Guidelines to happy, healthy vegetables & fruits:
✓ Vegetables and fruits require a certain amount of sunlight
All vegetables and fruits require at least 6 hours of direct sunlight to be healthy and crop well.
✓ Water plants @ their stems
This is important to prevent some diseases from infecting the leaves of plants and constant moisture on the leaves helps this along, especially for
- Squash and cucumber: Can quickly be overwhelmed by Powdery Mildew
- Eggplants: Becomes infected by Pearl Millet Rust
✓ Feed/Fertilise plants during crucial development stages
During certain developmental stages plants do well with a nutrient top-up, especially:
- Young plant: Two weeks after germination or planting as the roots have now become established and the plant will do well with a boost for growing.
- Flowers start: When plants start flowering it is a good queue to give another boost, one with extra potassium will go down well.
- Fruits start: This is the stage that sucks the most nutrients and you want large yummy produce then give another good dose of high potassium feeding.
- When fruits ripen: After the plant has been trained (especially tomatoes, peppers and eggplants) the fruit will start to ripen (1-2 months after fruiting started and fruits have set). Just to assist with the ripening stage and to ensure the plant doesn’t get short on nutrient another high potassium feed will be beneficial.
TIP: For a quick-and-dirty fertilise guide; feed all actively growing plants every two weeks with half-strength liquid fertiliser. The results are well worth it! Check out Composting, Vermicompost and Comfrey (Coming Soon!) for liquid feed ideas.
✓ Cut fruits/vegetables from the plant stems
Pulling fruits, leaves or vegetables from their host plant may result in damage to the plant as certain fruits do not yield easily.
- Tomatoes should just pop off their stems when ripe, but I prefer to cut them off just to be safe.
- Ripe raspberries (deep gummy appearance) will come off easily when pulled gently.
- Fruits that do not yield easily and which pulling on will result in damaged to the plants are beans, peas, cucumbers, squash and eggplant (watch out for those thorns!), so rather snip them off with scissors
✓ Support plants with stakes
All plants do well with additional support.
- Prevents damage during excessive rain or wind.
- Prevents damage from carrying heavy fruit that might break branches.
- More of the plant’s energy is focused into fruit production rather than strengthening branches for fruit support (tomatoes especially require training).
✓ Prune all plants
The importance of pruning is understated in all gardening books.
- 3D: It is good to start off pruning with the 3 D’s; Dead, diseased and damaged parts must go!
- Pruning and training go hand-in-hand and is essential for fruit trees and shrubs to produce prolifically and reliably.
✓ Treat/control disease and pests as soon as they are noticed
The best way to successful control of pest or disease populations is to get them while they are small and weak (usually during spring). This will prevent or lessen the re-occurrence of these pests later in the season.
- A small infestation or infection is quick and easy to treat and will be less effort, time and spraying later.
- If not treated when they are still controllable the population will soon explode (keep in mind that generation time for pests and disease are a lot faster than ours! New pest babies can be generated within a few weeks!)
- It is also essential to be thorough than quick, as any remaining pests/disease can start up again and become a nuisance later in the season, so do those repeat treatments after 2-3 days (I know that it is a pain! ). For environmentally friendly controls.
- Check on plants (especially the fruits) weekly for any signs of infestation or infection.
✓ Good soil = healthy plants
Soil quality is very important not only for general plant health.
- Fruit/vegetable production benefits from proper soil or a good feeding routine.
- Nutrition content of foods harvested from the garden will be superior.
- Plants are more resistant to pest and disease (remember potassium is not just for flower and fruit production, but also for plant resistance!).