For those in the Great Western US are likely not doing so good with their gardens this year. It's that thing with water than is making it a rough go. For those that are facing the drought issue, then we can only do the best we can do and that usually isn't much. In in some parts of the world, a lack of water isn't the issue, too much water. But for the lucky few that has just the right amount of water, well, you are very fortunate. Anyway, lets look at what most everyone can do.
The normal course of life for gardeners is to put all of their nutrients down at the beginning of the season, usually before planting, then work them into the soil. If this is what you did, then well, just move on. Because doing that is not the best way to do things. Yes, you should put some nutrients in at the beginning of the season, but feeding your plants several times through out the season is what works best. This comes in two ways, One way is to put nutrients down onto the soil and slightly work them in, or with some inputs, just put them along the rows of plants and they will leach down and feed the plants. The other way is to do foliage spraying. No spraying in this case does not refer to chemicals. It refers to lightly spraying the nutrients onto the leaves, IE; the foliage. When you do this, go easy. Don't mix the nutrients too strong as a strong mix can burn down some leaves, you don't want that. So it is better to do a weak mix, a few times more per the growing season. With the nutrients being put on the soil, well, you may have to do that several times per the growing season. But overall, the plants need to be fed several times through out the growing season. About right now, mid-July is when they really need a good meal. Then maybe the latter part of August for the next meal. Of course these times may vary depending on the latitude of where you are located. But in the longer growing seasons of the southern latitudes, 3 and maybe 4 feedings through out the growing season may be required.
The reason why the one time, "work it into the soil"doesn't work so good is because with the large amount of nutrition available, the plant will go into hyper growth and use up the nutrients faster than they should and about around this time frame of the growing season, they go into starvation mode. Many times the plant cycles over to seed production and the end result is puny plants and a poor harvest. So for best results, a moderate amount of nutrients should be put into the soil. Then at intervals throughout the growing season the plants need to be fed more nutrients to keep the growing consistent and to meet the plants nutritional needs at those critical points. When doing the foliage spraying, you will likely chose to use one of these little spray bottles or the type of spray bottle that you attach to a garden hose and but the desired solution into the container. This is a very effective way to do the foliage feeding of your plants. However, if you only have a small number of container based plants the small 16 ounce type sprayer/mister would likely serve you well. In large farming settings they do this very thing, but it is usually either injected into the overhead sprinkler systems or by a simple drip system into the free flowing water. But with the free flowing type of system it really isn't a true foliage application. It is more of a feeding through the soil to be taken up by the plant. They exact amounts and type of nutrients will need to be determined by the type of plant(s) you are growing, the area where you live,, and the soil type you are using for a growing medium. This same concept would also apply if you are doing something like a hydroponic growing system.
Now since we are on this subject of feeding the plants, here is another idea that can work for some of you. With plants, they do not require the same nutrients in some cases as we as humans or animals require. For example, plants do not require Selenium. At least at this point in time most all of the researchers out there have concluded that plants do not require Selenium. I am sure they do in some minute small amount that has thus far eluded researchers. But for sake of this discussion, the plants do not require Selenium. But we do, so many plants just happen to accumulate Selenium. One of these plants is Quack Grass. We use the roots of this plant in some herbal applications. Then another plant is Lemongrass. We use this plant in herbal form, in herbal teas, in many different nationality based dishes and in essential oil form. All of these situations will naturally carry some Selenium. There are many plants that uptake nutrients that they do not use, but we use them when we consume the plant. I use the Selenium as an example. So what you can do is when you desire some specific nutrients to be taken up by a plant, you can use your supplements and put them in the soil or even dissolve them in the applicator container and apply them to the foliage of the plant.I like to do this for certain nutrients, but overall I prefer to put them into the soil and let them be taken up through the root system. When this route is followed, a Carbon molecule is attached to the nutrient and then it makes for a much more efficient use of the nutrient than by using it directly, in it's inorganic form. Keep in mind that the inorganic form of some of these nutrients are taken up by the plant and in the process a Carbon molecule is attached and when this happens, it turns it into a organic form. Of course this is a simplified description of the process, but that is essentially what happens.
The next point with this gardening thing at this time of year is we start to see some of the plants having their life played out and are finished. Normally when this process takes place we see the foliage being gathered up and hauled to the landfill. When people do this they are throwing away a lot of money and usable plant material that would make an excellent amendment. When I see people doing this I think the following, (borrowing a phrase/idea from scripture), I hope nature will forgive then because, "they know not what they do". In my opinion, it is that significant. The plants will create their own immunity properties. Also, the parts of the plant that we don't use, does contains a tremendous amount of nutrients that can be recycled for next year's use. In farming settings where the plant foliage is fed to the animals, the manure is returned to the soil from where the plant was grown, so the recycling process is also applied when the plants are fed to the animals. But since most people doing gardening are not feeding the foliage to animals then returning the manure to the soil, one must return the plants to the soil. So the best way to do this is through composting. I have discussed this composting idea in past discussions on gardening tips. But now you will need to be filling up your compost bin. Once it is full, you will need to start another one. Then you will use from the first one until it is empty. While you are using from the first one, you are filling the second one. You will rotate between the 2, filling one while using from the other. Another option is to ferment your compost. This makes for an excellent product. How you would do this is to buy some heavy duty plastic contractor bags. It might be a good idea to use one bag inside of the other. Then you would fill the bag with material from your garden. Yes, you should put your weeds in the compost pile or in the fermenting bags. Weed take up a huge mount of nutrients based on their weight and size. In doing the fermenting in a bag, you need to chop the material up a little bit, then stuff it in the bag. The amount of water you need will be about the amount contained in the material. You then need to seal the bag off, but first try to press out the oxygen as much as you can. The object is to have the least amount of oxygen as possible in the bag. Then seal the bag and let nature do it's job. There is a good chance that it will be ready to work into your garden soil for next years use. Other wise use the stuff next year.
Lastly, you have 2 more things to do. First is to start selecting for next years planting. You might want to save some seeds from your favorite plants. or maybe consider some different plants. So by doing so you can start preparing your garden for next year. If you were farming out in the real world, this is a task that you would be starting to do, right now, preparing for next year's planting. Secondly, is that you can plant your second garden. With these plants, you can plant many plants like Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots and even Peas to name a few. Many of these 2nd. planting crops are cooler weather loving plants and will do real well for you. Besides some plants, like carrots won't give you seeds until the second year. So if you plant them now, they will grow, you can leave them right there in the ground or even containers, let them over winter there and next year they will grow and produce seed.
So there you go with a whole long list of things to do now to make your gardening experience more rewarding, for the present and the future. With that, we will bring this to an end. I do hope these tips will help you with ideas. Of course doing all of these may not work for you, but I am sure some will. All any of us can do is to just do the best we can, and usually that is good enough to say, well done.
End of Discussion. KK.