Whether you’re a seasoned veteran of the vegetable patch or a new candidate with your first flower box, you may be looking for gardening tips. Avid growers love to share their tips and tricks, and you’ll find an overwhelming amount of advice on your local groups and favorite forums.
To help you weed out the best of them, we’ve assembled our favorite gardening tips. Every region has its own peculiarities for producing a bountiful harvest. And every gardener has their strongest skills. We can tell you from experience that just because you have a green thumb for flowers, it doesn’t always follow that your vegetable garden will thrive.
Gardening Tips Make Short Work of a Bountiful Harvest
Gardening is hard work. There’s no denying that double-digging beds and weeding can be back-breaking labor. And gardening takes patience. Sometimes that investment of hard work doesn’t pay off for months. Sometimes, it can even take years. The best gardening tips provide shortcuts and techniques for solving common garden problems. And some of these provided will help you save more money or get a better yield from your vegetable plants.
Best Gardening Tips for New Gardeners
Along with reminding you not to get overwhelmed by trying to plant more vegetables than you can reasonably care for, we’ve got some other basic gardening tips that will make your journey into gardening more pleasant.
Start with containers
If you’re getting started with your first garden, you may be overwhelmed with some of the prep work required before you can sink your first potato into the welcoming earth. There’s solarizing and double-digging and soil amendments and a whole host of other chores to do. And that’s only if you have suitable land to work with.
Container gardening starts you on the path without taking on more than you can handle. Also, you’re more likely to produce satisfying results. Unlike gardening in the ground, container gardening gives you more control of the conditions. Your plants will never get too much sun or too much rain. You can even move them under cover or indoors during cold snaps. Containers also allow you to save precious water where resources are scant. And you’ll never waste a drop of fertilizer, either.
Choosing what to grow
It may be tempting to try to grow all the vegetables, but you may be setting yourself up for failure before you even get started. Choose five to eight kinds you’ve identified as suitable for your region.
Take advantage of starter seedlings
If you find yourself with Spring Fever in March or April, it may be too grow vegetables from seeds. But it’s never too late when you can purchase starter plants from your local nursery. Get a head start on peppers and tomatoes with seedlings while sowing lettuce seeds. With careful timing and using starter plants, you should be able to whip up the perfect home-grown salad in no time.
Best Gardening Tips for Saving Money
If you want to decrease the money you spend every season, here are a few tips to consider.
Pre-germinate your seeds
If you have seeds left over from last year, they may have some life left in them yet. But, you don’t have to use up peat pellets on potential duds. Pre-germinate them to find out if they’re still viable before planting. After your seeds have sprouted, you can carefully plant the germinated seeds into seed trays or small pots until they're big enough to transplant.
If you’ve had a vegetable or flower garden for more than two or three years, you have a good idea how expensive soil amendments can run. You probably also know how many cubic feet of weeds and other organic matter you pull out of your garden. If you haven’t started a compost pile yet, you need to start one now. Not only are you recycling in the most fundamental way that nature intended, but you’ll also never pay $5 for a bag of “compost” again.
Regrow your vegetables
Some plants make good candidates for re-growing even after the harvest. For example, when you’ve removed the root end of your green onions, plant the remaining bulb in potting soil. Soon, it will continue to grow right where it left off.
Many lettuces work, too. After removing the leaves from romaine, arugula, or other leafy greens, place the stem in a container with about 2 inches of water. When roots appear, you can replant it in some soil. Celery, onions, garlic, and fresh herbs can be propagated in water as well, even if you buy them from the grocery store. Many gardeners propagate tomato and sweet potato slips from cuttings, too.
Reuse your trash to make seed starters
You can make biodegradable seed starters out of toilet paper rolls. If you’re tired of handing over stacks of cash on peat pellets and biodegradable pots, make your own with empty toilet paper rolls.
Other “creative" seed starters include eggshells, lemon or orange rinds, and used K-cups.
Gardening Tips for a More Productive Garden
After preparing the soil and nurturing your seedlings, you want to get as many vegetables from your plants as possible. Here are a few tips for a higher yield.
High tea in the garden
You can add leftover coffee grounds and tea leaves directly to the soil for increased nitrogen. Don’t discard prepared coffee or tea, either. Water your plants with either after dilution. Many favorite vegetable plants love the extra acid. Leafy greens, peppers, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and cucumbers all appreciate the occasional cup of joe.
If you don’t have the space to nurture compost for months on end, make compost “tea.” Fill a large outdoor garbage can up to one-third full with compostable waste. Avoid animal waste or products of any kind. Choose weeds, leaves, fruit and vegetable kitchen scraps, or grass cuttings. Fill the can with water and cover tightly. Your “tea” will be ready in about two weeks and ready to feed your garden.
Pair your plants for harmony
Some plants just belong together, and we don’t mean on your plate. Planting compatible plants together makes the most of small spaces. Intersperse your corn, beans, and squash to use the three levels of light exposure: one tall plant, one midsize bush, and a sprawling vine vegetable.
Another way to combine plants for a better harvest is to add plants that repel insects. Many dislike garlic, onions, or chives. Others find marigolds and chrysanthemums unpleasant. Slugs and snails don’t like fennel. And thyme and oregano make a good ground cover around your vegetable plants, cooling the soil while repelling many garden pests. But do allow these to flower; bees love herb flowers and will pollinate your garden.
Focus on fast-growing vegetables
Even among different varieties of the same plants, you’ll find varieties that mature faster than others. For example, you may like the impressive beefsteak tomatoes, but “Early Girl” will give you fruit in 50 days. Those beefsteaks will take 85 days or more. Harvest baby carrots in just about a month and grow sequential crops for a long-lasting harvest. Like green beans? Go for the bush variety for an earlier harvest at around 60-65 days. Runner beans can take up to 80 days. Or grow them both, so you’ll have plenty all summer long, plus some to freeze or can.
Harvest your vegetables on time
Harvesting your vegetables as soon as they're ripe is the best way to keep your plants producing. The whole reason a plant produces fruit is to reproduce. In nature, this fruit provides a nutrient-dense package so the plant’s offspring will have a good start. It seems rather cruel, but removing it forces the plant to grow more of them and increases your garden’s production,
Some insects in your garden are the good guys. So, if you’re squeamish about bugs, gardening might not be for you. Several species of bees aid in pollinating your crops. Ladybugs and some spiders feast on pest insects like aphids. So, make sure your environment encourages them to participate in your garden endeavors.
Add bee-attracting plants, like sunflowers. Not only do sunflowers attract pollinators, but they can also provide some shade for your more heat-sensitive vegetables. Other useful plants to incorporate into your garden are herbs, like oregano, thyme, and borage.
Another way to welcome beneficial bugs into your garden is to provide shelter. You can add a bee house for solitary bees, like mason bees. These bees don’t swarm in hives but burrow into small crevices in old logs. Spiders also appreciate places to hide, like piles of bark mulch.
Best Unusual Gardening Tips
Some gardening advice sounds a bit weird or even like an old wives’ tale. But many are worth considering when looking to increase garden production.
Cooking water fertilizer
Water used to boil pasta or cook vegetables retains some of the residual nutrients. Don’t let it go to waste; collect this water from your colander and use it to water your vegetable plants as long as no meat or dairy products were used in seasoning.
Banana peel fertilizer
It’s no joke; banana peels are filled with potassium and make excellent plant food. Cut up your discarded banana peels and bury them directly into the ground around any plants in your garden.
Sulfur for pepper plants
Peppers like a bit of sulfur, but you don’t need to buy a special fertilizer for them. Plant the seedlings with a couple of matches in the hole.
Fertilize with milk
Milk provides your plants with calcium and deters aphids. Adding some milk to your tomatoes, squash, and peppers can also help prevent blossom end rot. Use up expired milk in your vegetable patch. But, dilute at least 50/50 with water. Or, like some gardeners, you can just sprinkle powdered milk around your veggies and water it in.
Protect your tomatoes with pennies
Tomatoes are fussy about moisture by nature, and they’re very susceptible to fungal infections. However, adding a pre-1983 U.S. penny (made of 95 percent copper) allows this vital mineral to leach into the soil destroying any fungal spores.
Using These Gardening Tips
Planning ahead will always serve you well and is our very favorite gardening tip of all time. Planning ensures you won’t become overwhelmed or make bad choices when deciding what to grow. When your local growing season is over, create a layout of your beds to combine plants. Start building your raised beds or prepare your existing patch to rest over the winter. Research which plants grow well in your region and their maturity rate, so you can make successive plantings to make the most of the spring and summer. Armed with this information, get ready for next year by starting your seedlings indoors.
What are your favorite gardening tips? Whether they’re slightly odd or time-proven standards, tell us about them in the comments below. We’d love to sure your gardening expertise with our readers.