In the meantime, enjoy these easy tips for making your garden like you a little more, and for you to enjoy your garden with less stress:
If you're a new gardener, planting a new garden, or just looking for some quick tips to remind you of a few garden priorities, this post is for you.
Take care of the soil and the rest is easy: The plants will feed you but you must feed them first. Plant roots need lots of room to grow. Digging the soil deep and amending it with lots of organic matter (compost) makes this much easier. Use high quality blends when bringing soil in or dig manure/ compost in deeply if using whats already in ground. A one time application of Texas Greensand is also helpful to enrich the soil with minerals and keep your crops green.
Raise the soil up: Raised beds provide lots of advantages: better drainage, easier maintenance, better amendment process, closer to you so less stooping, and increases distance form caliche, hardpan or clay. Lots of fun bed container materials exists, but mounding the soil will achieve same results without the materials expense.
Use high quality, locally grown/ appropriate plant starts or seeds: Do not trust what the big box stores sell you. The same plants are sold across the entire Southern US and they are not appropriate for all places. Also, they are treated with a variety of chemicals to delay flowering, increase green color, stunt growth or be able to sit in a truck for days with limited sunlight. Locally grown starts are readily available at high quality area nurseries and many information sources exist discussing the appropriate varieties for Austin or wherever you live.
Give yourself access: You should do everything you can to increase access to your garden and make being in it a comfortable experience. Large beds require awkward stooping or stepping on the soil, which increases soil compaction and reduces root growth. Plan so you can easily touch every part of your garden without having to be in awkward positions. Well place stepping stones are also helpful.
Sun, sun, sun: Gardens should go where the sun is. Vegetable plants need no less than 6 hours of full sun everyday. More is better. Observe your space and put it where it will be successful, which sometimes is not the most convenient place. That being said: sometimes a little shade can be your friend. Plant your veggies in full sun, but consider installing some shade cloth during the hotter months to increase yield. Shade cloth lets sun in at an amount that the plants can handle without limiting direct exposure.
Automate watering: Drip irrigation conserves water, delivers water right to the plants' roots, cuts weeding in half and keeps water off the leaves which reduces pest and disease problems. The use of this and a simple inexpensive timer eliminates leaving the water on all night or having your garden die because your neighbor forgot to water while you were on a July weekend getaway.
Give plants plenty of space: Plants, like humans, need space to grow. When leaves touch insects move around easier and some leaves block the sun from others. Summer plants especially can get huge, so leave lots of space for seasonal growth.
Mulch: Mulch can be any organic (or inorganic) material that is layed on the surface of the soil at the roots of plants. Anything from newspaper, plastic sheeting, hay or pinestraw can be used. Mulch reduces weeds, evaporation and keeps soil biologically active near the surface. It rocks. Use it.
Plant what you eat: While a bed full of exotic Thai and habanero peppers is pretty cool, and your ability to eat a Bulgarian carrot pepper will impress your friends, the more you plant what you like to eat, the more you will. It's simple.
Spend time in the garden: Observation is crucial for garden success. Pest infestations and weeds usually come on slowly and can be controlled if caught early. If a plant looks funny, something might be askew. Treating symptoms early will reduce their long-term effect. Plants don't need a lot of help, but 5 minutes weeding, pruning, harvesting, staking and interaction every other day makes a huge difference in overall success. It also reduces stress and is fun, so go get in the garden and see whats going on.