This time of the year is hard on any garden, especially with the temperatures still sitting in the high nineties. Things may start to look a little scraggly, wilted, overgrown, or tattered. This doesn’t mean that your garden is done for, though! We are going to outline several tips and best practices to help you keep your garden alive so that you can get the most out of it even as the season comes to an end!
Water At Night
This is key! Watering at night, or at least in the late evening or early morning when temperatures are still cool, ensures that the water you are using is being maximized. If you water your garden when temperatures are high, it is guaranteed that much of the water that is supposed to go to your plants will either evaporate or be carried off by the wind. In fact, the amount of water that evaporates increases exponentially with hotter temperatures. Especially with how dry our climate gets here in Northern Colorado, watering during the heat of the day can easily lead to anywhere from 25%-50% of the water from your sprinkler system being wasted. Not only is this not good in terms of water conservation, but it also means that your plants are not getting a large amount of the water they need to survive through the extremely hot temperatures we are experiencing. So, program your sprinklers to water in the coolest part of the day, or if you don't have an irrigation system set up, water with a hose-end sprinkler. We have all sorts of options in our online store making it so that you can turn on your water late at night and not worry about having to turn it off!
Put Down a Layer of Mulch
Putting down a layer of mulch or grass clippings can do wonders for helping your garden retain moisture. This layer acts as a sort of insulation or shield, protecting the ground from the sun. While the water that gets soaked up by the protective layer will still likely evaporate, it will keep the soil itself from drying out and hardening. With the temperatures being as hot as they have been, keeping the soil in your garden moist is so important for healthy plants. This layer of mulch or grass clippings allows your soil to retain moisture, giving your plants access to the water they need before it is evaporated by the sun. It also allows for better root growth in your plants, which brings more nutrients to the plants and encourages healthier fruit development. In some cases, dried grass clippings can even act as a reflective surface, directing the heat of the sun away from your garden.
Amend the Soil with Compost
If you have never added compost to your soil, your garden is severely missing out! Compost replenishes your soil with nutrients, helps loosen the soil keeping it from becoming too compact, and also helps your soil retain moisture! Introducing such rich organic matter to your soil can quickly and easily transform a garden that is depleted and struggling into a garden that is flourishing and productive. This is especially important if you are planting multiple rounds of garden fruits and vegetables. Tilling compost into the soil in your garden between rounds will make sure that your plants are getting the nutrients they need to grow big and strong. And the great thing about compost is it is inexpensive and easy to make yourself! Simply collect your scraps such as banana peels, eggshells, and coffee grounds, let them begin to decompose, then throw them into your soil! For a more in-depth guide on at-home composting, check out our blog!
Replace Spent Plants with Cool-Season Crops!
Now is the perfect time to be planting your cool-season crops! These are generally vegetables that grow best in cooler temperatures, so they will perform best when planted either at the beginning or end of the growing season. This includes vegetables such as peas, chard, lettuce, broccoli, brussels sprouts, carrots, beets, radishes, and more!! So, if you really want to get the most out of your garden, planting a fall crop is the way to do it! If you are interested in learning more about this, we have a helpful blog specifically on cool-season crops, as well as an informative video!
Rotate Your Crops
If you do decide to plant another round of garden vegetables, make sure to rotate your crops! You may think dirt is dirt, but certain plants use certain nutrients, and if you plant the same vegetable in the same spot repeatedly, that plant will leech all of the nutrients out of the soil and then will be left unhealthy and struggling since it no longer has access to the nutrients it needs. Rotating your crops ensures that no one spot of your garden gets entirely depleted of any one nutrient. This in turn helps the plants in your garden stay healthy, grow strong, and produce an impressive harvest. While rotating your crops is a very important practice when gardening, your soil will still become nutrient deficient over time. This is why composting, fertilizing and tilling your soil are still so important. Composting will help keep your soil moist, fluffy, and suitable for your plant’s roots. Fertilizing will make sure there are the necessary nutrients in your soil. Tilling your soil mixes it all up and makes sure there is a healthy distribution of nutrients and organic matter throughout your whole garden. Tilling also helps keep your soil from becoming too compact, especially after the winter season has passed.
Trim Back Plants that are Going to Seed
Making sure you adequately trim back certain plants in your garden or greenhouse will help to greatly increase the health of the plant, and in turn, increase its production. This relates mostly to the herbs in your garden, though it can pertain to some of your leafy greens as well. As your plants progress through their natural growth cycle, they will start to go to seed. This is the part of the cycle where the plant slows its growth and begins to divert more of its energy towards flowering. These flowers produce seeds, which then fall to the ground and eventually grow more of that plant. To get the most out of the plants in your garden, this process must be cut short. In the case of your herbs and leafy greens, if you cut back the flowers that begin to grow on your plant, this stops the natural growing cycle and encourages the plant to continue to put its energy towards leaf production, meaning you get more herbs and greens!
Prune Plants for Greater Production
While this may sound very similar to what was just mentioned above, it is quite different. With many of the plants in your garden, the natural growing cycle of the plant producing a flower which then turns into the product is the end goal, and trimming back the flower would be counterproductive. Pruning back unnecessary limbs, leaves and sometimes blooms can help improve the overall quality and quantity of your fruit, as it encourages your plant to put more of its energy into the fruit it is producing instead of into leaves or extra branches that will not produce fruit. Generally, the most important garden plants to prune back are tomatoes and peppers, though other plants such as your cucumbers and squash can also benefit from this.
Do You Have Gardening Questions?
We know this was a very general overview of several topics that could be delved into quite a bit more. So, if you have any questions or want more information on any of the topics that we covered here, please let us know! Our Fort Collins garden center is always happy to help in any way we can. Happy gardening!