I am a doer…I go all the time. From homeschooling, to running a business to teaching and growing things- I am on the move constantly. There are times when I go too hard and I start to neglect the basic needs of my body. I may not drink enough water, I may choose nutrition that is not inline with my health or I might indulge a bit too much.
My actions then accumulate into a feeling of being run down, overtired, my digestion may be altered and suddenly I’ve opened myself up to illness. I am much more susceptible to the ills that ail during these times of stress and lack of care than when I am full of rest, proper hydration and nutrition.
We can look at plants in the same way.
When our plants are too cold, too wet, too hot, too dry, when they lack fertility, when they lack nutrients, when they cannot form the life sustaining relationships in living soil…they too are open to ailments such as pests, disease, fungal infections and so forth.
Strong and healthy plants that have their needs met (food, air, shelter and water) are going to be able to withstand the environmental factors that come their way. They are going to have the energy and strength to fend off the parts of the ecosystem designed for decomposition.
Changing my mindset from “I have a black thumb” or “Mother Nature hates me” when infestations and disease arrive- to a mindset of “my plants’ needs are not being addressed” and “what can I do to support my plants” was a paradigm shift that allowed me to understand that pests and disease are really a symptom of an underlying factor. Addressing the cause versus addressing the symptom (as Elliot Coleman so eloquently outlined as one of the founders of organic gardening).
Giving our plants the best chance at fulfilling their legacy. This means that we are consistently observing and interacting with our plants to ensure that their needs are met.
Hardening off plants to the elements- sun, temperature, soil and wind. These are important for plants as they transition from their temporary home to their full time residence. A slow transition to the intense Alaskan sun, fierce winds, cooler soil, cold morning and warm afternoons. A period of adjustment to acclimate.
Ensuring balanced fertility by feeding your plants. Sticking with a broad focus here, plants need a myriad of nutrients to live their best life. They all need to right amount of nutrients. Excesses in fertilizer can cause other deficiencies, planting in soil too cool can lock up nutrients and deficiencies can cause excesses. Backing off the extreme nitrogen loads to reduce the amount of “pests” being invited to our plants is really key to success. Mild fertility and amendments that are balanced to fulfill all the needs of a plant.
Compacted soil prevents air, water, nutrients and soil life to move freely. Roots are restricted from making connections when space is restricted. Planting too early in heavy wet soils and walking on permanent growing spaces are just a few ways soil can become impacted.
The right amount of water…too much water can be just as damaging as too little water. Think of all the activity that goes on underground. Healthy soil is a vast ocean of activity where air and water are key elements within the ecosystem. Many plants require 1″ of water per week increasing by 1/2″ of water per every 10 degree rise in temperature.
Wind can be very beneficial for pollination, transfer of nutrients and seed broadcasting. Wind is also very destructive to plants with stems, flowers and fruits breaking or falling off, but wind is extremely drying. Before/after wind events, plants should be watered deeply to help rehydrate and heal.
Learning to speak the language of plants as they are constantly communicating to let us know if they are well or unwell. Droopy, curly, changing colors, falling over, drying out, splitting, dropping flowers, dropping fruit, rotten ends and pests/fungal infections are all ways in which our plants let us know “I am not feeling well”.