Some people have great skill and soil as well as the time and patience to grow beautiful gardens year-round. The rest of us need some help here and there.
If you’re just starting out, don’t have the magical “green thumb,” or simply need some tips and tricks to make your yard bloom, read ahead for our 45 sure-fire tricks. Even if you’re a pro, we’re betting there are some tips you’ve never heard of here.
From sustainable practices to changing the pH of your soil, these hacks will get your garden growing in no time.
And hey, maybe it’ll work, but there’s no denying that, more often than not, biting off more than you can chew is a recipe for failure. If you’re not a pro yet, it’s best to start small. Do some research and pick one or two things you’d like to try to grow this year. Pay attention to the timing and the kind of soil and care they need. Don’t overwhelm yourself right off the bat.
Grab a few tomato plants, or plant some lettuce seeds and see how it goes. Then you’ve got experience under your belt for next year when you can add some other favorites to the mix.
If you’ve had particularly good luck with growing a certain type of food, start experimenting with new recipes or trading food with friends who are growing their own specialties.
Becoming a great gardener means taking it step-by-step but always challenging yourself to try something new.
Containers also have the added benefit of being portable, so if you don’t have the right light throughout the day, you can move things around to keep your plants in the conditions they need.
One great way to get calcium in your soil AND reduce your home waste is to take your eggshells and grind them into the soil.
Just put them in a baggie, smash them up real good, and then layer them around your plants. This will also help reduce pests like snails and slugs.
Just make sure the pots have proper drainage.
Your neighbors will wonder how you manage to re-landscape throughout the growing season.
If you’re having a hard time getting a good crop of tomatoes, try using the Epsom salt trick to up their magnesium. There are a couple of ways to use it: 1) sprinkle it over the plot of land where you plan to plant your tomatoes (about 1 cup per 100 sq ft), then work it into the soil, and pop in your seedlings; 2) work Epsom salt into the soil throughout the growing season (1 tablespoon per foot of plant height) every two weeks; 3) spray the foliage to give your plants a boost every two weeks using 1 or 2 tablespoons in a gallon of water.
If you have potted tomato plants, you can water them once a month with an Epsom salt solution of 2 tablespoons per gallon of water.
Pro tip: Peppers and roses also like extra magnesium.
Believe it or not, if you fill a spray bottle with simple white vinegar and drench the little guys (trying not to drench your precious wanted plants) they’ll die off at the root. Once that happens, they’ll be easy to pluck right out without much effort.
However, there have been warnings recently about going overboard with the vinegar in your garden. Once people see it working they tend to want to use higher concentrations of vinegar and those can cause damage to skin and to soil. So stick to the household stuff.
You can also create a more complex concoction with 1 gallon of vinegar, 2 cups of Epsom salts, and 1/4 cup of dish soap (it just depends how you feel about dish soap in your soil).
What you can plant will vary by your location (or “zone”), but take a look at things like petunias and zinnias that have a long blooming season. Other flowers like calendula, chamomile, nasturtium, and marigolds are especially great for vegetable gardens.
While the acidity of tomatoes is mostly genetic – making your choice of what to plant the most important part of getting a sweeter tomato – some gardeners still swear by the baking soda trick to lower the acidity of the soil, so it might be worth a try. Just don’t put it right on the plant.
Now, using canola oil on pests might sound a bit gruesome because it works by poisoning them or blocking their air holes until they suffocate, but it’s not any different than spraying them with a chemical.
To make a pest-killing spray, combine 1 cup of canola oil and 1 tablespoon of mild liquid dish soap. This is your concentrated base. Take 1 or 2 teaspoons of this mixture when you notice an infestation and add it to a spray bottle containing 1 cup of water. Shake it up and spray directly on the intruders. Do this on a dry day when it’s not too hot and humid so it can evaporate.
While you can spray the leaves of most garden plants with canola oil, some trees can be negatively affected by oils, so be sure to check first if you’re going to use this trick on them.
While many vegetable plants have been modified to grow in a variety of locations, you can still do your part to maintain your local ecosystem by surrounding your garden with native wildflowers or grasses.
Because they’re uniquely suited to the environment, they’re less likely to need extra attention, water, or fertilizer.
You’ll need at least an 8-inch trimming to get a good start. Be sure to bury about 2/3 of the stalk.
This information is available on seed packets and the little tags attached to plants at your local garden center. And if you’re not sure, you can always ask. It might be tougher at big box stores where employees aren’t necessarily knowledgeable about what they’re selling, but you never know. And you can always look it up online before you shell out cash for something that just won’t grow where you need it to.
And you’ll likely thank yourself later when everyone else is complaining about the pain in their neck and shoulders if you invest in something soft to kneel on or a moveable bench to sit on while you work at the beginning of the season. It’s hard to enjoy your garden if you’re in pain!
If you’re growing them from seeds, you need to start early, but seedlings and larger plants can go in the ground later.
The great thing about squash is that it produces from mid-summer through the fall season, so the yield can be enormous if you take care of your plants. Just keep in mind that they do take up lots of room, so set aside the appropriate amount of space. There are a ton of varieties to choose from, depending on your tastes.
Butterflies also tend to be attracted to brightly colored and fragrant flowers as well as native species.
While butterflies in their larval stage do feed on your plants in a way that can cause some minimal damage, the payoff is often worth it.
Just work the grounds into the soil (don’t spread a big blanket of it on top of soil) and you’ll attract earthworms as well, which are nature’s original garden tillers.
Just make sure to limit this trick to acid-loving plants like hydrangeas, rhododendrons, azaleas, blueberries, carrots, and radishes. Keep them away from the tomatoes.
Some fruits need to be planted at the beginning of spring while others can wait until later in the season, so be sure to check the tags on plants to maximize your chances of success.
Next time you need to do some edging, grab a 2×4 (or better yet – and safer for your toes – a 2×6) piece of wood and drive the spade into the ground along the edge.
Try using a 2″ PVC pipe and stick it down through the leaves. Then pour the fertilizer in so it slides down where you need it. Use a funnel for extra caution and less mess.
Just make sure you don’t fasten them too tight because they need to be able to move around a bit.
Next time this happens, don’t try to yank it out and damage those hearty roots. Instead, simply cut down the side of the plastic container and slide it out. You may have to cut along the bottom as well if it’s really stuck in there, but just add some heavy-duty scissors to your gardening tool kit and you’ll be ready to go next time you’re in a bind.
Snip the side shoots (or suckers) that form during growth and your chosen shoots will get all the resources they need to grow thick and strong and hold up your bounty without too much drooping.
Simply pop your seeds into some warm water for up to 24 hours before planting them in the soil. Just be sure not to let them dry out before you get them in the ground.
Cinder blocks, while not the most glamorous option, are also useful for separating different plants within your garden as well. And better yet, they’re cheap!
An easy fix is to simply add a coffee filter to the bottom to keep the dirt in. You’ll still have drainage but won’t have to worry about sweeping up after your done potting your plant.
Simply place your plants or seeds around the pot and fill it up when you’re watering your flowers. The holes in the bottom will let out water at a much deeper level, ensuring that water gets to your roots for maximum uptake.
Once they’re ready to be planted, you can pop the egg right in the ground since it will split apart and degrade.
Just be sure to pinch it at the little knob right where the leaf meets the stem. Your plants will also look lusher instead of tall and stringy with this trick.
Grab some bar soap and scrape your fingernails along it before heading outside. Allow the soap to stay there while your hands are hard at work and you won’t need a new manicure later on.
Even if you don’t have hours to soak your seeds, stick them in a glass of water first, especially if they are a bit older and you want to see how viable they are before you plant them. The ones that float are usually past their prime.
You can buy a pH testing kit at the store, but if you want a simple hack, just grab some vinegar, baking soda, and distilled water from your pantry. You won’t get a specific pH reading, but this will let you know if you have alkaline, acidic, or neutral soil.
Just take about 1/4 cup of dirt, mix it with distilled water, and begin to slowly pour vinegar over the top. If it fizzes, it’s alkaline. Now do that same again with a new sample, but instead of vinegar, sprinkle baking soda over your cup of mud. If it bubbles in this case, it’s acidic. If nothing happens with either experiment, you have neutral soil.