The key to a successful garden begins with the soil. Start with a quality grade potting or garden soil. Over time work in lots and lots of organic matter—compost, aged manures, chopped leaves, finely shredded bark.
These natural amendments improve the overall quality of the soil, aid drainage and moisture retention, and nourish microbes and other organisms, which promote healthy roots and plants.
A healthy soil helps plants weather drought conditions and occasional infestations of insects or diseases. It also reduces the watering and fertilizer needs. Always avoid walking on the soil in garden beds, but especially avoid those that are freshly dug. Foot traffic compacts the soil, making it more difficult for roots to develop and thrive. Make pathways or place steppingstones. Plant seeds or transplants when temperatures are appropriate for germination.
Fertilizers contain at least three elements, which are listed on the packages as percentages of weight as N, P, and K.
- N = nitrogen keeps plants green and promotes leaf growth. It comes in fast- and slow-release types. Slow release is considered better for most gardening applications.
- P = phosphorus promotes root growth and fruit and flower production.
- K = potassium promotes overall plant vigor, including healthy stems. Sometimes called potash.