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DON’T MICROMANAGE YOUR GARDEN

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By Lois Hoffman | Aug 20, 2019

At this time of year, the garden is coming into all of its glory. Well, it should. After all, it has been planted (sometimes replanted), fertilized, weeded, watered, sprayed for insects, mites, fungus and more. It has literally been babied so that it will produce.

For all of us folks who love to be in the garden, it is easy to overdo, both physically and garden-wise. Micromanage means to supervise every small step and some of us tend to do this with the garden. We tend to forget that nature provides a balance and sometimes, by trying to help, we do more harm than good.

A case in point is watering. Yes, everything needs water to flourish but not everything needs the same amount. My garden has sandy soil which can wick away moisture in no time. Where heavier ground would be saturated by a heavy rain for a couple days, the same amount of rain will drain through sandy soil in less than a day. So, it does need to be watered more often, but not as a whole. Each plant variety has its own moisture needs.

I learned this lesson the hard way with my peppers. They do like a drink, but not nearly so much as other plants. For years, I watered them every day, especially when they were flowering and making peppers. I was always disappointed when I had hardly any peppers those years. When I learned to let them have their drier soil, they blessed me with numerous fruits.

A few years ago, I literally cooked my tomatoes before I picked them. It was during a hot, steamy stretch of weather and the vines were withered in the middle of the afternoon. Instead of waiting until the cooler evening hours, I watered them in the hot afternoon by spraying water directly onto them. The cold water literally cooked the over-heated foliage and damaged the plants for the rest of the season. Even though they were withered, waiting a few more hours would have been better for them than trying to remedy the situation immediately. I “helped” too much!

The same goes for fertilizer. The first thought is to add nutrients, lots of nutrients, as soon as you can after planting and to keep doing so week after week. Sometimes less is more. Just like when we overeat, we do not do our best and the same is true for plants.

Also, just like us, not all palettes are the same. We like different foods and so do plants. It is a pain to buy different fertilizer blends but the end result is well worth it. One size doesn’t fit all here.

Micromanaging the garden for me comes into play especially at harvest. It does not matter how much I space out my plantings, it seems that everything is ready at the same time…or so it seems. Take tomatoes, for example. In years past when I would can them, I wanted enough to make a canner full. So, whether it is spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce or just plain tomato juice, I picked the ripe ones and some that were not quite ready yet. Throwing a few partially ripe ones into a batch wouldn’t hurt and I would have a full canner. It did affect the flavor. Instead, I could have picked the ripe ones and held them for a couple days until there were more ripe ones to make the canner full. Patience really is a virtue, especially when it comes to ripening fruit for there is nothing that makes it taste better than ripening on the vine.

The same is true for my sweet peppers. Green peppers are exactly that…green peppers that are not quite ripe. When they turn orange or red, they are sweeter and tend to cause less stomach problems in folks who say they cannot eat green peppers. I cannot count the times that I have micromanaged and plucked them green off the vine instead of waiting for nature to take her course.

Much of this micromanaging thing is simply due to enjoying the garden so much. After all, here in the northern climate of Michigan, our gardening season is pretty short. I have this misguided notion that I need to be in the garden every day, even when it is perfectly fine on its own. This is why I plant companion plants that “help” each other to grow better and I also plant certain herbs and flowers that naturally keep predators at bay. So, why don’t I step back and let them work? Sometimes, it takes more patience just to step back and let the garden grow on its own. Some problems we create by having to be in control of everything.

I have always believed in balance and this is as true in the garden as anywhere else. It is one of the hardest lessons to learn to tend to the garden and help nature instead of trying to do it all ourselves. I am trying to take the term “micromanage” out of my vocabulary. Be patient, my garden, this may take a while.

Images courtesy of Lois Hoffman

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