Once the garden has been planted, one of the things you need to concern yourself with is protecting those plants while they grow, until they mature. Insects, disease and the elements can all put your plants at risk.
Avoiding Insects and Disease
You can often avoid most problems with insects and disease simply by being a good housekeeper of your garden. In the fall, after your crops have been harvested, or in fact after each vegetable variety is harvested, collect the refuse, remove the spent plants, and compost, burn, or otherwise dispose of this plant matter, before it has an opportunity to begin to rot, and attract insects or disease.
Many garden pests will winter in your garden, if they can find refuge under old boards, or any other loose material remaining in the garden.
Also, make sure that any plants that did suffer from insects or diseases during the growing season do not go into your compost heap, to avoid any potential spread when you apply the fertizer in the fall or spring.
Protection from the Elements
Some plants need protection from the direct rays of the sun in summer, or from the cold of winter, and most need special protection while they are still young. Seedlings of many different vegetables are not strong enough to force their way through the crusty soil created after a heavy rain, and it is often necessary to soften the soil’s surface by watering it.
In parts of the country where the sun is exceedingly hot during part of the summer, many plants, especially salad vegetables, will benefit from shading. Shading is also of value to recently transplanted plants.
If you have boards available, they can be used to cast a shadow on the plant rows, by placing them at an angle on the south side of the garden. This shadow, created during the hottest part of the afternoon, protects the plants from the excess heat.
If cold protection is needed, there’s a variety of ways to protect your plants. Boards, cloth, pine branches, straw, manure, leaves or other mulches can help to retain warmth in the soil, and protect plants from the cold wind of winter.
There are actually several “annual” varieties of plants that can be planted in autumn for an early spring harvest, provided they are protected from the winter elements. These kinds of plants can often be protected with boards, only at the north end of the row, instead of the south.
Mulch, as mentioned, is useful, but make sure it doesn’t contain seed of any kind, which could be detrimental to the plant. Also, remember that the plant’s roots still need to breathe, so don’t pack the mulch too tightly. Larger, or coarser material loosely covering is better than tightly packed finer substances.