My mind has been working overtime since I broke my hip four months ago and have been confined to a wheelchair. As I wait for my total hip replacement in August at Stanford Hospital, balance is much on my mind. Balance, both in our gardens and in our lives, is a quest. Something to strive for and realistically, something that may never be totally achieved.
Balance for many of us does not come easily; the happy medium between too much and too little. Plants survive if we are a little off kilter. We can forget to water for a week, and our plants will tolerate it. Or, we can be too early or too late in our planting schedule. We can forget to fertilize on schedule, place plants too close together, or let pruning go for a season. But plants will certainly let us know when we have let our gardens become significantly off-balance. It is always better to prevent it than to remedy the imbalance.
1. Balance your garden with a light, regularly scheduled feeding program.
A gardener that is in tune with his/her garden can recognize early signs of imbalance. Nitrogen deficiency can be spotted in its early stage by evidence of yellowing leaves, and generally, the failure of plants to thrive. Chemical fertilizers high in nitrogen can correct this but tend to leach out of the soil quickly and do nothing to improve soil conditions. Organic solutions, like compost and animal fertilizer, must first be broken down and transformed by microbes to become available to plants. Moisture is necessary to provide optimum conditions for utilization by the plant. While I like using organic techniques, this is not to say that a sprinkle of 14-14-14 in the early spring is not helpful. Demand for nitrogen is high as new leaves emerge.
2. Don’t over-feed or over-water your plants.
The downside of overfeeding nitrogen is that all this tender new growth may attract sucking bugs like aphids. A gentle, balanced approached to feeding plants over time pays off.A balanced garden results in less time spent on weed control.
3. Mulch to reduce weeding and watering.
Weeds take nutrients from the soil creating competition, robbing water and food that your plants need. When barren soil is exposed to the elements, it is creating an imbalance that results in an environment where weeds flourish. Placing plants close together so that the canopy shades the soil between plants, discourages weeds from thriving. A 4-inch layer of mulch also blocks sunshine from weed seeds waiting to germinate and mulching encourages critters that help decomposition, like sowbugs. Because weeds compete with plants for water, food, and sun, weeding will help “tip the balance” in favor of your treasured plantings.
The picture above appeared in Organic Gardening Magazine “Water Well“. The article has some excellent information on watering your gardening.