimes an overpopulation of a pest can mean that it doesn’t have a natural predator to keep the populations in check.  If possible, you can get chickens, ducks, or other small animals that will help keep pests in check.

Many flowers and other plants can help ward off pests with their scent or by giving the pests something else to eat.

Basil is a wonderful herb that is used in many Italian dishes. It is also a companion plant for tomato, which means that they grow well. Basil also repels mosquitos and flies.

Basil

Basil

Dill is a herb that is great for “distracting” bugs away from your plants. It grows well with cucumbers, onions, and lettuce. However, you may want to plant this away from your other plants to draw the little critters away. Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars and tomato hornworms will much on dill.

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Marigolds have beautiful orange and yellow flowers with a strong smell that repels many bugs and even wild rabbits. The only thing to be careful about is that snails and spider mites are attracted to them.

Marigold Flowers

Marigold Flowers

Sunflowers will attract aphids and ants to it. Sunflowers are hearty plants that can handle the bugs.

There are many ways to rid yourself of pests. The tips below are nontoxic and will not hurt your family, pets, or garden. I have listed the most common pests below and a quick search on the Internet will give you many tips on other pests.

Caterpillars:

Caterpillars are tricky because they become BUTTERFLIES! And who doesn’t like a pretty butterfly?! The problem lies is that in the process of becoming beautiful butterfly the caterpillars may eat up your garden.

Having plants in your garden to draw them away from your veggies or fruits is the easiest way to get them away from your garden. Some plants that host caterpillars are: Butterfly and Common Milkweed, Indian Paintbrush, Shasta Daisy, Snapdragons, Sunflowers, and much more.

Herbs that caterpillars enjoy are dill, fennel, and parsley.

There are many plants, vines, and trees that will host caterpillars. One thing to keep in mind is that you may need to (gently) help relocate the caterpillars to their new home in your garden.

Snapdragons are not only beautiful, but help out with many pests.

Snapdragons are not only beautiful but help out with many pests.

Aphids:

Aphids are small insects that can often cause massive damage to plants by sucking the sap out of a plant. They can travel long distance by the wind or on plants, vegetables, or fruit that are transported to different locations. There are many tips on how to rid yourself of these pesky pests and I have listed a few below.

Many people report that spraying your plants with water will remove the aphids.

Aphids are drawn to the color yellow, so if you have an infested plant, place a shallow yellow dish with soapy water near it. The aphids will head over to the dish and drown in the water.

My favorite tip and one my family uses: buy ladybugs and release them in your garden. The ladybugs will glob up the aphids.

Releasing ladybugs

Releasing ladybugs

Ants

There are many species of ants and most people have had an encounter or two with them. Depending on the kind some tips may need to be altered. Google is your best friend for finding how to rid yourself of a particular ant. Below are some quick and easy tips that will work for most ants.

Cinnamon is a great deterrent for ants. Sprinkle it anywhere that you do not want the ants to go (around your house, plants, or where you are eating outside).

Spray Apple Cider Vinegar over the ant’s invisible pheromone trails and the ants won’t be able to find their way back to your garden or house.

Try giving the ants exactly what they want! Put honey or sugar water in a dish that ants can crawl into and will not be able to get out of. The ants will head in and not be able to make it back out.

Slugs and Snails

After it rains at my house, my husband and I often joke that we have “Snail Crossing” on our driveway. We have learned to step around the slow moving guys and since most of our garden is in pots we have not had a problem with them. However, I know this in not always the case, so below are some tips for eliminating snails or slugs.

Create Happy Hour for the snails and slugs. Place a shallow dish with cheap beer (or molasses with a sprinkle of yeast) in it. The little guys will crawl in and met a happy demise. Change as needed.

Also, laying an empty container (flower pot or milk container) on the ground in the shade. Then dispose of in the morning or as needed. Can be washed off with soapy water and reused.

When planning your garden and if you know the snails or slugs will go for it, then put the plant in a hanging planter, on a table, or anywhere that it will difficult for the bugs to get to.

Having your garden off the ground will help keep snails and slugs out of your plants

Having your garden off the ground will help keep snails and slugs out of your plants

Birds

Birds can be great because they will eat any pests that you do not want. Although, they can also become pests themselves as they can go after your fruit or vegetables. Some of the most common tips include:

Use scarecrow, wind chimes, or anything that will move in the wind. Plastic owls also work and you will need to move it every few days (to keep the birds guessing).

If I were a bird, I would not be in this tree. Spooky owl!

If I were a bird, I would not be in this tree. Spooky owl!

 

Netting can also protect any fruit trees or bushes.

If you have a dog or cat let them roam around your gardens and that will help keep the birds at bay. Be warned this could result in your furry friend leaving you a “gift” at your door.

Moles and Gophers

One of the easiest ways to prevent these guys from getting into your garden is to plant in containers or raised beds. If you choose to do this, line the bottom of your raised bed with hard wire cloth (aka chicken wire). Makes sure the hard wire gaps are not too big or the gophers will be able to get through. One interesting fact: moles mostly eat insects and the holes they create are mostly an eyesore.

 

Sarah's raised gardening beds

Sarah’s raised gardening beds

 Animals:

When it comes to animals there are many tips and tricks for how to protect your garden from them. I am not going to cover this subject as there are many critters across the country and I could write a whole blog on this!

Plus, if you get me started on the local squirrel who is hiding his peanuts in my plants, I may never stop.

Sometimes your pets may want in on some of your plants, which could cause some damage. I discovered Ella liked corn stalks and munching on some other plants. I bought (and planted) some Wheat Grass for her. I had to show her a couple of times and encourage her to eat it. She now happily munches on it.

Ella likes to much on my plants, so I got her some wheat grass

Ella likes to much on my plants, so I got her some wheat grass

Weeding:

Sometimes plants will “volunteer” themselves in your garden it can be tempting to remove these weeds. However, not all weeds are bad or harmful. One could almost say that a weed is a plant that is out of place.

Weeds can add nutrients to the ground, attract good bugs, or divert the bad bugs away from your garden. Common weeds that are beneficial for your garden are dandelions, clovers, and milkweed.

Of course, if the weeds are encroaching on your garden or competing with your plants then you may need to pull the weeds.

Harvesting:

Depending on when you planted your garden, the weather, and temperature your garden will begin to produce fruits and vegetables.

 

Lettuce basket after some harvesting

Lettuce basket after some harvesting

Lettuce, spinach, and many herbs may begin to flower (aka begin to seed). If this happens, you will want to clip the flowers off. The plant will continue to grow. My cilantro and basil plants almost continually flower. I have found that clipping these flowers has made the plants fuller and bushier.

Later this summer, I will follow up with harvesting tips, reseeding, and fall vegetables and fruits.

Have a gardening topic or topic you want me to research for you? Or tips all gardeners need to know? Post it below!

Ladybugs and Aphids,

Mrs. Know it All

I am a Nutritionist and Blogger who is not known for her plating of food or photo skills. I love to empower people to live the busy lives they have created, while being healthy, happy, and hopefully at their best every day.
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7 Comments

    • Rhonda, I am glad you enjoyed the gardening blog. Please let me know how the yellow dish works out. Thank you for your support and comment!

  1. Pingback: | Urban Gardening 2: Planting

  2. Great talking with you today Heidi….Love the today’s gardening blog and pics of your garden!!! really like the pics of Ella and how you solved the problem of her eating your plants…also releasing the ladybugs…you remember when we did that at the lake house gardens!

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