By Hydrofarm’s Casey Jones Fraser
It’s nearly the end of January. Did you make any resolutions? Have you broken them already? Those of us who make New Year’s resolutions can find it really tough to maintain them. You can read a little bit about why that might be here. But if bigger yields and healthier plants are the inspiration you need to help stick with the program, here’s a list of ideas to make the most of your garden:
1.Dedicate an area of the garden for experimenting with new products and techniques and trying some side-by-side comparisons.
2. Go professional in the vegetative area. Weak young plants result in weak mature plants. Grow more plants than you need and keep an army of uniform, healthy seedlings or clones at your disposal.
3. Stick to the plan. Stop changing equipment, nutrients, genetics, and techniques with every new planting. Commit to changing only one variable, so you can truly learn from the experience.
4. IPM (integrated pest management). Start pretreating your plants with inoculants (beneficial microorganisms) on a weekly schedule to prevent root rot, gray mold, and powdery mildew. Treat roots, foliage, and stems. Use sticky traps to identify any new pests. Spray organic bug controls, such as Azatrol, on a regular schedule. Don’t wait for the bugs to damage your plants before you react.
Keep On Learning!
5. Learn about microbiology. Pick up a copy of Teaming with Microbes by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis, or a similar text. Get a basic understanding of the unseen world of bacteria, fungi, nematodes, protozoa, etc.
6. Stay up-to-date and informed on the dangers of chemical pesticides. New regulations come into play every year, as state agencies study the dangers of synthesized bug killers. Learn what to use, and how to use it safely. Protect yourself and the environment!
Try Something New!
7. Soil growers: try hydro. Hydro growers: try soil. Don’t go changing your entire setup, but consider experimenting with a different growing style, even if it’s just one or two plants. And don’t be afraid to fail! Johnny Cash once said, “You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone.”
8. Is your wiring protected by conduit pipe? Are there questionable pathways in your garden that could cause a slip-and-fall? Do you have proper eye protection? You can’t work in the garden if you’re lying in a hospital bed.
9. Maintain your snips. Get some sharpeners, cleaners, and lubricants for your garden pruners. This will speed up harvest and routine garden maintenance, because your cuts will be smoother and faster.
Keep It Clean!
10. Clean, clean, clean. Sterilize your plastics before starting a new garden. Sweep the floors after every routine chore is finished. Wipe down the room with 10-20% bleach solution (use gloves and protective eyewear). Clean the glass on air-cooled reflectors. All of these hygienic efforts will help prevent crop loss, and will likely increase your yields. Keep bleach, peroxide, and isopropyl alcohol on hand for use as needed, but use caution when using these products near your prized plants.