The Weekly Gardener 1

Logo


Gardening Naturally

What Plants Need to Thrive

Lilac

If you've ever driven by a flower meadow in the middle of summer, you must have realized that plants handle themselves very well without human assistance, as they've always done. The gardener is only there to cheer them along.

A plant needs three things to thrive: sunlight, water and a proper balance of nutrients. From here on the details of what that means exactly for each species vary wildly.

Sunlight is the most important component, since it can't be supplemented, like the other two. No plant will do well with the wrong sun exposure, no matter how much care the green thumb doles upon it. If the label says full sun, that means at least eight hours a day.

Water only if the plants need it, which means when the soil is dry to the depth of one inch, or if they show signs of wilting, and then take your time to make sure that water seeps deeply into the ground. Rare and deep waterings encourage plants to develop strong root systems.

Sure it would be nice to go all natural and use no commercial fertilizers, but unless you have some well rotted manure laying around to mix into the plant beds in spring, or you compost large amounts of organic material, the nutrients in your garden soil will get depleted over time because plants that produce flowers and fruit are heavy feeders. A handful of organic fertilizer every month will keep your garden happy and blooming.

divider

Too Much Rain, Not Enough Rain

Toad Lily

It's raining really hard again, a heavy summer rain, complete with lightning bolts and earth shaking thunder. The air is too warm and holds onto a fragrance I can't identify, something that doesn't smell exactly like summer, but like an in-between season I haven't experienced before.

This year's was a rainy summer, not a garden's favorite, that's for sure, but it did ensure good water reserves for the foreseeable future.

If I had to choose, I'd say that plants can handle drought a little better than excessive rain, for the simple reason that a gardener can water when it is too dry, but a gardener can't provide sunshine.

When the summer gets too wet two tasks take priority: draining excess water and providing fertilizer to replace the nutrients that have been washed away in the runoff.

A rainy season encourages the growth of luxuriant foliage, but makes plants hold off on blooming and setting fruit. Wet weather also creates a favorable environment for fungi, rusts and molds, and if the soil stays constantly soggy, it can encourage root rot. Prune and clean the garden beds religiously to allow good air movement around the stems and stake the lanky plants, which tend to grow sappy and fragile in the rain.