3 Ways To Keep Your Garden Green This Summer
Whether you’ve got a simple kitchen garden or a sprawling farm, there are a few things you need to know to ensure healthy plants and a hearty yield come harvest time. Tim King shares how he keeps things running smoothly during hot summer months.
Things on the farm are heating up as the long days of summer arrive. These days you’ll find us working non-stop in the fields trying to combat Mother Nature who threw an unexpected hail storm at us last July. During this busy season, three important things kick into high gear: irrigation, weeding and harvesting.
“Water is essential to plant growth and fruit development because that’s how the nutrients are delivered to the plant,” Tim says. “For example, tomatoes need calcium. You can have calcium in your soil but it won’t matter if you have an inadequate amount of water because it won’t get delivered into the plant. Then your tomatoes can start developing blossom end rot.”
The greenhouses use well-water because the sprinklers need cleaner water. The fields run off of pond water so filters are set up at every field and run irrigation lines to each one.
For smaller gardens or a greenhouse, Tim advises setting your irrigation system on a timer. They’re cheap and simple to operate. “That way you know you won’t forget to water,” he says. He also recommends irrigating a smaller area through drip irrigation.
“When you water plants and get the plant tissue wet, if there are any lesions on the plant you’re making your plant more susceptible to disease,” he explains. Drip irrigation helps avoid these diseases as well as conserve water by determining the exact amount of water the plants need.
A general rule of thumb, when watering most vegetable plants is 1 inch of rain per week. At Freedom Farms, plants are irrigated every other day through the drip system, ensuring proper hydration. During dry spells drip irrigation is increased to once a day, or more.
And how do you know when your crops need hydrating? Thankfully, it doesn’t take a lot of fancy equipment. Stick your finger in the soil down by the roots and if it’s dry, it needs watering.
Pete may be known as the “Human Harvester” but Tim gives him a run for his money. “I can harvest 65 ears of corn in less than a minute,” he says with a confident smile. This means you won’t find big, expensive, harvesting machinery on Freedom Farms. The family hand picks all their crops. “Machines are abusive. They mark up the produce,” Tim explains.
In order to withstand harsh machinery, a firmer variety of crops have been developed. Freedom Farms grows heirloom varieties offering a softer fruit and can only be hand-picked. “You can’t grow heirloom varieties and then use a machine,” he says. “They’re a much softer fruit. Just grab an heirloom tomato and a hybrid tomato and you can tell the difference.”
“Everybody hates it, but it’s something you have to be very concerned about,” says Tim. Pesky weeds compete for all the same things plants do for survival including sunlight, water, and nutrients.
If you don’t control weed growth, your plants won’t grow properly.
Weeding after a rainstorm is ideal because moist soil makes it easy to pull weeds out. Make sure you pull the entire weed root otherwise it grows right back. Also, weed when they’re small. You can hoe, pull out by hand, or use a cultivator. Typically, we weed by hand and use hoes.
Prevention is another way to reduce weeds. We mulch with straw and use black plastic. This suppresses weeds before they have a chance to take over.