Succulents make the perfect plants for new gardeners. These plants are not only beautiful to look at; they are also tough as nails. Even the brownest of thumbs will have a hard time killing succulents, they are that hardy. Also, we’ve got a few gardening tips in case you need more help!
Succulents are low maintenance plants that thrive in dry environments. Contrary to popular notion, these plants do not need full sunlight. In fact, extended exposure to direct sunlight could burn the succulents. These plants prefer bright, indirect sunlight so they will do well in indoor settings.
Since succulents have such a unique look to them, they make fabulous décor pieces. Decorating with succulents is not only an affordable way of refreshing tired spaces; these plants add a pop of color to bland interiors. Thankfully, succulents are so easy to incorporate in the home! Want to add a pop of green to your interiors? Try any of these gardening tips and decorating ideas we love:
Terrariums are a versatile décor! Most are small enough to fit the tiniest of living spaces and easy enough for newbie hobbyists to make. You can set a terrarium or two on any blank counter and add life to your interiors almost instantly. The best part? Terrariums are so beautiful yet easy to maintain. They’re the perfect living décor for busy city folks!
To make your own terrarium, just choose a container, perhaps a clear open-top cylinder or a dome-shaped glass jar. Spread a layer of gravel on the bottom of the container then a layer of charcoal over it. Spread a nice layer of potting soil then start planting the succulents in an eye-catching arrangement. Finish up with a layer of white pebbles or moss and that's it. Give your terrarium a spritz of water once a week or if the soil is too dry.
Vertical Succulent Garden
Who says you need a massive yard to create a lush oasis? If you live in a rental then space will always be an issue. But don’t let the lack of space keep you from enjoying a beautiful garden, make the most out of any vertical space with a vertical garden. Use succulents to create a show stopping yet easy to maintain garden you’d be proud to show off. The best part? You can set your vertical garden indoors or outdoors.
You can use wood pallets to hang pots of succulents or mountable planters to hang your favorite plants on a wall. You can either make or buy hanging baskets to hang your planters from the ceiling. If you want to hang several pots of succulents on a wall, try making your own trellis using chicken wire. Really, there are so many ways of hanging succulents (and other houseplants) to dress up blank spaces.
Did you know that you could turn your succulent collection into striking pieces of art? Instead of framing a picture, try framing a succulent garden, it's easy! You can either get a pre-assembled frame or make one using chicken wire, an old picture frame and a shadow box (here's a great tutorial to try). Once you're done making these gorgeous living artworks, prop them on a wall, set them on a table or hang a couple on a blank wall. To water the succulents, you have to lay the frame flat on a table and spritz water on the roots. Leave the soil to dry first before putting the framed succulents back on display.
A Dish Garden
Making a dish garden is a great way to decorate with succulents while showcasing your creativity! Succulents have a shallow root system so planting them in a shallow container like a dish or bowl is not a problem at all. Just choose a sizable decorative dish, add a layer of gravel or small pebbles on the bottom of the container. The pebbles will drain the water away from the roots and prevent rot.
Then, add a layer of potting soil on top of the gravel layer. Plant and arrange the succulents, starting with the smallest plants to the medium-sized plants. Cover the succulents' roots with more potting soil then sprinkle a layer of pebbles on top of the potting soil. Add a couple of tiny decors if you like.
Don’t water the succulents after repotting them to give them time to get used to the new soil. Check the dryness of the soil, if it’s dry enough, water the succulents lightly. Now your dish garden is complete, you can set it indoors or outdoors.
Here is a simple way of adding pops of green into your home: set a couple of potted succulents at the ends of your book display. This trick will breathe life back to your book collection! Just pick a couple of succulents to de-pot at home.
Prepare two pairs of glass cylinder vases; two should be small enough to fit the inside of the other vases with a few inches of space to spare. Put the smaller vase inside the larger vase and fill the gaps with smooth pebbles. Fill the smaller vase with potting soil, plant the succulents and cover the base of the plants with small pebbles. Pop each vase at the end of your book display and voila, you have living bookends!
Hanging Succulent Arrangement
This is a great centerpiece for defining any room in the home. Just prepare a mountable tray or a decorative pot, threads, scented candles of your choice and of course, the succulents. Re-pot the succulents in the tray or decorative pot then finish up by setting the scented candles in the middle of the arrangement. Hang the planter using the threads. If the tray or decorative planter does not have holes for the thread, drill a hole on either side of the container. Hang the succulent arrangement in a semi-shaded spot.
Dress up your coffee table, dining table, or your console table with a living centerpiece that’ll wow guests! Making a succulent centerpiece is so easy, anyone can do it. Choose a decorative dish, one that has enough room for several succulents. If the decorative dish doesn't have drain holes at the bottom, drill a couple of holes. Fill the bottom of the container with a thin layer of gravel then top this layer with potting soil. Plant and arrange the succulents then finish up with another layer of white pebbles on top. Now your succulent centerpiece is ready to become the focal point of the room!
Birdcage Succulent Planter
Put your old, unused birdcage to good use by turning it into a unique succulent planter. Get a coconut liner that would fit inside the birdcage. If the liner is a little big or deep, trim it using a pair of scissors to create a shallow nest. Fill the coconut liner halfway through with potting soil that’s blended specifically for proper drainage. Plant the succulents in a fabulous arrangement and finish up with a layer of white pebbles on top of the potting soil. Hang the birdcage planter in a semi-shaded spot and you’re done.
Found these decorating and gardening tips helpful? Sign up for our newsletter to enjoy more gardening resources plus amazing discounts on selected products!
Looking for gardening tips on garlic harvesting? Harvesting garlic can be tricky because the timing has to be just right. Since the bulbs are buried deep in the soil, there is no way of telling if the garlic is ripe for the picking! So how do you know if the garlic is ready for harvesting?
It's easy, just check the leaves!
Checking the Garlic Leaves
Each garlic leaf stems from a protective layer that wraps the garlic bulb. If a single garlic plant has 12 leaves, it has 12 layers of bulb wrapping underneath the ground. Garlic has no standard number of leaves so you have to check the leaves yourself.
If one-half to two-thirds of the garlic leaves have died off and the rest are still green, the garlic should be ready for harvesting. When the leaves start dying off, stop watering the garlic plants for at least a week. This will help dry out the soil and prevent rot from setting in.
The size of the leaves is a great indicator of the garlic's readiness for harvest. If the leaves are large enough, the garlic bulbs should be ready for harvest. If the leaves are not fully grown yet, you have to wait a little more. Don’t wait too long because harvesting once all the leaves have turned brown will yield inedible bulbs!
When all the garlic leaves have turned brown, the wrappers will separate, exposing the bulb to the elements. Over-ripened garlic bulbs have the tendency to form shoots from each clove. These are still usable but they are not as good as ripened garlic bulbs.
Checking the Garlic Bulbs
Apart from checking the leaves, you can also check the actual garlic bulb for signs that it is ripe for the picking. Just dig the soil around the bulb gently, avoiding the delicate wrapping or garlic cloves, and then look at the bulb's size. If the garlic bulb looks large, the cloves are well formed, and the wrappers are nice and tight, it's ready for harvesting. On the other hand, if the garlic bulb looks tiny, it needs more time to grow so cover the exposed bulb with soil and wait for several days to check again.
Gardening Tips for Harvesting Garlic Bulbs
There is more to harvesting garlic bulbs than simply pulling the plants from the soil. Don't handle the garlic plants too roughly! Here are practical gardening tips for harvesting garlic bulbs:
Dig the Bulbs Out
Do not pull at the garlic plants because this will only break the leaves. Instead, dig the bulb out gently. Once the bulb is exposed, hold the base of the stem then pull the plant out. Brush off excess dirt and you’re done. Never peel the wrappings off nor rinse the bulbs with water. Rinsing the garlic with water could cause mold growth and rot.
Freshly harvested garlic bulbs are prone to bruising. When digging out the bulbs, make sure the tool you are using is not hitting the embedded bulb. Also, lift the bulb from the ground one by one. Place the freshly dug garlic bulbs in a dry container and handle the container with care after harvesting.
For damaged or bruised garlic bulbs, these are still usable but they must be eaten first. The shelf life of damaged garlic is much shorter than blemish-free garlic. Also, the flavor won’t be as potent if you waited too long before using the bruised garlic.
Avoid Sun Exposure
Garlic bulbs are quite sensitive to heat exposure so get the bulbs out of the sun as soon as you are done harvesting. If you don’t, the garlic bulbs could blanch and burn from the heat. Just store the freshly harvested, unwashed garlic bulbs in a cool place away from direct sunlight. Leave the roots and leaves untouched if you are planning to store the garlic bulbs for long-term.
If you are planning to cook with the freshly dug garlic bulbs right away, just brush the excess dirt, peel off a layer of the dirty wrapping and use a pair of scissors to trim the leaves and roots. Now the garlic is ready to be added to your favorite recipes!
Looking for more gardening tips? Enjoy amazing discounts on selected gardening items and helpful resources by signing up for our newsletter.
Chemical fertilizers have been used for decades and no doubt about it, these products produce results because chemical fertilizers provide plants with much-needed nutrients. But the byproducts of chemical fertilizer harm the health and the environment. So the question is, is there a better alternative to chemical fertilizers?
If you want to grow your garden with minimal impact on the environment, we highly recommend using organic fertilizers. As you know, we advocate eco-friendly gardening practices because we are firm believers that there is always a better way! Organic fertilizer is not only Earth-friendly; it is also minimally processed. Since organic fertilizer is minimally processed, it is kinder to the soil, plants, and the environment.
While chemical fertilizers enrich the soil with nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, these are just three of the many nutrients that plants need to grow. Organic fertilizers provide secondary and trace nutrients that plants need, including calcium, sulfur, and magnesium.
Chemical fertilizers only add water-soluble nutrients to the soil, some of which leach away from the plant roots, polluting water sources. Organic fertilizers are made from compost, manure, and organic matter, compounds that do not pollute water sources. The nutrients from organic fertilizers restore plant health while improving the soil’s ability to retain more nutrients and moisture. Over time, using organic fertilizers make your plants and soil stronger and healthier.
The risk of chemical burns or toxic build-up is high if you are using chemical fertilizers because these fertilizers release nutrients quickly. This can be deadly to plants. Organic fertilizer release nutrients much slowly. That’s because the nutrients are broken down by the soil bacteria and fungi prior to being absorbed by the plants. The slow release of nutrients means the risk of toxic buildup is minimal.
Chemical fertilizers are not only hard on delicate plant roots; these products could also harm beneficial critters that aerate and enrich the soil. The fact is, chemical fertilizers are made from mineral salts, which could burn seedling roots and kill earthworms when used incorrectly. You will not deal with the same problem with organizer fertilizer because it is made from harmless, biodegradable materials.
One of the reasons why most gardeners are unwilling to switch to organizer fertilizer is the price. Yes, organic fertilizer is more expensive than chemical fertilizer but think about it, organic fertilizer is not only environmentally friendly; it’s also renewable, biodegradable and sustainable. In addition, you can make your own organic fertilizer at home by composting kitchen scraps. Composting is a terrific idea if you want to minimize your own household waste at zero cost to you.
As an eco gardener, what's the first thing that pops into your mind come spring season? That's right, should you grow plants from seeds or would you rather buy plants from your local nursery?
Some plant varieties are best grown from seeds, especially if you’d like to start gardening in the earlier season. Of course, having the right tools is a critical part of the seed starting process. Seedlings are quite delicate and are prone to pests and diseases. With the right tools, you can provide the best care for your seedlings while enabling you to carry out different jobs.
Seed Planting Supplies
Seed Starting Mix
One of the most important supplies you need for seed starting is a seed starting mix. Sure, you can use regular potting soil for seed starting but the results won’t be as good. Potting soil contains debris that creates a barrier between the seed roots and the soil particles, inhibiting the proper absorption of nutrients.
A seed starting mix is a type of finely screened mix that will help seeds germinate and grow roots. The mix can be used on its own or combined with potting soil. If you’re planning to mix the seed starting mix with potting soil, just pour a layer of potting soil in the bottom of the cells and then fill the rest with the seed starting mix.
Cell packs are containers made from cellular plastic. These are special planters used for plant propagating. They are often used with flat trays. Usually, cell packs come in 4 to 6 cells per pack. With cell packs, you can grow and germinate many seedlings using these containers.
Flat trays are trays that are set at the bottom of the cell packs. These trays can be filled with soil for seed starting. Once the seeds germinate and grow, you can transplant the seedlings using a small tool.
Growing seedlings with fragile roots? Peat pots will come in handy! These biodegradable pots make transplanting seedlings much easier because they can be buried directly into the ground. Peat pots are perfect for plants with fragile roots because the root system of the seedlings won’t be disturbed as you transfer your seedlings.
Starting seeds on the cheap? Try using egg cartons instead of peat pots. Use the cells to grow the seeds and just cut the egg carton apart once you’re ready to plant the seedlings. Just like peat pots, egg cartons are biodegradable and can be planted directly into the ground, an important feature if you’re an eco gardener.
A true blue eco gardener could always use a soil blocker. This small metal tool enables a gardener to create his or her own soil blocks for plant propagation. If you prefer using biodegradable materials for seed starting then soil blocks make a terrific alternative to plastic pots.
Seed Starting Tools
Plastic Dome Plant Cover
These are plant cover-ups that help gardeners grow plants early in the season. Plant covers protect the seedlings from harsh weather conditions while speeding up the maturation of vegetables. These tools speed up germination by enhancing the humidity while trapping heat.
Once the sprouts have emerged, remove the cover-ups to avoid exposure to extreme heat. An alternative to a plastic dome cover is a Saran wrap. This plant cover-up is made with a thin plastic material and is often sold in rolls.
These are perfect for creating an organized seedling nursery… or for trying to remember what plants you grew. With plant tags, you can label rows of seeds so you can remember what’s planted.
Sometimes the climate refuses to cooperate with your seed-starting schedule and on days when the weather is too cold for seed starting, use heat mats. Heat mats are devices with a self-regulating thermostat that keeps the temperature at the perfect level for germination. The ideal temperature for germination is between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. With a heat mat, you can simply set the optimum temperature for a specific plant. The mats are sized to fit under individual seedling trays, allowing for even soil temperature.
Vegetable seedlings need at least 6 hours of sunlight every day, which can be a problem if you are growing seeds indoors. While you can always use incandescent light, it does not generate the red and blue rays plants need for photosynthesis. If you are growing plants that require hours of direct sunlight each day, invest in grow lights. Grow lights are equipped with a special bulb that generates the red and blue rays that plants need to survive. Just a couple of grow lights is enough to provide sprouts uninterrupted light any time of the day!
Spraying water from above is just as important as watering the seedlings from below. A spray bottle disperses a fine mist of water that will not damage delicate seedlings. In addition, this technique allows moisture to settle on the soil as opposed to being drained down the roots. Sometimes the humidity drops too low and a light misting from above raises the humidity level.
The perfect temperature is crucial to growing healthy seedlings. This goes especially if you are seed starting indoors. A thermometer allows you to check the temperature of the room where you are growing your seeds. The ideal temperature for germination is about 65 degrees. With a thermometer, you can control the room temperature for optimum plant growth!
A soil thermometer is an absolute essential for growing seeds. This tool allows you to check the soil temperature for germination. The soil should be warm enough to encourage germination and most seeds will germinate between 5°C to 32°C. However, the ideal soil temperature should be between 21°C to 28°C. With a soil thermometer, you can check the optimal soil temperature at a glance.
Benefits of Seed Starting
Grow Different Plant Varieties
Love growing different varieties of plants? Seed starting is the perfect gardening technique for you. Buying plants from a local nursery is great but the selection is often limited. By growing your own seeds, you have more options. You can even grow certain plants that your local nursery does not carry.
Growing plants from seeds is much more affordable than buying a plant. You can buy several packs of seeds for a few dollars! On the other hand, buying plants could set you back $.50 or more depending on the plant you’re getting. You can also swap different seeds with a friend to expand your seed collection. Let’s not forget, growing your own produce means more savings too.
It’s a Different Experience
Growing seeds is a different experience than buying and transplanting seedlings or fully-grown plants. Through seed starting, you can hone your gardening skills, learn different seed starting techniques, and grow a variety of plants, rare and common varieties alike.
There is an immense feeling of satisfaction in knowing that you do not have to depend on anyone to grow your plants but yourself. Growing plants from seeds, tending to your expanding garden and harvesting all that amazing produce is such a rewarding experience.
If your yard had seen better days, why not give your outdoor space a much-needed update? Contrary to popular notion, there is no need to spend thousands of dollars on a professional landscaping job to create a stunning outdoor space. As long as you know all the design elements that come to play in a well-designed patio or garden, you too, can build the yard of your dreams. Today, we are outlining simple and easy landscaping tips for a stunning outdoor space:
Function Before Form
Anyone wants a gorgeous yard but before thinking about what design to choose or collecting pegs, think about the purpose of the redesign in the first place. Knowing what purpose the space will serve is the first step to designing the perfect outdoor space. Would you like a beautiful flower garden – complete with raised beds – so you can relax any time of the day? Are you updating your yard for a vegetable garden? Would you like to build an outdoor play area for the kids? After figuring out what you hope to achieve from this project, you can start with the design planning. Don’t be afraid to play with different ideas but make sure you are decided on a specific design. That’s because updating an outdoor space, no matter the size, takes a lot of time and effort.
Perfecting Your Setup
Some common landscaping mistakes have dire consequences. For instance, setting the patio in a sunny spot with zero shade or installing the BBQ pit in a windy area could lead to all sorts of issues that will affect the usability of your outdoor space. During the design planning, take into account the places in the yard that gets a lot of sun and design your outdoor setup accordingly. This goes the same for windy or shady spots; take these into account especially if you are updating your outdoor space with plans to entertain guests in the future.
Fine a Focal Point
Once you are ready to make major changes in the yard, pick a focal point and define this space. A focal point is a spot that draws the eyes naturally. A tree, a statute, a gorgeous view, even your home’s architectural feature could serve as your yard’s focal point. Try exploring different parts of the yard at certain times of the day to discover a focal point. Look for a spot that’s different in form, color, or texture from the rest of the yard. Once you’ve decided on a focal point, define it to make it stand out even more. You can use a variety of outdoor decors and pieces of patio furniture to define your focal point.
It’s tempting to go all out when you’re in the heat of it but don’t splurge on a total yard makeover just yet. Develop a great plan, start small, and enjoy the process of transforming something lackluster into a stunner. If you want to turn your yard into a flower garden, start with a couple of plant bedsand perhaps a couple of potted plants here and there. Want to turn your small patch of land into a vegetable garden? Start with a couple of raised beds, plant several veggies and take it from there. Once you are happy with these small changes, you can follow up with more. By starting small, you make fewer mistakes and possibly, avoid costly renovations.
Check the Scale and Dimension
Give your outdoor space a cohesive, pulled-together look by paying close attention to the scale and dimension of the design elements. If you are working with a modest space, it makes sense to use compact pieces of furniture and decors. This way, you can decorate your yard without overwhelming an otherwise cramped space. If the outdoor space is expansive, you have more freedom to experiment with different-sized decors. When decorating your outdoor space, try to add as much variety as you can. Do not be afraid to experiment with different shapes, sizes, and colors to showcase your eclectic taste. Depending on the size of the space you are working on, you may have to repeat certain elements to achieve a cohesive design. A pop of color, a standout piece of furniture, an accent décor, any of these design elements will define your space and make your outdoor space standout even more.
Highlight Your Home with Plants
Careful planting is an effective way of highlighting your home! Strategic planting helps frame the house while complementing its surroundings. An explosion of colors adds an interesting detail to your outdoor setup. If your home has architectural features that you’d like to highlight, you can use plants to make these details pop. You can also use plants to soften harsh angles. Of course, be sure to pick the right plants and maintain your outdoor garden regularly. You don’t want the overgrown shrubbery to take over the entire property!
Sometimes an existing feature that’s been there for years will only get in the way of redecorating your outdoor space. If a certain design element is ruining the look of your outdoor space – such as a worn-out deck, a broken water feature, or a moldy tree stump – consider removing them. You can use the blank spot to build a vegetable patch, an herb garden, or set up a couple of raised beds for a flower garden.
Go for Long, Subtle Curves
Incorporating sweeping arcs, semi-circles, and spirals is a terrific way of adding interesting details to your outdoor setup. But don’t go overboard with short, curvy walkways or a number of curved beds. Not every design benefits from the presence of curves. Though sometimes it is hard to stop because curved lines add an intimate connection to the land, too much of a good thing isn’t good either. A great landscape design is balanced. Opt for long, subtle curves so the curved lines will not dominate your space.
Creating a stunning landscape design does not have to be complicated. As long as you planned the design carefully and you’ve arranged all the design elements thoughtfully, you can create an exceptional landscape design that will bring you years of enjoyment! Found these design tips helpful? Sign up for our newsletter to get the latest landscaping tips and gardening resources straight to your inbox!
New to gardening? Gardening is a relaxing and rewarding hobby; it’s the kind of activity that adults and kids will love. And don’t think you need a massive yard before taking up this hobby, even a tiny slice of space can be turned into a thriving garden. Gardening takes patience and practice. You have to learn certain tricks and skills to ensure a fabulous yield, season after season. If you’re new to gardening and you’d like to start your newfound hobby the right way, try any of these gardening tips straight from the experts:
Do Your Research
It’s tempting to hoard all the pretty plants you see in the plant nursery but don’t. Pick the plants carefully and know each plant’s specific needs. Do your research first, learn all about the different types of plants that are suitable for the local climate and your home’s micro-climate. You can also ask a professional gardener for advice.
Plants have different needs and they should be handled accordingly. Some plants love direct sunlight, others prefer shady or damp environments. If you are building an indoor garden, opt for plants that love shady, damp environments such as orchids, bromeliads, cyclamen, and gardenia. For busybodies looking for hardy houseplants that won’t die easily, we recommend cactus, aloe vera, Golden Pothos, and rubber tree plant. On the other hand, outdoor plants like purple coneflower, day lily, lavender, verbena, and Shasta daisy, need direct sunlight.
Try a Container Garden
No outdoor space is too small for a garden. If you live in a rental, try starting your hobby with a container garden. A container garden is perfect for city dwellers or homeowners with zero space for a garden. Just re-pot several plants using decorative planters and arrange the plants in groups. Depending on the size and types of plants you chose, you can set your container garden indoors or outdoors.
Lighten Heavy Planters
Re-arranging potted plants is a great way to refresh the look of the garden but if lifting heavy planters is putting a strain on your back, try this trick: do not fill your planters with heavy potting soil. Place a layer of packing peanuts at the base of the pot then top it with a piece of landscape fabric. Plant the foliage of your choice and then fill the planter with potting soil. If you want to lighten your planters even further, try mixing vermiculite and peat moss with potting soil.
Tweak Your Rain Gauge
A rain gauge is an instrument that collects and measures the amount of rain that falls over a set period of time. This instrument makes a terrific addition to any garden, particularly in places that get a lot of rain every year. If reading your rain gauge becomes increasingly difficult, try adding a few drops of food dye to the bottom of the device. Once the rain comes, the collected water will mix with the dye, allowing you to check the water level with ease! Pretty nifty, right?
Controlling Aggressive Plants
Some plants are more aggressive than others. These plants, called invasive plants, spread quickly if left untended for a certain period of time. Gooseneck loosestrife, creeping bellflower, Lily of the valley, and Bee Balm are just a few of the many different types of invasive plants. You have to contain aggressive plants so they do not take over the entire garden. You can do this by planting invasive plants in plastic containers. Also trim the underground roots with a knife regularly. Trimming the roots prevents invasive plants from crowding the entire garden.
A Quick Fix for Root-Bound Plants
Some potted plants tend to run out of room for the roots to grow. When this happens, the roots will start forming tight circles in the pot, which could affect nutrient absorption and cause the plant to die. A quick fix for root-bound plants is to guide the roots outward using your fingers. If the roots are bound too tightly, get a knife and gently make vertical cuts to set the roots free. Do this gently because you don’t want to hurt the plant roots.
Preventing Garden Pests
We don’t recommend using pesticides and herbicides to eliminate pests because these repellants tend to leave traces of chemicals that are harmful to the health. In addition, these chemicals kill harmful and beneficial bugs alike. Not all bugs are bad, some are beneficial to plants. Lady beetles, damsel bugs, and lacewings are beneficial bugs while earwigs, mealy bugs, and squash bugs are harmful to the plants. Pests such as small rodents will always be a problem but you can avoid an invasion before it starts by installing a physical barrier over the plants. Installing staking nets is one way to discourage pests from nibbling on young plants and flower bulbs. Once spring season comes, just remove the netting or cut holes to give the plants room to grow.
It also helps if you set your flower plots and raised beds in high traffic areas. This trick will discourage shy critters, such as rabbits and mice, from feasting on your flower bulbs. Finally, try using different baits to keep snails and slugs from ruining your vegetable garden without using chemical repellants.
Pick Beginner-Friendly Plants
Some plants are delicate and require regular maintenance; others are quite hardy and easy to grow. If you are new to gardening, it makes sense to choose beginner-friendly plants. Beginner-friendly plants require minimal maintenance and not much else. If you are building a flower garden, we recommend can’t-kill-flowering plants like sunflowers, foxgloves, petunias, sweet pea, marigold, zinnias or pansies. If you want a vegetable garden, try growing tomatoes, onions, chard, bush beans, and peppers! If you’re having trouble picking the best can’t kill plants in the nursery, ask the nursery employee for advice.
Young plants need plenty of water and depending on the type of plants you have in your garden, you may have to water them several times per week. Do note that the way you water the plants affects their health and growth. Avoid wetting the plants’ leaves because this can lead to mold growth and rot. Overwatering can kill a plant, especially delicate plants that thrive in desert-like environments. Ideally, sprouts need about an inch of water per week. But again, this will depend on the kind of plants you have in your garden. Keep an eye out for yellowing leaves, which is a sign that the plant is absorbing too much water!
Add Eggshells to the Soil
Got leftover eggshells from breakfast? Save these for later, you can use eggshells to boost your potting soil’s nutrition. Eggshells enrich plant soil with calcium as they decompose, preventing rot in blossoming plants. On top of that, crushed eggshells repel slugs and snails. When placed at the bottom of the planter, crushed eggshells could block the drain holes for extra thirsty foliage. To use eggshells to enrich the soil and prevent pests, ground the eggshells and stir into the soil. You can also combine the crushed eggshells with coffee grounds before stirring the mixture into the potting soil.
If you’re using the eggshells to block the planter holes, just spread a layer of the crushed eggshells at the bottom of the planter. Add a layer of potting soil, place the plant then cover the plant roots with more potting soil and you’re done. Found these gardening tips helpful? We’ve got lots more coming your way! Sign up for our newsletter to enjoy exciting discounts and more eco-friendly gardening tips straight from the experts!
A person who writes about gardening as much as I do—both in fiction and nonfiction— theoretically should have perfect flower beds. Unfortunately, all that writing doesn’t leave much time for the actual gardening. And I live on a small Pennsylvania farm populated by free-ranging farmyard fowl, as well as cows, pigs, and sheep which aren’t supposed to be free-ranging but often are anyhow.
Under those circumstances, perfection is an impossibility. But those of us who weren’t to the manor born learn to be happy with a naturally unkempt look. After all, the so-called casual “cottage garden style” is much more appropriate for our smaller homes than it is for those stately British ones!
Since my father is a farmer and my late mother always kept a large vegetable garden, a penchant for growing things came packed into my genes. There once was an old house adjacent to ours where the residents tossed their wood ashes out the back door. After years of such applications, the soil turned black and fluffy, unlike our typical clay-larded loam.
So, when I was a teenager, I rolled some of the old foundation stones left from the house around that particular plot of land—now situated behind our garage—and claimed it as mine. Its former residents had also thrown their trash out back, so I frequently uncover shards of old pottery when I am digging.
Unlike Mom, I’ve always had a preference for flowers and herbs rather than vegetables. And, the more unusual those flowers, the better! Stubbornly refusing to be limited by my location in USDA zone 5, I often keep tropical plants in pots which I lug indoors and stash under makeshift grow-lights (shop lights) in winter. Those plants generally get both leggy and buggy by spring, but most of them do survive.
Since the garden with the good soil has become somewhat shaded over the years, it’s now mostly dedicated to plants such as bleeding hearts, columbines, sweet cicely, sweet woodruff, violets, etc. The more sunny beds on the south side of the house are filled with light-loving favorites such as roses, lilies, irises, black-eyed Susans, and hardy geraniums. I’ve even been known to plant daffodils, tulips, and crocuses in the lawn, since there is little room for them elsewhere, though my recent discovery of grow bags has expanded my options considerably!
With the exception of plants which grow from bulbs or tubers and a few of the newest petunias and other container plants which I purchase from a local Amish greenhouse, I start most of my own -flowers from seed. I sometimes begin the following year’s garden in autumn or early winter by placing seeds in damp paper towels in the refrigerator to stratify, though I put off most of the actual indoor seed sowing until about mid-February.
Over the years, I’ve acquired a large percentage of my seeds via trades, first in one-on-one swaps with other gardeners on sites such as GardenWeb, more recently in large multi-gardener seed exchanges on the National Gardening Association’s web site. With a little additional help from my favorite gardening products such as Superthrive and Spray ‘N Grow, even a genuine cottage gardener such as myself is limited only by her imagination!.
Although I’ve previously written articles on planting raised beds, I derived that information from research. At the time, all our garden plots here were the flat-out kind.
That or our heavy clay soil might explain why so many of our tomatoes had been blighting during recent soggy summers. So, when I got the chance to try a 2 X 4-foot ECOgardener Premium Raised Bed Garden Planter, I jumped at the opportunity.
When it arrived by mail, all the pieces looked reassuringly sturdy and simple enough that even a construction klutz such as myself should be able to assemble them. I stowed the parts in the garage in the meantime, warning my elderly farmer father not to trip over them.
Perhaps due to his knowledge of my klutziness or perhaps just due to boredom on a day when he couldn’t be out in the fields, he promptly bolted the bed together for me. Proving that a 90-year-old with failing eyesight also could manage that task with no problems.
Since he and the other guys were out in the fields on the day I needed to move the bed, I set it on end in my garden wagon and wheeled it to a sunny position in front of some peonies. That plot was about as flat as ground gets in Pennsylvania—which is not very!
If I’d had the time to spare, I would have dug up the area and leveled it. But, already running behind in the middle of the planting season, I just covered the grass with newspaper and plunked the bed down atop that. Using a level, I determined that the ground wasn’t as flat as I’d thought.
Fortunately, I was able to find a narrow plank to slide under “the wrong side of the bed,” which caused the level’s little bubble to move close enough to where it was supposed to be to satisfy me. Then I roamed around looking for dirt to dig up. Although I did have a couple large bags of potting soil and another of compost on hand, they wouldn’t be enough to fill the bed, and I didn’t want to buy more since I also am dirt cheap.
Unfortunately, the pile of old sheep manure near the barn was still matted rather than crumbling compost-ily. I also cast a thoughtful glance at the edges of our recently sown large sweet corn patch, but the soil there was much too gravelly and the ditches already ankle-twistingly deep.
So I consulted the Internet and discovered lasagna gardening where raised beds are partially filled with compostable materials such as twigs and straw before having loam added on top. Twigs and straw we had plenty of.
After packing the bottom of the bed with those, I dumped in one of the bags of soil. The way it bounced off the layer beneath it, as if off actual bedsprings, was somewhat amusing—before the weight of the soil sank that layer. I decided I would need another stratum of straw in my lasagna, and finished up with a bag of compost and one of soil.
I then planted a little salad garden, with three heirloom tomato plants across the back, some peppers—including one purely decorative one—toward the middle, and lettuce and parsley occupying the front corners. Once I find my basil seeds, I’ll sprinkle some of them in front of the peppers.
Even if this bed isn’t better at raising tomatoes than our larger garden, it at least will be closer to the back door when I want to grab ingredients for fresh salad. Or for actual lasagna!
1. Save your Easter lily.
2. Deadhead faded daffodils and tulips, but allow their foliage to die back gradually.
3. Cut back groundcovers.
4. Mow your grass in a way that encourages healthy growth.
5. Apply compost to garden beds and containers.
At a loss as to what to do with the potted lily you received or purchased for Easter? The white variety generally forced for the holiday is Lilium longiflorum, which is hardy in USDA zones higher than 4 and naturally blooms in mid-summer in the garden. So you can save your lily if you live in those zones, probably even in zone 4 if you mulch it a bit.
After the plant has finished blooming, snip off its faded trumpets and begin to accustom it gradually to more sunlight, caring for it as you would other houseplants. When all threat of frost has passed, move it outdoors, placing it in a shady position first and shifting it gradually into the sun.
Once it has grown accustomed to those rays, remove it from its pot and plant it in a sunny, well-drained position, digging a hole deep enough that the top of the lily’s bulb will be 6 inches beneath the soil’s surface. The foliage may have begun to die back by that time. However, as long as the bulb feels firm, it still is alive. It may bloom again late in the growing season or wait until the following summer to do so.
Die-back on other types of bulbs can look like a problem as well. Although it may be tempting to cut off the yellowing foliage of daffodils and tulips after they bloom, please don’t do that! Those leaves’ absorption of sunlight provides energy to the bulbs, which they will need to bloom well the following year. So, although you should snip off the faded flowers, you need to let the foliage die back at its own pace if you want your bulbs to be perennial.
Speaking of snipping, your groundcovers probably are looking tattered about now. You can give them a quick “pruning” by mowing off their tops—with your mower deck at its highest setting. However, this probably isn’t a good idea for groundcovers which bloom in the spring, such as Vinca species, since it could set back their flowering.
You’ll want to leave that mower deck fairly high while mowing your lawn. To keep it naturally healthy, avoid buzz cuts, and mow your grass so that it stands a lush 2 1/2 to 3 inches tall. (You can make exceptions for zoysia grass and bermuda grass which should be cut to 2 inches and 1 inch respectively.) For the best results, keep your mower blades sharp and mow your grass only when it is dry, preferably in late afternoon before evening dew begins to fall.
If you leave the grass clippings lie rather than gathering them, they will help feed the lawn as they break down. A thin layer of compost raked into the sod also will fertilize it and attract earthworms, which help break up thatch.
You’ll want to add compost to your flower beds and grow bags about now too. See the attached article for more information on going compost-al!
Were you foresighted enough to make compost from your fallen leaves, plant debris, and grass clippings last autumn? If so, it should be ready for use about now. If that was one of the things on your to-do list which never got to done, you generally can buy the “black gold” from your garden center—or perhaps even from your local municipality, since some towns leverage the leaves they pick up in the fall by composting them.
First, determine whether or not your compost truly is well-rotted by checking to make sure that it appears dark and fluffy, with no unpleasant odors, and is no longer retaining heat. If it looks ready to crumble, you can apply it to the surface of empty garden beds several weeks before you plan to plant them.
Provided that your garden loam’s texture and fertility already are good and you just are practicing maintenance, you can simply spread a 2 to 3 inch layer of compost over the top of the bed and incorporate it into the top 9 inches or so of soil with a spade or tiller. However, for ground that is either too heavy to drain well or too sandy to retain enough moisture, you should work about 4 or 5 inches of compost into that top 9 inches.
To fertilize existing perennial beds with compost, scatter 2 to 3 inches of it over the surface of the soil, keeping it back from the plants’ stems , and allow nature to eventually incorporate it into the ground. This helps preserve many of the beneficial bacteria and fungi which could be disturbed by too much tilling, plus it will avoid your chopping up any earthworms which might want to wriggle down into your soil. The layer of compost can even act as a mulch for a while, suppressing a few weeds and saving your back as well as the bacteria.
Should you want to add compost to your pots or grow-bags, rub it through a screen with 1/2-inch holes first, to make its texture finer. Then combine it with equal parts of peat moss or coir, perlite, sand, and top soil. For the latter, purchased bagged soil probably will work best, as it is less likely to contain weed seeds than your own garden soil is.
You also can make a free liquid fertilizer from your compost by packing about a gallon of it into an old pillowcase. Suspend the case like a teabag inside a five-gallon bucket of water for several days, stirring that water frequently. You then should dilute the “tea” by adding one part of it to ten parts of water before you water or spray your plants with it.
No matter how pretty compost looks, it does contain those bacteria and fungi mentioned earlier, which may not be as good for you as they are for your garden. So always treat it like dirt and wash your hands well after handling it, just as you would for other soil. Then sit back and wait for your garden to become considerably more lovely and lively!
1. Place guard stakes around lilies.
2. Prepare seedlings for transplant into garden beds.
3. Fill grow-bags and other containers.
4. Plant summer-blooming container bulbs and tubers such as begonias and achimenes.
5. Move houseplants outdoors for their summer vacation.
By May, the gardening season has shifted into high gear for most gardeners. In the rush, don’t forget to place your own version of Maypoles around your Asiatic, Oriental, Trumpet, and Orienpet lilies.
Position bamboo stakes close to those lilies’ tips as soon as they emerge from the ground in the spring, encircling the whole patch with those stakes if you can. Even though the lily shoots won’t be tall enough to attach to anything at that point, those bamboo uprights deliver the same message a Revolutionary War flag once did: “Don’t tread on me.” When spaced closely enough together, they also should deter pets from gamboling over that patch.
Should the tips of lilies which grow from bulbs get broken off for any reason, they won’t return during the same growing season. That means your garden could be lamentably low on lilies for one summer at least! Actually, since bulbs derive much of their energy from their foliage absorbing light during the summer, it’s possible that broken-off lilies may not survive to try again.
Speaking of protection, if you started seedlings indoors under a grow light, you’ll need to adapt them gradually to real rather than simulated sun. Otherwise, they will burn like your own winter-wan skin does under spring’s rays. It’s a good idea to first place those seedlings in a protected outdoor location, such as towards the back of a south-facing porch, where they will receive only bright indirect light. Once they have adapted to that, move them gradually forward until they are receiving sunlight for several hours per day.
At that point, you may want to shift them completely outdoors, perhaps to a table positioned partially under a tree where they will receive sunlight in the morning and shade in the afternoon. You then can edge the table further and further out from under the tree’s canopy until the seedlings are receiving sunlight all day. Although you should start the acclimatization process a couple weeks before your last frost date, remember to take the plants indoors on nippy nights or you could end up with frost-burned rather than sun-burned seedlings.
You may want to wait until after that last frost date to plant your grow bags and other containers too, but that will depend on what you are placing in them. As mentioned in a previous article, you can start slow-maturing species early indoors to give yourself a head start on the planting season. Or you actually can slow things down for certain plants which tend to bolt easily—such as salad greens—by planting them in grow bags or pots which you can move into the shade during the hottest days.
Such containers often are the best choice for the bulbs of summer-blooming shade plants such as achimenes and tuberous begonias also. Since they may burn if exposed to too much sunlight, you simply can move their containers to a more shady position if you notice that their foliage is becoming scorched.
If you bring your houseplants outdoors for the summer, most of them probably will be happiest in bright shade too. Because they tend to be rainforest species that prefer indirect light like that under the forest canopy, you often can place them beneath a high tree for their vacation. Like gardeners who have been cooped up for too long, plants which work hard all winter to adapt to the dim and arid environment indoors will appreciate the chance to be back in their natural element!
1. Lift and divide overcrowded daffodil bulbs.
2. Prune spring-flowering trees and shrubs.
3. Deadhead ever-blooming roses and apply more fertilizer.
4. Sow salad greens every two weeks all summer.
5. Harvest early potatoes.
“Then, if ever, come perfect days,” James Lowell wrote of June. So you’ll want to take some time to bask in all that verdure—between accomplishing the following chores!
If you noticed that your bulbs failed to produce Wordsworth’s “host of golden daffodils” this spring, those bulbs may have become overcrowded. You’ll want to divide them now, while their yellowing foliage still shows you where to dig.
When unearthing them, keep your shovel blade far enough back from each clump to avoid slicing through bulbs. Once you have lifted out a mass, you can shake off the soil, pull those bulbs apart, and replant them then with their foliage still attached. Or you may want to dry them instead, store them in a cool basement over the summer, and replant them in autumn. In either case, set them about 6 inches deep and 3-4 inches apart.
While you are thinking about springs to come, you may want to prune any of your congested or overgrown spring-blooming shrubs, such as forsythia, flowering quince, and bridal wreath spirea. You can thin such caning types by removing up to a third of those canes, preferably the oldest ones, cutting them all the way back to the ground to preserve the shrubs’ naturally arching shapes. Try to get this done by early summer, as these shrubs will bloom next spring on the wood they produced this summer, so they’ll need time to make plenty of it.
Speaking of blooming bushes, you’ll also want to snip off the faded flowers on ever-blooming roses to encourage them to make more. For once-blooming roses, which perform only early in the season, you may want to leave the blown flowers in place to produce hips for the birds. Generally, it’s a good idea to fertilize an ever-blooming rose again after its first bevy of blooms, to encourage it to provide encores.
If you want to keep fresh garden greens coming all summer as well, sow them about once every two weeks, so you always have new ones sprouting to replace those which bolt or get bolted down by your hungry family. Gardeners who live in hot climates may want to plant those greens in shade to slow their tendency to shoot up along with the temperature.
Finally, don’t forget to harvest a few new potatoes to eat, creamed, in their jackets with fresh peas for a delectable early-summer feast. They should be ready about 70 days after your potatoes were planted or two to three weeks after their blossoms have faded. You’ll probably want to dig those tubers from the end of a row to avoid disturbing those which you want to grow larger. Eat them within a day or two, as they don’t keep well. Those rare days of June don’t last either, so take time to fill up on the scent of the roses too.