by Rachel Pound, Garden & Education Coordinator, Brigit’s Bounty Community Resources
July and August are prime harvest times here on the Northeastern Front Range Plains. Tomatoes are coming in and turning radiant shades of red, zucchini plants are producing so much that it is difficult to keep up with the harvest, and flowers are showing their vibrant colors. All of these summer beauties still have a long way to go! They need food and there is a good chance their watering preferences have changed since the start of the season.
Feeding your garden in a way that keeps the flowers budding and produce growing is key to ending a great garden season with a bang. The problem is that there are so many products out there that it can be hard to know which to choose. We prefer organic and food-based products at Brigit’s Bounty Community Resources, such as EcoScraps, a packaged plant food made from food waste. This fertilizer can be applied every 3 to 4 weeks using the amount directed based on the size of your garden bed.
The three numbers listed on fertilizer bags are VERY important. Too much of one nutrient can burn your plants, while too little won’t be enough to improve plant and flower growth. The 1st number listed is the percent nitrogen which helps plants stay green and healthy. The 2nd number is the percent phosphorus which aids plants in producing blooms. The 3rd number is the percent potassium which helps plants build resistance to diseases and pests and maintain proper water absorption to keep from drying out as quickly. You will want to look for fertilizer with numbers of 6 or lower during the growing season to ensure you do not burn your plants. Too much nitrogen can burn plants and cause leaves to yellow. Too much phosphorus can cause stunted growth in plants and block the plants from absorbing the nitrogen; you will want to keep this number around a 4. A lack of potassium can cause leaves to have brown spots or yellow edges, while too much potassium can prevent your plants from absorbing nutrients. Most plant food bags have the perfect combination of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to keep your garden blooming and beautiful.
Your plants may be a little more on the thirsty side right now as summer temperatures continue to soar into the high 90’s and even low 100’s. A lack of water can cause plants to start looking droopy. We go out in the mornings of high-temperature days and check the soil for moisture before watering to avoid overwatering (very difficult to do out here, but it happens). It is possible that the soil’s surface may look dry even though moisture could be held underneath. You should stick your finger in the soil about an inch down, close to a plant, and if there is little to no moisture or the soil is crumbly, you will want to give those plants some water.
Summer is also a good time for weekend adventures and your plants may need to be watered when no one is there. Clean, recycled wine bottles can be filled with water and turned upside down to slowly release water in planters or raised beds. Ollas are also a nice way to keep gardens watered. Ollas are unfinished clay pots that you bury into the soil next to the plants and work by slowly releasing moisture into the soil. You will need to use some sort of covering or top on the olla pots to keep the water from evaporating. I hope these tips help to keep your gardens thriving! Happy Harvesting! Tune in next month for exciting information about Brigit’s Bounty Community Resources’ upcoming Gala in the Garden.
Rachel is the year-round Garden and Education Coordinator at Brigit’s Bounty Community Resources. She creates and facilitates all of the affordable youth programming, manages hundreds of volunteers, attends community outreach events, recruits volunteers, and manages the entire 1-acre Giving Garden. Rachel is integral to the success of the organization. Find out more about Brigit’s Bounty at https://www.brigitsbounty.org/