Information on Plant Care
Plants provide many benefits to humans: they clean the air and produce oxygen for us to breath; they provide us with delicious, nutritious food; they provide habitat for the animal kingdom and make our environment a more beautiful place to dwell. In return, we must provide the proper care for our plants, which includes meeting all of their basic needs: the proper amount of light, clean air, adequate water, ample space to grow in, warmth and all of their required nutrients.
Plants use sunlight to convert water and carbon dioxide into sugars through the process of photosynthesis. Without sunlight, plants cannot produce the needed food to grow. Plants that lack an adequate amount of sunlight have thin and spindly stems that lean towards the light. Prolonged lack of proper sunlight may cause them to wither and die. Plants receiving too much sunlight become bleached or blistered.
Plants that require full sun need eight to twelve hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight per day, while plants requiring partial sun need from five to six hours. A partial shade requirement indicates a need for indirect or filtered light, and these plants can only tolerate direct sunlight for short periods of time each day. Plants requiring full shade should receive only filtered light.
Plants take carbon dioxide from the air during photosynthesis, and use it to produce food for their growth. They then expel oxygen for us to breathe. Polluted air blocks necessary sunlight and may prevent plants from absorbing enough carbon dioxide. Dirty, dusty foliage can prevent plants from getting the needed air. Frequent misting or washing of plant leaves may be necessary.
In “Rodale’s Successful Organic Gardening: Vegetables”, Patricia Michalak states that water makes up from 85 to 95 percent of the weight of living plants. Water acts as a conduit for food and nutrients that plants need. Most plants appreciate regular watering to keep the soil evenly moist, but not soggy. If the soil feels dry to the touch, plants need to be watered.
Organic material retains moisture like a sponge. Work in at least two inches of compost or four inches of other organic materials as bed preparation. Keep weeds to a minimum, as they compete with garden plants for moisture. Moisture evaporation is decreased by insulating the soil surface with a thick layer of organic mulch and providing adequate wind protection for plants.
Plants with an ample area to grow in will grow longer and stronger root systems, resulting in large, luscious top growth.
In general, plants do not tolerate cold climates. Some plants need warmer temperatures above eighty degrees Fahrenheit, while others can withstand colder temperatures. Very few will survive temperatures below freezing. Plant only when all danger of frost has passed, and preheat the soil with black plastic about two weeks before you plan to plant.
Plants receive most of their nutrients from the soil. The three main nutrients that plants need are nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Secondary nutrients and micro-nutrients are also required. Too much or too few nutrients can stunt plant growth, produce weak plants or cause plants to die. Plants gradually use up nutrients from the soil that must be replenished through the use of fertilizers or other soil additions.
Top dressings of compost or regular applications of compost tea replenish soil nutrients and keep plants healthy. Compost tea can also be used as a foliar spray, to be absorbed through the foliage for immediate availability.
“Rodale’s Successful Organic Gardening: Vegetables”. Michalak, Patricia S. 1993. pp. 66-67