Apply gardening principles for improved performance of vegetables and flowers

Whether you have a big vegetable garden or small flower bed, there are a few gardening principles that, if followed, will give you great results.

• Principle one is balance. More is not better and certainly less is not better.

When it comes to adding fertilizer, lime or even organic matter, the key is to keep your soil in balance. A soil test is a good way to find out if your soil is in balance. The soil test results will tell you if you need to add fertilizer to keep your soil fertility in balance, and it will tell you if you need to add lime and what kind of lime your soil needs.

Balance is needed when it comes to soil moisture also. Keep the soil moist but not saturated. Balanced soil moisture will result in larger flowers, larger and more abundant vegetables and better fruit quality.

• The second principle is timing.

Do a little research before planting. Find out when is the best time to plant a particular plant. How old should a transplant be when you plant it in the garden? Is this a cool-season plant that likes the cool weather of April or a warm season plant that does not want to be outside until late May? Make some notes for yourself so next year your timing will be a little better.

Every year, I get calls from gardeners saying their tomato plants are ready to go outside but it is only May 1. Be patient and plant seeds so your transplants are actively growing when the time to transplant comes. A spindly, root-bound plant will not reach its potential.

• The third principle is to avoid stress.

Plants are stressed by temperatures outside their comfort zone and by too much or too little moisture. By the time a plant shows drought stress, significant damage already has occurred.

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