What are your favorite overall gardening tips?
Mulch, mulch, mulch!
Don't back up! Every year I stomp on something when I back up in the garden and don't pay attention to where I'm walking. I have to remind myself to only walk forward.
Build your soil. Healthy soil is the most important part of your garden.
Great thread idea!
Dig the new planting hole & fill it with water before digging up the plant that's going in it.
Carry all the tools + a bucket + full watering can with you to the planting hole so everything is within reach as you plant.
Dig the planting hole at least 2 inches deeper and wider than the pot size of the plant. In case you're wondering why, try wearing a pair of brand new shoes to work. Feel a little snug, don't they?
For those of us in colder zones, transplant on a cool, cloudy day rather than a warm sunny one. If there's rain in the forecast, all the better.
Do your botanical homework--it's easier to plant tall things towards the back of the bed and shorter plants in front right from the start rather than try to dig out shorter plants and move them to the front later (ask me how I know this). Always check and re-check light & water needs, height & bloom time before setting a plant in the dirt. This can yield benefits in retaining the gardener's sanity.
I'll echo MeMo with mulch, mulch, mulch but add lay down corrugated cardboard, then mulch, mulch, mulch.
Great tips, thanks!
MeMo, I learned that one here, and I'm glad I did. You're right, that saves us a lot of work.
Thyme, you're so right. I had my big clodhoppers all over my poor little strawberries yesterday when weeding them. Poor little things.
Luckygal, how are you building it?
Gardenweed, thanks! I am loving the answers. You're so right about watering the hole first, and I keep forgetting that one. I didn't know you were supposed to transplant on a cold cloudy day. We get a lot of those here and I prefer gardening when it's not so hot. I've planted some taller things in front too. Sometimes I think the tags on the plants lie, don't you? I should look things up more. I'm probably too haphazard.
I learned this from a friend who has the most gorgeous garden. He has lots of bare dirt and not a weed anywhere. I asked how he does it and he said every Sunday (52 times a year) he goes out with his trusty hula hoe and knocks down all the wee tiny weeds. After about a year of that, very few weeds even try to come up. When I'm being good about it (and it's never 52 times a year) I can do my front yard in about 5 minutes, and my back yard in about 20 minutes. That's probably because I've been better about keeping up with the front yard. Anyway, this really does work! You can even skip a few weeks here and there when the weather stinks.
Keep 'em coming, folks! :D
Use green.... it's not all about the flowers.
Oceanna, by building soil I mean enriching it. Soil is not just 'dirt', it's full of many types of living organisms that are beneficial and essential to soil and plants. These organisms are not only the earthworms that we see but many different microscopic organisms that work together for plant nutrition and health. By staying as organic as possible I don't harm these organisms and encourage their growth by making my own compost and mulch, not tilling too much, mulching with cardboard/newspaper and organic mulch thus keeping the soil moist, and avoiding using noxious chemicals for fertilizer or weed control.
Many people buy worm castings for fertilizer but by creating a healthy environment for earthworms in my garden they give them to me for FREE! Earthworm castings are known to be one of the best fertilizers. I feed and protect the worms and the worms feed my plants.
Yes, all of these things are labor intensive but they reduce the toxicity in my environment and actually save money. I started doing this when I became a Grandmother as didn't want my Grandchildren playing on chemical lawn. I buy alfalfa pellets, sometimes seed meals for plant fertilizer, and granular molasses to feed the organisms.
I've learned a lot on the Soil forum.
Here is a link that might be useful: Soil, Compost and Mulch forum
Make and use compost, constantly.
Luckygal, great answer and thanks for the link. I do have a lot of earthworms, and I compost, but I want to go read at the link as I can always learn more.
Flowergirl, how/where do you use your compost?
I use it every time I dig a hole to plant, and as a mulch in the fall so I can scratch the remains in in the spring
Flowergirl, thank you. I never thought about putting it in the hole but now that you mention it, it seems I should have.
flowergirl..exactly what type of compost are you talking about when you state that you use it every time you dig a hole to plant(shredded leaves?)or a commercial type of compost?
If you are going truly organic, a bag of compost will do very little, it takes something on a larger scale to build your soil.
Become friends with a horse lover.. Find a source of compost, and get some hay to mulch with. Ive used lots of different things to mulch, right now im using compost, since I got 3 tons of it this year give or take. Ive also used hard/softwood shreds, straight from the forest workers, I just have to get it myself.
What you see here is about a 4-5 foot piles of horse manure and compost, every year I get like 10 loads of each and fill my truck to the brim with it. BTW if you dont know anyone with a horse and you have a track, call the track and see if they have some available, trust me most places are pleased to be rid of what they consider "waste"
You don't need a horse or cow for great compost. We have always made our own just by piling autumn leaves, grass clippings, weeds and all non-woody garden debirs in a pile. We never turn it or do anything else. Just let it sit there. Takes about two years to become great compost.
The only thing I don't throw in is diseased foliage--not much of that anyway.
One question about horse manure. A friend of mine used it on a big veg garden and got the most nightmarish weeds that took her years to get rid of--weeds we don't normally have. She stuck with cows from then on.
Ive never had any major weed issues, I get mine from a farm , even the new stuff.. ive never had more than a few. People say that, ive also used horse manure from 3 different locations from time to time. Again, never a major issue. IF your concerned age it for a year or two. Mix it in with your compost piles and stir it with other hots, should do the trick.
However, I do usually level different materials, including horse manure. BTW ive used gras clippings , cardboard shreds, any and all shredded leaves ect ect. I still do that as well. TRUST me you can never have enough organic material. My compost I make myself only does enough for my veggie garden.
About composting again - every little bit helps and it depends on the size of one's garden and one's situation as to how much one needs. One bag of compost might be enough for someone with a tiny garden.
IMO composting doesn't need to be a difficult thing to do. However when people are told they must go out and find manure it may become overwhelming and they will not do any composting. For many people on city lots a load of manure is completely impractical. For many city people it's difficult to even find a place for a small compost bin.
One way of easily building soil is a version of sheet composting which I started doing 30 years ago when living on a 60'x100' suburban lot. I just dug a hole between plants and buried the day's collection of kitchen veggie/fruit peelings, etc. Over 3 years the heavy clay soil became rich, dark, and nutritious for my plants. Reduces the need for fertilizers and reduces the garbage load on landfills. I still do this occasionally even tho I now live on a large acreage and have space (but not energy) for hundreds of loads of manure.
My most recent favorite tip is to lay a plant tray across my wheelbarrow handles and secure it with a small bungee cord. It's the perfect "out of the way" spot for gloves, plant tags, pruners,etc.
>>One question about horse manure. A friend of mine used it on a big veg garden and got the most nightmarish weeds that took her years to get rid of--weeds we don't normally have. She stuck with cows from then on.
It would depend on what the horse is eating. If the horse is out to pasture, grazing on the ground, she's going to eat a lot of weed seeds, and many will pass through whole and viable. But I used to have a horse in So. California, where there was no place for a horse to graze. We fed him primarily alfalfa from bales, with some Purina Omaline (a grain/molasses mix) and he didn't consume or pass weed seeds. In fact, his seasoned manure made my mom's garden bloom like never before. She was VERY impressed.
So, check to see what the horse eats.
Thank you all for sharing your ideas about composing. It's a bit of a "different strokes for different folks" thing. I do wish I could get horse manure (seed-free), but I have no truck and I can't see hauling it in my car. Though I have thought about putting a big plastic container in my trunk, with lid, and filling it. It would take a lot of loads to amount to much, though. And with so much rain here, I'm afraid it would be too heavy to deal with. With my luck, I'd spill it all over my car and never get the smell out. lol
Pfmastin, oh what a clever idea! Aren't you smart!
Every spring I share a large load of compost with three other nearby neighbors. We rotate who gets it closest to their house (we have it delivered to the street and wheelbarrow it in.) Cost is very reasonable when shared.
Echo about building soil with compost & mulch. For everything besides annuals don't bother with fertilizing so much as adding soil conditioners as mulch, as planting pockets, or layered on top of cardboard for new beds.
I've never purchased soil for new beds, but made plenty of compost in place or in the vegetable garden beds early spring or late fall.
Gather up free materials, use lawnmower to make smaller pieces, or blender for kitchen scraps to speed things up.
-used coffee grounds from St*rbucks (ask your family to pick up when they're driving by)
-manures - composted 1st unless rabbit or llama/alpaca
-dried grass clippings
-fall leaves (collect while fresh so you're not gathering up slug eggs...)
-household papers (used napkins, tissues, junk mail, etc.)
-homemade compost as much as you can make in a few different places in the garden...under shrubs, behind tall plants, in holes or pits dug directly in garden, in vegetable garden in fall to use as mulch for perennials in spring--once enough materials build your 3' squareish pile & turn with garden fork every 2-3 days. Keep moist & covered for best results.
We dug & removed grass for an expansion one time years ago & decided gardening that way hurt too much. Now we just do the layer method & everything grows well. All that organic matter holds moisture to help plants settle in & I don't have to do much weeding to keep up!
Another tip: use free hay sweepings from a feed store for a bottom layer in new beds or as bottom layer of mulch. In my area it is a blend of alfalfa, grass hay, & straw as they collect it over several days of business, so sometimes wet or dry, but it doesn't really matter for gardens.
** As long as you top the mix with something else you won't have sprouting weeds. I wear a dust mask, coveralls, & gloves. I bring my own garden fork & pull it out of a dumpster they use to put into garbage cans lined with bags, then tie them shut to put into my Suburban. If you only have a car, just reduce the size of your containers or use bags to make them fit inside the back.