Plant Care and Maintenance – Edibles
Here are some general guidelines for establishing and caring for your Tried & True Edibles plants. Careful soil preparation and regular watering and fertilizing will help you grow healthy, vigorous plants that are more resistant to pests and diseases.
Planting Tried & True Biodegradable Pots
The pot and wrapper are 100% biodegradable. The pot is made of a mixture of wood fiber and peat moss and the pot wrapper is composed of starch and corn. The transplant and the pot can be planted directly in the ground lessening transplant stress. For best results:
- Before planting, water the plant and ground thoroughly.
- Remove wrapper around the pot.
- Tear off the rim and the bottom portion of the pot.
- Bury pot so the root ball is even with the ground. Please note, tomatoes should to be planted deeper. Make sure no portion of the pot is above ground as the plant will tend to dry out.
- Refill planting hole, pressing lightly on the soil to remove excess air.
- Water thoroughly.
See particular variety for more growing information. Edibles Variety List.
For more information on Tried & True’s commitment to sustainable practices, click here.
Understanding the importance of good quality soil is critical. This will help you decide what is needed to be done: what must be amended to your soil to improve it; and whether it needs lime or additional fertilizers. But, what if you don’t know the quality or the nutrient status of the soil? A basic soil testing kit should be purchased from your local garden center. Carry out a few simple tests to discover if your soil is acid, neutral or alkaline and if there are any deficiencies in major nutrients. Try to test different parts of your garden for the best results.
Soil acidity is measured on a pH scale: a pH between 1.0 and 6.9 is acid; pH 7.1 to 14.0 is alkaline and pH 7.0 is neutral. Generally, most vegetables grow best in soil that is neutral or slightly acid. However, certain crops like those of the cabbage family need alkaline conditions. To reduce the acidity, add lime or ground limestone to the soil at planting time. Lowering the pH of an alkaline soil is not practical, but knowing the soil is alkaline may indicate an application of fertilizer containing micronutrients is needed.
Adding a thick layer of compost, well-rotted manure or other organic matter will help build and improve your soil. Organic matter help the plant roots around the soil hold moisture in dry weather. For more information on soil building and composting, click here.
If your soil is fertile and contains compost and other organic material, fertilizing may not be necessary at the start. But, vegetable tend to be heavy feeders at the beginning and proper fertilization could speed growth and increase yields. Crops such as broccoli, cabbage, cucumber, lettuce and tomato benefit from side-dressing at the initial planting stage. Side-dressing is sprinkling fertilizer beside the plant and then working it into the soil with your fingers, trowel or fork.
The primary nutrients are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) which is the reason the general purpose fertilizers have three numbers.
- Nitrogen (N): improving leafy and stem growth;
- Phosphorus (P): promotes flower, fruit, seed and root development
- Potassium (K): ensures general vigor and helps the plant guard against disease
A fertilizer such as 20-20-20 is a balanced fertilizer because it has equal proportions of all three nutrients. Use a general or balanced fertilizer is recommended for most vegetable crops because it contains all the necessary nutrients to ensure plants maintain healthy growth. For example, a high-potassium fertilizer like tomato fertilizer will promote colour and flavour, while a high-nitrogen fertilizer will promote leaf growth and stimulate transplants to grow fast. The limited supply of nutrients in potting soils is usually exhausted about six weeks after planting, and regular liquid fertilizing every one to two weeks then becomes very important in container-grown plants. A slow release fertilizer is an excellent alternative to liquid feeding.
Consistently moist soil promotes the fastest growth. Plants must be watered after transplanting. Because of restricted root space, containers should be checked regularly, daily in hot weather. Plants grown in open ground survive longer before wilting, especially if mulched or grown in soil with plenty of compost. Remember to water carefully because water splashes may carry disease spores from one plant to another. Overhead watering, particularly in cool conditions where moisture stays on the leaves, is much more likely to promote disease than applying water directly to the soil. Soaker hoses offer an easy and efficient alternative to deliver water to plants.
General Watering Guidelines
The standard watering recommendation is 1” or 2.5cm of applied water per week. Be sure the water penetrates at least 4” or 10cm into the soil. Plants given a deep watering once a week develop a deeper root system. However, sometimes more or less watering is needed depending upon the weather conditions, composition of the soil, etc.
Crops need less water than the “average” when:
- The soil surface has a good amount of organic mulch.
- The soil has been amended with compost.
- The weather is cool and humid.
Crops need more water than the “average” when:
- The soil is sandy.
- The crops are grown in raised beds.
- The crops are grown in containers. Depending upon the container and soil, they may have to be watered once or even twice a day, especially in hot dry weather. Note, the smaller the container, the more often the plants need watering.
- It is windy.
- The weather is warm and dry.
For more concise watering guidelines, see the individual Tried & True Edibles varieties.
Pests and Diseases
Pests and diseases are present in all gardens. A well-tended healthy garden with good soil, proper fertilization and watering, and good air circulation will be less susceptible to problems. Strong, healthy plants may be no less likely to be attacked by pests, but they are able to manage the attack better. A garden with neglected or overcrowded plants in poorly drained, infertile, or dry soils is more likely to develop pests and diseases. Keeping your vegetable garden free of weeds and garden debris will remove breeding grounds for pests, particularly slugs and snails. Removing a weak or diseased plant will often prevent further spread of infection. Also, crop rotation is a good preventative measure.
Inspect your plants regularly for early symptoms (yellow and wilting leaves, few small holes in the foliage, etc.) and take action promptly to limit the damage. Sometimes, all you need to do is pick off a leaf or pinch out a growing tip. An early aphid influx can be knocked off plants with a good strong spray of water. Remember, not all insects are signs of destruction; ladybugs are our allies as they feed on unwanted pests like aphids.
If you have a problem with pests and diseases, go to your local garden center where they can assist you in diagnosing the problem and help with recommending a solution.