Puppy Love - Maintain Your Garden with TLC
Updated: Sep 26, 2018
Chronicles & Confessions of the Veggie Patch
An unfolding adventure tale of amateur vegetable gardening, peasant style.
-With detailed steps for establishing your own organic vegetable garden.
Series Post 4
One day years ago, a softball-sized mass suddenly appeared on the upper chest of my beloved Labrador-mix. I would have sworn that it hadn’t been there the day before. After a test, it was concluded that the mass was indeed cancerous, which apparently tends to be the case when a tumor appears so quickly. Thus began three years of special appointments, surgeries and treatments.
Miller was just a dog, but he was my dog. I was solely responsible for his health and well-being, and he had taken great care of mine through the years as well. Miller had come into my life during a heart-breaking time just before I turned twenty years old. He was my dearest friend during the most turbulent seasons of my life – a.k.a. my twenties! My sister warned every man who came into my life that I would always love Miller more than him, and it was true!
When Miller began to show signs of aging as well as the onset of his cancer, I determined to do everything in my power to make his life as pain-free as possible. I wanted him to live longer if he could, but to be healthy and happy while doing it. I gave him my best, as I knew he always gave me his.
Especially during what would be his final year, I noticed every minute detail. I knew if Miller was having a good day or a bad day. I knew how much he was eating and drinking. I even knew when something was slightly off in how he was using the bathroom. When he would sleep, I would sometimes watch until I saw his chest rise, making sure he was still breathing. If something was going to go wrong that I could potentially help with, I didn’t want to miss a single warning sign.
My dog couldn’t tell me when he was in pain or if something wasn’t right. All he could do was show me.
As the Sherlock Holmes character famously says, “It’s elementary.” You need only be a keen observer to learn the truth. The same is true when it comes to the art of caring for loved ones who are limited in how they can communicate – yes, including puppy dogs...and plants!
A few weeks ago, I came across what was probably the best advice about gardening I have learned yet. “The best thing you can do is observe your garden.” I don’t remember who said it. As astoundingly obvious and as simple as it was, it was like a light bulb came on in my head. Of course.
Gardening maintenance just became much less intimidating. Instead of drowning in a sea of information about each specific plant I have in my garden, I can make it simple. That’s what my goal was from the beginning anyway.
Right away, I began to take note of each of my plants. Every time I passed by, I observed each one and looked for changes. Were they wilted? Why? Were they growing? Did the seeds sprout yet? Any signs of bugs? And on and on.
I believe I’m seeing the fruits of this practice already. For example, the iceberg lettuce has always looked perhaps the worst. Online research told me that lettuce does need sun at least a few hours to half of the day. That’s the amount my lettuce was receiving where I planted it, but the sun definitely seemed to be killing mine. The sprigs lay flat and wilted all the time with their leaves turning crisped and brown one by one. Mom had said she always had trouble with growing lettuce. Was this just going to be a failed crop? Was there anything I could do?
I remembered that Randy Shore put empty pots in front of his lettuce sprigs to shade them from the sun during certain times of the day. Too much sun did seem to be an issue for fledgling plants no matter what. So, I grabbed a piece of wood from the garage and propped it against the coffin table to shield the lettuce from direct sunlight. I also clipped off the brown, dead leaves, leaving only baby green ones in the middle of the plant. Within days, the lettuce started to look like YouTube videos again! New leaves began forming, and the existing ones became perky.
As another example, our potato plant was probably the second-worst looking. These we had started in the house in the spring. I was skeptical when Max first planted the sprouting potatoes in a pot filled with yard dirt, but the plant seemed to grow a few inches every single day! I thought it would do even better once we got it outside into some real sun because all sources say that potatoes need sun. To my dismay, the long, gangling stems seemed to shrivel and dry up immediately - and more with each passing day.
We mounded extra dirt and straw over them, but nothing seemed to help. If sun was the problem, they were even receiving slightly less than the other plants, but they just kept dying. Finally, we moved their container to the back porch, which is shaded most of the day but does receive a little sun. It’s essentially the same place we had them originally, only now they’re on the outside of the sliding glass doors. I also snipped off what was clearly dead, even though sources say not to prune. Today, they look noticeably better, and there is even new growth sprouting from places on the stems.
As far as watering goes, I water my plants in the morning or if they don’t pass the “finger test.” Sources warn not to over-water, and one source mentioned that vegetables only need water once every few days. Sometimes wilting means the plants have been over-watered rather than under-watered. However, container gardening is a little different. Especially with the soil we are using, I imagine that I had better stay on top of things.
The Finger Test: Put your finger all the way into the soil. If it comes out dry, water. If it comes out wet, don’t water.
(See other Gardening Maintenance tips below this post.)
This level of garden maintenance takes little time. Even though I started the vegetable garden adventure wanting to figure out how to garden with the least amount of work possible, being attentive to my plants is a worthwhile effort. The added touch of TLC just might be the secret to gardening, the same as it is with everything else. (Doctors originally gave Miller a few months to live, but TLC gave him a few extra years!)
Caring for puppies and plants just takes patience and kindness, observation and simple changes here and there to accommodate what’s best.
Now, let's see how far TLC will carry my little patch!
More garden maintenance tips (TLC) are below this post.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Meg is a writer, dreamer, church secretary and member of her church council. When she is not working in ministry, she spends her days creating new plans, uncovering secrets of the historic past and trying to snatch as much free time as she can to pen her book ideas. Meg is a newly-wed, age undisclosed, who is committed to living a healthy lifestyle according to what she understands from God’s Word. She drags everyone that she can along for the ride, especially her beloved husband and pets.
Gardening Maintenance Tips (TLC)
Weeding: Clear out weeds surrounding plants. Do not put weeds in compost or worm heap. (You might put them on the sidewalk to shrivel up in the sun, and then they can go back into the garden bed.) But don’t despair about weeds too much. Weeding is most important during the winter when plants are competing for sunlight.
Regular Fertilization: Add nutrients to your soil just before you plant. After this, a little here and there when your plants look wimpy is a good practice.
Bugs: Bugs flourish when soil is acidic. Add dolomite lime and some compost or fertilizer to the soil to boost plant immunity. Rings of salt around plants discourages slugs. Shallow bowls of beer kill slugs also. Netting can solve large bug or bird problems. Soapy water sprays can deter bugs. Look up natural remedies for specific bug problems.
Hessian cloth or yard cloth: Drape cloth over plants or worm farms to block extreme sunlight or to insulate against the cold. Seeds and small seedlings need this sort of protection. You can use mulch for the same purpose as well.
Watering: Vegetables need watered at least every couple of days. Do the finger test to determine if watering is needed. Mulching can help retain moisture.