I know many of you garden to support your health, but have you ever looked at your garden as a parallel to your health? Like a garden, our bodies need a good environment to grow, healthy food, lots of water, and consistent care. In the garden, it’s important to be proactive, rather than reactive, if you want to cultivate a thriving ecosystem. The same is true for our health.
Why it’s crucial to be proactive in the garden
Plants don’t have the same sophisticated immune systems as our bodies. So when a disease hits your garden, the plants can’t fight it off and heal from it. Instead, at best your plants will go into maintenance mode, and at worst, they die. At the very worst, the disease spreads to other crops in your garden and they die.
So you can see it’s super important that you put on your investigative lenses when you are in your garden to look for potential pests or the signs of disease. For many of us, our garden season is short, and we don’t want to waste that time managing problem after problem. A proactive approach is key.
10 Tips to Be Proactive About Your Garden’s Health
Start with the healthiest plants possible.
I’m not saying you should never try to rehab a plant, but the healthier the plant at the start, the better chance for a successful harvest.
Do a weekly maintenance check in your garden, inspecting for signs of pests or disease.
This includes looking for really chewed on leaves, spots on leaves or stems, visible pests or bug eggs, and more. If I see anything that worries me in my garden, I proactively take care of it before the problem spreads.
Prune up dead leaves and keep your garden beds free from debris.
Pull weeds often so they don’t choke out your plants and/or steal their food and water. Good garden hygiene gives bugs and critters less places to hide and your plants more room to grow!
Amend your garden soil with organic practices to enhance soil fertility.
I always add high quality compost to my soil. A plant can only be as healthy as the soil it grows in, so maintaining a healthy soil biome is crucial if you want a prosperous and delicious harvest.
Feed your plants!
Especially if you are succession planting or intensive planting, you don’t want your plants competing for food. I use organic fertilizers to support the plant and the fruit it’s producing.
Keep a consistent watering schedule.
Most people don’t have irrigation set up for a home garden, so it’s on you to stick to a routine. Inconsistent watering stresses the plants and is a potential cause of disease. If you’ve got funny shaped cucumbers or blossom rot on your tomatoes, that can be a sign of inconsistent watering.
Practice crop rotation.
Incorporate flowers and herbs into your vegetable garden to attract pollinators and beneficial insects, deter harmful pests, create a diverse mini-ecosystem, and provide a vibrant, colorful element to your kitchen garden.
Select disease resistant plant varieties.
If you know you have a disease that is prevalent in your garden, or comes back year after year, seek out varieties that are naturally resistant to that disease. One year I lost a whole crop of basil to downey mildew, and now I only grow varieties that specify that they are resistant to that disease.
Sterilize your pruners in between each plant.
I carry a bottle of rubbing alcohol in my garden bag and simply spray a spritz on the pruners in between each plant. You can take my word for it on this one – I learned the hard way you can wipe out whole rows of plants if your pruners are contaminated with disease and you don’t remember to clean them.
Learn your yard’s microclimate.
The more you understand your land, the more prepared you can be. Natural moisture levels, the slope of your yard, wind patterns, and sunlight/shade all play a role in your microclimate.
Arber products have made pest and disease control a breeze. I use these products weekly in my garden to be proactive about my garden’s health so that if any problems do arise, my plants have the best chance at survival.
And sometimes, no matter how proactive you are, disease strikes. Do your best to eradicate it, and then take time to reflect: What did you learn about your garden? How will you take that into the next season? There’s always a lesson to learn in the garden, no matter how experienced you are.