Tom MacCubbin is the Extension Agent Emeritus for Orange County and the University of Florida. For more gardening tips and articles visit BetterLawns.com.
Gardens are fun to plant but not always easy to keep growing. Sometimes you just need a few tricks to make growing your next harvests easy and enjoyable.
Number one is keeping the soils moist. I know you added lots of organic matter to the sandy soils but they still dry out. Here is the first trick - Keep the soil mulched. You can use old hay, straw, coarse compost, leaves, pine needles or hardwood mulch. Keep a thin layer over the rooting area of the plantings and back a few inches from the stems. It is good to mulch the rows too. The mulch can be thicker here as it helps keep the weeds down. Mulch also helps keep soil off the edible vegetable portions.
Speaking of weeds, keep them under control. Many harbor insects that can transfer over to your plants. Some may support viruses that move over to the garden crops via insects. One of the viruses that affect tomatoes may be in the weeds living in or near your garden. Hoe, pull or use other good gardening techniques to keep the weeds down.
Trellis all tall growing crops. All my tomatoes have a tall cage. Peppers get a small tomato ring and cucumbers are set creeping up a trellis. By keeping the vegetable up off the ground you help prevent rots, can spot the insects better, spray better and easily see when to harvest the crop.
Keep the plants growing with regular feedings. We all have our way of feeding the crops.
Some like to use manure, some teas and some commercial fertilizers. If your plants are not good and green and growing it can easily be due to a lack of fertilizer especially in sandy soils. I like to fertilize every 3 to 4 weeks with traditional fertilizers. Now I have been using more of the slow release products lately. In one test the slow release product beat out manure and liquids. Why, because it was more reliable than me. I would forget or skipped feedings. The slow release products feed constantly.
Lastly visit the garden daily. Plants change quickly and pests can move in. As one friend told me, plan to spend 5 minutes in the garden each day and you will spend an hour or more. It is fun.