Ongoing Monthly Tasks
These tasks are applicable each month of the year. They follow sustainable and organic principles.
- Applying one to two-inches of aged compost to your vegetable gardens will improve soil tilth and plant nutrition. Place the compost on top of the existing soil and let the spring rains and soil macroorganisms move nutrition down. In a drought year, plan to add three to four inches of mulch (e.g., compost, rice straw, leaf mold, etc.) to the top of the soil to keep it cool, retain moisture and to inhibit weed growth.
- Incorporate information from the University of California’s Integrated Pest Management (IPM) site in your garden planning to avoid food garden problems. For example, when planning a food garden, consider that members of the same plant family are susceptible to the same diseases and pests—calling for crop rotation. Plants in the Solanaceae family (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants and peppers) should be rotated as much as possible.
- Know what pest you are fighting so that you can select effective pest management strategies. Check out University of California’s natural enemies gallery.
- Inspect crops regularly throughout their growing season for early problem diagnosis and resolution. Refer to University of California’s Integrated Pest Management (IPM) site.
- If there is disease in your orchard or food garden, wipe or dip your pruners with alcohol (ethanol or isopropyl) or spray with a disinfectant spray after every cut so that you do not spread the infection.
- Fight critters with critters—build a bat or owl house. Bats eat moths like the ones that lay eggs on vegetables, eggs that turn into hungry caterpillars. Voles are a tasty treat for owls.
- Good soil = healthy plants. Top your soil with finished compost. This will improve soil nutrition and tilth and feed the beneficial microorganisms that help plants uptake nutrients in the soil. No need to work it in—let winter showers and soil “heaving” do that for you. In any event, do not work very wet soil. If you had serious problems in your food garden last year, a soil analysis may be helpful. Many local nurseries have kits for this purpose. The analysis will show levels of nitrogen (N) which encourages green growth, phosphorus (P) which stimulates root growth and potassium (K) which promotes flower bud and fruit growth. In addition to other nutrients, the test also measures pH (measure of acidity or alkalinity) which affects the availability of nutrients to plants.
- Good cultural practices (i.e., the correct location, light, water, pruning, fertilizer, planting date) contribute to healthy plants. Sanitation is an important aspect of disease prevention. Clear garden debris and then clean and disinfect tools with Lysol or alcohol.