For something dependent on dirt, how can a garden be clean? Yet, bringing order and cleanliness to your crops, indoors or out, can ensure healthy and happy plants and less work for you down the line. If you want to help your fruits, veggies, and herbs look and taste their best, consider these tips to keep your garden clean and healthy.
Keep Things in Order
Before you start next year’s garden, remove the vestiges of last year’s crop. Clear the plot of leaves, roots, and failed fruits and vegetables. Take care, though. Beneficial bugs may be hibernating in your soil and any fallen twigs or leaves, including ladybugs, butterflies, bees, lacewings, praying mantises, spiders, and other insects that eat other bugs that can gobble up your garden. Wait until temperatures are in the 50s for at least a week, then remove old growth gently, tie them off, and set them aside. Don’t give weeds a toehold in your garden; clear any potential seed carriers. Next, if you’re composting yard waste and discarded fruit and vegetable scraps, make sure it has fully composted before adding it to the garden. Compost that hasn’t fully broken down can carry and spread disease.
Plan and Map Out Your Garden
Determine where everything will go. To help you decide, know that some vegetables complement each other by sharing nutrients, providing protection, and working together to keep away destructive insects. For example, dill and basil keep worms away from tomatoes, and tomato plants shade the ground while nearby carrots create mulch. The Native American three-sisters system is the most famous and involves planting corn, beans, and squash near one another. Corn provides stalks for the bean vines to climb, beans bring nitrogen to the earth and secure the corn, and the squash provides ground cover that prevents weeds and holds in moisture. Allow your plants enough room to grow on their own, but ensure they’re close enough to cross-pollinate.
Don’t Stick to Lines and Squares
If you have some carpentry know-how, raised garden beds provide a neat and orderly look and easier access to plants, and they can also add another level or two to your in-ground garden. If you don’t feel like building up, consider spreading out—while some plants, such as corn, thrive in rows, that doesn’t mean you have to line up and box off everything. Keep the color and appearance of some fruits and vegetables in mind, and watch them “paint” a design as they grow larger.
Make It a Feature, Not an Afterthought
Giving your garden a little freedom in your backyard is one of the more interesting tips to keep your garden clean and healthy. Shunting it to a back corner doesn’t look as good as blending it with the grass, trees, and other plants. Try integrating your crops into the landscape by setting up little fences and paths to guide plants and visitors, creating your own personal natural wonderland out back.