This has been a memorable year across the board and gardening has really been no different. Climate again marked its influence as unseasonable conditions made growing difficult in many agricultural regions, let alone right in our own backyards. Also, pests, more specifically, mosquitoes again presented a problem that saw increases in the occurrence of West Nile Virus in the Northeast, some instances happening here in the Delaware Valley.
Still, urban farmers are the ultimate pragmatists and most of us are probably already making plans for next year’s term having learned what we can from what we did-or didn’t do- this past year. It’s in that vein that I've compiled a list of resources that no urban garden should be without, especially in lieu of the type of conditions we've been experiencing these past few years.
10 Garden Must-Haves
• Organic Fertilizer/Earthworm castings – This “black gold” is next in line to compost. Adding it as a top-dressing or incorporating it into your soil will provide an infusion of nitrogen and produce some very good results. Either buy them or produce them yourself, which brings up our next must-have.
• Earthworms - The life’s blood of your garden. Sold as pods or eggs, they can be planted into the soil to hatch at a later date. Or, you can purchase different varieties from worm wranglers online to be incorporated directly into the soil. Earthworms provide aeration to the soil while producing nitrogen as a by-product of their excrement/castings.
• Fungicides – Wet weather brings issues to the forefront, the most dangerous being splash. Splash can cause a deadly fungus or some other bacterial infection to take hold of your plants. And it can affect a wide variety of them, also. It’s best to be safer sooner than sorry later by preemptively spraying your crop before a heavy rain with periodic repeat applications throughout the season. Once any of the ailments takes hold, you’re in trouble.
• Drip Irrigation Hoses – Drip hoses allow you to water while avoiding splash. It also facilitates overall plant health by keeping your garden foliage dry.
• Water Timer – Watering consistently is important. An affordable timer allows you to water the same time/same amounts daily.
• Rain Barrel & Downspout Extensions – The cost of water increases each year. Offset those increases by installing a rain barrel under your downspout. Install a downspout extension on any other gutter downspouts of your home, especially if they run off into a garden or greened area. (Note: Some area extension offices have classes on making and installing rain barrels. Check your local office for information.)
• Mosquito protection - This year has seen an increase in the incidence of West Nile Virus. For personal protection, use any of the various sprays, wipes or repellent kits available on the open market.
• Mulch – Protecting your soil from the rigors of climate goes far towards ensuring you have a beautiful space. A layer of mulch 2-4 inches thick provides such protection. You’ll need it multiple times during your growing season: At the start, in the middle of the season and at the end of the season once frost sets in.
• Soil Test Kit - It's the only way to be sure that you're on the right page for good plant health.
Equally important yet not on the list is time; specifically how you utilize it. With our many busy schedules, it gets harder and harder to do the things we enjoy on a consistent basis. Tackle that challenge by devoting some minimal amount of time to your garden every day, as much as you can. Break large projects up so that you accomplish them over an extended period rather than in one day. Using your time wisely in smaller increments to perform tasks will give you greater freedom across the board in your busy schedule to not only enjoy your space but the rest of your life as well.