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15 Brilliant Gardening Hacks for Every Green Thumb

Posted by ECOgardener on

There are so many ways to simplify gardening tasks and even the most skilled green thumb will benefit from a tip or two! You see, certain gardening tasks are time-consuming or labor-intensive. If you want to grow a garden smartly, there is no need to work harder than you should! That’s why we are outlining some of the most brilliant gardening hacks to lighten your load.

Effortless Weeding

Do you use raised beds or flower beds in the garden? If you do, then you know that weeds tend to grow in raised beds too. Sure, weeding is much easier when you grow your garden in contained spaces but you can get rid of weeds without much effort by trying this trick: use old cardboard boxes to deprive the weeds of sunlight.

Just flatten the plain cardboard (not glossy!) boxes so they lay flat around the bases of the plants. Use a box cutter and cut holes in the boxes for the plants. Cover the cardboard with a layer of mulch and that’s it. The cardboard will prevent sunlight from reaching the soil around the plants, preventing weeds from growing. If you don’t have extra cardboard boxes to spare, you can use plastic sheets instead.

Loading Heavy Gardening Items

Gardening can be hard on the back because most tasks involve moving sacks of mulch, soil, or fertilizer around. If you have a big garden to maintain, you have to double your efforts when moving things around. This goes especially if you do not have a wheelbarrow. Next time you have a heavy load to move in and around the garden, try this trick: use a tarp or a vinyl tablecloth to move bags of awkward loads around. Just roll the bags of load onto the tablecloth then drag the whole thing to your work area, it’s that easy.

Towel Strips for Delicate Plants

Any type of vegetable plant needs a structure of sorts for support. The stems could get heavy once the plant starts bearing flowers and/or fruits. Apart from making a trellis or any type of structure to support delicate vegetable plants, you can also repurpose your old terry cloth towels as plant supporters. Just cut an old bath towel into thin strips. Then, tie a plant’s heavy stems with terry cloth to set them in place.

Since the towel strips are made of soft terry cloth, the delicate stems will not bruise at all. Tying towel strips in a vegetable patch do not make for a pretty garden but your plants will have the best chances of growing healthier and bearing more fruits.

Paper Egg Cartons for Growing Seedlings

It’s definitely more rewarding to grow plants from seeds as opposed to buying fully-grown plants from the nursery. But you don’t have to buy fancy seed-starting kits or seedling pots to grow seeds to seedlings, you can use an old egg carton to grow and transport your seedlings.

Just fill each section of the egg carton with potting soil. Plant the seeds and set the egg carton on a partly sunny spot then wait for the seedlings to grow. Once you are ready to transplant the seedlings, cut the egg carton into mini planters using a pair of scissors. Plant each seedling without removing it from the egg carton section.

The egg carton is made from biodegradable material so it will break down into the ground as the seedling grows. Even better, using an egg carton as your seedling’s first planter minimizes transplanting shock, ensuring the survival of your precious plants!

Faster Germination: Soaking the Seeds

Speaking of seed starting, here’s a handy gardening tip that will speed up germination: soak the seeds for at least 24 hours. This old-timey gardening trick helps soften the seeds' hard coats. Since the seed coats soften after soaking, the embryonic seedlings could break out much easier.

Do note that some seeds are suitable for soaking, others aren't. Generally, big seeds (pea, beet, cucumber, bean, corn, chard, and squash seeds) with hard coats are best suited for soaking. Small seeds (lettuce, radish seeds) are recommended for soaking.

To soak the seeds, just put the seeds in a shallow bowl and pour a little water. If you are soaking seeds with a hard coat, let stand for at least 10 hours and up to 24-hours. For thin-skinned seeds, you can soak the seeds for a maximum of 4 hours. Do not soak the seeds for too long or the seeds will decompose! After soaking the seeds, they are ready for planting.

Removing Salt Deposits from Clay Pots

Are your clay pots stained with salt buildup? Clay pots are made with a porous material and small particles travel through the pots when wet. These particles include salts and minerals from the soil. When the salt particles dry up, they leave a white film on the terracotta pots. The discoloration won’t affect the performance of the pots but you can remove the powdery deposits if you like.
 
Removing stubborn salt deposits using a wire brush can be taxing. Thankfully, there’s an easy way to get rid of clay pot stains. Just mix equal parts white vinegar, rubbing alcohol and water in a spray bottle. Give your stained terracotta pots a generous spritz of the solution and salt deposits should rub off effortlessly with a sponge. The vinegar melts the chalky residue while the alcohol removes stains from the pot.

Getting Rid of Garden Slugs

Is your garden teeming with garden slugs and snails? Some gardeners tend to use pesticides to kill common garden pests but chemical repellants do more harm than good. Pesticides harm the earth, poisoning the soil and nearby water sources. The good news is, you can keep your garden slug and snail-free without using chemicals. The best part? These eco-friendly solutions are much cheaper than buying pesticides.

You can use crushed eggshells, coffee grounds, or beer traps to keep slugs and snails at bay. Snails and slugs have soft tissues and these critters dislike moving over sharp or gritty surfaces. A generous sprinkling of crushed eggshells or coffee grounds around the edges of your garden should be enough to deter these critters. The best part? Eggshells enrich the soil with calcium while coffee grounds neutralize alkaline soil.

Beer traps are a popular slug deterrent too. To make a beer trap, just bury a ramekin or a jar into the ground. The soil level should be below the top of the container. Pour cheap beer into the container until half full. The beer aroma will lure slugs into the container. Soon these critters will climb all over the trap and drown in the process as they slither inside it.

Start Your Gardening Journey with Herbs

If you are new to gardening then expect some of your plants to die because that’s just how it is when you are growing a collection of plants. The more plants you grow, the more plants you kill. Your first forays into gardening can be a success by growing herbs first.

Herbs make the best plants for newbie gardeners because they are easy to grow, hard to kill, and they require minimal maintenance. In addition, herbs come in an array of varieties to choose from so if you enjoy growing different kinds of plants, you are spoiled with options. As you get the hang of gardening, you can add more plants to your collection, eventually moving to other plant varieties such as flowering or vegetable plants.

Household Items as Gardening Tools

A complete set of gardening tools is nice to have especially if you are just getting into gardening. However, there is no need to spend a small fortune on these tools when common household items could pull double duty as gardening tools. For instance, your kitchen scissors could be used as pruning shears. Kitchen scissors are cheaper than brand name pruning shears but they get the job done just the same.

Forks could be used as pest repellant while spoons could be used as a mini trowel in a pinch. Spoons are quite helpful when transplanting seedlings too. You can also use a spoon to dig around the roots of delicate plants. You can also turn old plastic containers into watering cans for the garden. Paper towels work great when testing old seeds for planting. Got lots of plastic milk jugs? You can turn these into scoops.

Right Way of Digging Holes for New Plants

Did you know that the way you plant new plants in the ground could affect their chances of survival? What most newbie gardeners don’t know is that there is a right way and a wrong way of digging holes in the ground. Ideally, you want to go wider – not deeper – when digging holes for new plants.

Why?

Burying new plants too deeply into the soil could kill them! By digging wider holes, the plants’ delicate root systems could extend horizontally and vertically, absorbing more moisture and nutrients from the soil. The depth of the hole matters too. The top of the plant’s crown must be evenly level with the soil. If the hole is too deep, the crown could be buried into the dirt, which may cause rot.

Makeshift Potting Bench

A potting bench is an essential tool for serious gardeners because repotting plants is a messy job. If you don’t have a potting bench but you want to keep your work area spick and span, you can always turn a plastic dishpan into a portable potting bench.
 
Use a dishpan that’s large enough to hold several potted plants. Fill the dishpan with potting mix and chuck your gardening supplies into it. Then, carry the dishpan to your work area. Talk about portability! As you re-pot the plants, use the dishpan to catch the excess dirt to avoid the mess.

Plastic Containers as Plant Collars

Is your garden plagued with cutworms? Cutworms are nasty-looking critters that feast on tender seedlings at night. These plant-hungry pests could really do a number on a garden, large or small, so you have to contain the infestation as soon as possible. Most gardeners use chemical repellants to keep cutworms at bay. Thankfully, there is a simpler way of getting rid of these critters without poisoning the soil: reuse plastic yogurt containers as plant collars. It’s easy!

Using a box cutter or kitchen shears, cut the bottom of a yogurt container. Pop the cut container into each seedling, burying an inch of the container into the soil. The yogurt container acts as a physical barrier that keeps burrowing pests like cutworms at bay. Once the seedlings have developed harder stems, you can remove the plant collar.

DIY Seed Starter

If you’d like to try your hand at seed starting, there is absolutely no need to buy a fancy kit or peat pots to grow seeds. You can use discarded toilet paper rolls as biodegradable seed starters. Toilet paper rolls are perfectly sized for growing a number of seeds.
 
Just fold the roll in half one way, fold it again the other way to create a square shape. Cut the rolls in half then cut one end of the roll to make four little flaps. Fold the flaps to create a mini pot. Fill each mini pot with potting soil and then plant the seeds. Once the seedlings are ready for transplanting, just bury the toilet paper pot into the soil. The toilet paper roll will break down as the seedling grows.

A Sweeter Harvest

Baking soda has many practical uses in the garden. This kitchen staple can be used to keep garden slugs away. It protects plants from fungal spores while neutralizing diseases such as foliar disease and powdery mildew. What’s more, you can use baking soda to produce sweeter fruits and veggies.

If you are growing climbing, fruit-bearing plants such as tomatoes, try sprinkling a little baking soda around the base of the plant. The plant will absorb the baking soda from the soil, neutralizing the acidity of the tomatoes, which makes the fruits less tart.

Save Your Vegetable Scraps

One of the easiest ways to grow different types of vegetables is to save leftover cuttings. Some plants, particularly vegetables, have the ability to regrow themselves. If you've always wanted to grow your own vegetable garden but you'd rather not grow the plants from seeds, save the cuttings. This trick will work for a variety of vegetables such as scallions, celery, garlic, Romaine lettuce, carrots, basil, onions, bok choy, etc.

Just use the fresh scraps! Some vegetable scraps need potting soil to grow; others need standing water and nothing more. Our advice is to read up to learn more about the growing habits of each vegetable. Also, give your growing vegetable scraps the light and water they need to grow.

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