When I was a kid I would watch my dad on his hands and knees in the garden pulling weeds, trimming the plants, and generally breaking his back to make sure the garden looked its best and produced the best harvest he possibly could. I never understood why he did the things he did, especially after working all day, but boy the food was delicious!
Now that I’m grown, I know that at least 50% of what he did was therapeutic. It gave him a chance to organize his thoughts and release any tension he may have built up throughout the day. I know this, because that’s what it does for me.
While I enjoy gardening, I also like it to be as easy as possible. If you’re like me, here are a few cheap and easy garden tips to help make your garden grow a little better.
Feeding and Watering Tips in the Garden
Used coffee grounds and tea bags are great plant food for nitrogen-loving veggies like lettuce, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. Any green leafy plants generally need a little more nitrogen than flowering and fruiting vegetation.
When you steam or boil produce from your vegetable garden, don’t throw away the water. The water is filled with nutrients that will help feed your growing plants — just be sure to let it cool to room temperature so you don’t scald the roots and kill the plant.
Lay soaker hoses on garden beds to deliver slow, steady dripping to the plant roots. This will save time and water since no spray is lost to wind. Also, pathways do not get watered, thus pathway weeds will dry up and require less work in weeding. This is a bonus if your soaker hoses are hooked up to rain barrels. Who can beat free water, right?
Crushed eggshells in the soil will help with those cut worms and provide needed calcium to tomatoes and help prevent blossom-end rot. The eggshells help keep cats from using garden beds as litter boxes too. It is a good idea to bake the eggshells at 350ºF for 10-12 minutes to ensure they’re sanitized, then place them in a mason jar and shake to crush. Whatever is left can be added to the spice grinder to crush finer. The finer the powder, the faster it absorbs into the soil.
Planting Tips for Your Garden
If you find yourself at the farmer’s market buying tomatoes, and you get a delicious bunch, you can either save the seeds from a couple of the tomatoes, or you can plant an entire tomato to start your own plants. Be sure to ask the seller if the crop was organically grown from heirloom seeds.
Lay newspaper between plants and cover with straw to eliminate weeds and retain moisture. This combination works more efficiently together than either one does alone. At the end of the growing season, till the paper and straw into the soil to decay.
Lay a long-handled garden tool on the ground, and next to it place a tape measure. Use a permanent marker to write inch and foot marks on the handle. When you need to space plants a certain distance apart, you’ll be ready.
Pest Control Garden Tips
Aphids are tiny bugs that feed by sucking the sap from your plants. They live in large colonies and reproduce quickly, so when you find them, you want to get rid of them as fast as possible. To get rid of aphids, use 2 teaspoons of dish soap (I have found that the Original Blue Dawn works best) mixed in a spray bottle of warm water. Spray directly on the insects and the infected plant, focusing on the underside of the leaves.
Before cutworms can do damage to plants, they have to curl up around the base of the plant and touch nose to toe. If you push a pencil-sized stick into the soil right next to the stem when you plant the seedlings, the cutworm can’t reach all the way around, which stops any cutting.
You can also keep cutworms away from seedlings by placing an empty toilet paper cardboard tube around the seedling. Push it down so that half the tube is submerged in the soil. This will also prevent any underground attacks from the cutworms.
It has been said that copper tape will keep slugs and snails at bay. Wrap the tape around the rim of a planted container, and the slugs won’t cross it.
Garden Clean-Up Tips
Clean your garden tools using hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol and fine steel wool (so you’re not scratching the tools). This will help kill any bacteria that might be lingering on the tools. Then use a little olive oil or mineral oil to prevent the tools from rusting.