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Maintaining

Once you have planted seeds and starters in the gardens, there are several things that need to be done on a regular basis to keep your garden growing and healthy. A greenhouse and/or garden need to be watered regularly. You never want the garden beds to dry out, or to be too wet. Ongoing care and maintenance of a greenhouse and/or garden takes dedication, if the forecast is going to be hot over the weekend, make sure there is someone available to come and water the plants. Plants and gardens need care everyday, 7 days a week.

Watering

Plants will need to be watered regularly, especially if the envirnoment is dry or it is windy. Gardens dry out quickly in the wind. Deep watering is more effective than just sprinkling the water on the surface. Plant roots need water to grow; Surface watering encourages plant roots to stay on the surface where they may dry out. Hanging baskets may need 2-3 watering’s per day in hot windy weather.

Feeding

As well as water, plants absorb nutrients and minerals through their roots. These include nitrogen (N), which aids leafy growth, phosphorus (P), which encourages root development and potassium (K), which encourages flower and fruit development. These are considered the main nutrients required to keep plants healthy.

Fertilizing can happen in different ways. One way to fertilize the plants is using a water soluble 20-20-20 fertilizer every 2-3 weeks. The exact directions will be on the bag, but typically use 1-2 tablespoons per watering can (7L).

Another way to fertilize is the ‘side dressing’ method. This can be done during the season when you notice your plants turning yellow. That is a sign that important nutrients have been leached or washed out of the plant roots. Plants yellowing is a sign that they are missing Nitrogen.

You can side dress your plants with a nitrogen fertilizer alongside the row of growing plants. Just keep in mind that it is possible to apply too much nitrogen, so use sparingly. Don’t put the fertilizer directly on the plant, just to the side of it.

Caring

Weeding

Weeding is one of those jobs that just needs to be done. Weeds take up space, water and nutrients in the garden. Some, like chickweed, can grow so quickly that they choke out your crops, so it’s best to address the problem early on. The best time to weed is right after a rain or after you’ve watered, when the ground is soft. All weeds should be pulled out by the roots and as early as possible to avoid them going to seed and overtaking the beds. This is important.

Some weeds such as brome grass can grow back from small sections of root left in the soil. It’s important to get the weeds before they go to seed otherwise you may end up with weeds not just in one bed but in all the beds. The weeds should not be put in the compost pile.

Sometimes it can be hard to tell if a seedling is a weed or something you have planted. If you’re not sure if a plant is a weed, wait until you can see if it’s part of a line of plants. The plants in a line are probably vegetables since weeds seldom grow in a straight line. Removing tall grass and weeds from the inside and around the greenhouses and garden beds reduces the chance of weeds spreading and also reduces pests (like gophers) from coming into the greenhouse for a snack!

Pruning

Pruning is simply cutting off parts of a plant to restrict its size, encourage it to grow in a certain shape or develop more fruit, flowers or stems, or to remove dead or diseased material. Simply removing dead, diseased, broken, crossing and crowded branches is often enough for many plants. Tomatoes need to be pruned regularly, to cut off the “suckers”growing in the middle of two branches. This will help the plant to focus on producing tomatoes, rather than more branches.

A tomato sucker is a smallish shoot that grows out of the joint where a branch on the tomato plant meets the stem.

Deadheading

Deadheading is the process of removing the dead flower tips from a flower plant. Pansies and marigolds thrive when you cut off the dead flowers. This prevents plants from setting seed and encourages them to produce more flowers. By regularly deadheading you can keep them flowering throughout summer.

Thinning

Carrot seeds are very small and it’s easy to plant them too thickly when sowing the tiny seeds. If carrots are spaced too close together, there isn’t enough room to develop large healthy roots and they may become stunted or deformed. When the seedlings are about three to four inches tall, thin the plants to about an inch apart, which usually means removing every second seedling. When thinning carrots, carefully pull the tiny carrot from the soil. Gather up the discarded seedlings and bury them in the compost pile. After the initial thinning, follow up around a month later with a second thinning session. Every second carrot is removed, leaving the roots spaced about 1 ½ to 2 inches apart.

Tip: Take the time to plant carrot seeds ¼ inch apart so the first thinning you get baby carrots. This will require less thinning and will minimize the disturbance of growing of the carrots.

Pollinating Squash

Zucchinis that are grown in a greenhouse need to be manually pollinated. The female flower will have a small zucchini growing on it, and the male will just have a straight stalk with a flower on the end. You can snap off the male flower and in the centre of the flower is the pollen. Gently dab the pollen onto the middle of the female flowers, just above the small zucchini (you can also use a paintbrush by dabbing the paintbrush into the middle of the male flower and then dab the female flower center with the pollen covered paintbrush). One male flower can usually pollinate several females. Zucchini’s will grow to be 6 – 24 inches long!