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Good House Cleaning In the Garden

Keeping things neat and tidy in the garden is a key to success.

My snow peas and strawberries are ready for picking. My lettuces are growing like crazy! My summer crops, including green beans, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, to name a few, have all been planted. My gardens are all doing exactly what they want to be doing ... growing.  

Now that the garden is in full swing, it's time to focus on maintenance. Most of the maintenance or upkeep involves what I think of as "house cleaning."

Keeping things neat and tidy in the garden is truly one of the keys to success and necessary for optimum growth. Cleaning up and disposing of any fallen leaves or petals, thinning out plants and deadheading any spent blooms is a good place to start. Weeding is a given. The last thing you want is for your plants to fight for food, light or water.  

Cleaning up fallen leaves or petals is important because if left on the ground, they will decompose and create a mucky mess.

"Mold spores thrive and multiply in the moist, nutrient rich environment that plant litter provides," according to GardenGuides.com.

Get rid of the litter. Thinning out and paying attention to spacing is important because it helps with air circulation and pests who just love to hide in dense plantings. Pinching back and deadheading not only keeps things neat but also allows the plant to put its energy into making more blooms instead of going to seed.

I remove side shoots on my tomato plants and constantly cut my lettuces and herbs back. Here's a tip, use a pair of tiny scissors -- they're less damaging than pinching with your fingers.

Another part of maintenance is feeding. What kind of fertilizer and how much depends on your soil, which is why it is so crucial to have a soil test. It also depends on which crops you are growing. For example, potatoes needs lots more nitrogen then say green beans or tomatoes. Feeding tomatoes too much nitrogen can cause the plant to grow more leaves instead of fruit. Tomatoes and other fruiting veggies like a higher percentage of phosphate than nitrogen.

It can be confusing, I know. Luckily there are a lot of products on the market that make it easier.  Tomato Tone was created for tomatoes, and all of my plants seem to benefit from an occasional feeding of a liquid fish emulsion. It's a little stinky but most organic gardeners swear by it. There's so much we can't control in nature but being mindful and creating good habits in the garden are bound to help.

Enjoy your time cleaning up in the garden. Watch and learn as things grow and change. Try to make note of what works or doesn't work and just keep growing.

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