You planted your organic, heirloom seed kits and watched as they sprouted. Now what?! These are the four primary maintenance tips that we follow at Ark Farms.
1. Water, Water, WATER.
Most plants prefer about one inch of water a week. It has been especially dry in the Midwest, so we have had to rely exclusively on our sprinkler systems. When we water, we focus our efforts in the morning. Watering your plants in the middle of the day is ineffective because the light and heat cause the water to evaporate before it can be absorbed by the plants.
2. Pest Control
Keep an eye on pests and diseases throughout the entire growing season. Midsummer, however, is a particularly important time because that’s around when their populations are really taking off. Ark Farms is very passionate about using natural, non-chemical remedies to prevent pests and disease. Some of our “go-tos” include:
- Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth: this harmless, natural substance lightly sprinkled on and around plants can do wonders for keeping a healthy garden! DE can get rid of slugs, snails, roaches, mites, ants, millipedes, aphids and more. In addition to its pest-control properties, diatomaceous earth can help improve soil structure and drainage.
- Neem Oil: The most active component, Azadirachtin, reduces insect feeding and acts as a pest repellent. Neem oil interferes with the normal life cycle of insects, including feeding, molting, mating, and egg-laying which will control hundreds of pests, including whitefly, aphids, Japanese beetles, moth larvae, scale, and spider mites. Neem oil is also listed as a miticide because it kills mites, which are not insects but are related to spiders and ticks.
- Companion Planting: This is a practice that involves planting two or more different plants near each other to derive some type of benefit – which could include pest control but also attracting pollinators. For example, nasturtium (our personal favorite at Ark) attracts aphids and other insect pests away from your more valued edible plants like beans and squash. As well as their colorful orange and yellow flowers attract bees and other pollinators to the garden – a vital part of a healthy garden yield
Maybe the least favorite task for all gardeners – but weeding early and often will pay off in the long run! It’s important to remove weeds from your garden as soon as possible because weeds steal moisture and nutrients from your plants. Many weeds also attract pests and diseases to move in. Weeds are easiest to pull when they’re young and small; moist soil makes this task even easier. Another reason to tackle them while they’re young – you want to prevent weeds from producing seeds and spreading!
There are a lot of different opinions on pruning in vegetable gardens. At Ark Farms, we do some light pruning early in the growing season which includes pulling off early blossoms on squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers. We choose to do this because it encourages the plants to get larger and more substantial before the plant tries to start producing vegetables.
It is amazing how quickly a well-kept garden can take off – with anxious anticipation and immense joy we watch the non gmo heirloom seeds grow from day to day. With a little maintenance work, now we wait for our first harvest!