Gardening tips

Test the soil

Use an at-home soil test kit to test your land’s pH level or Send a sample to the laboratory to ensure your soil is safe enough to foster plants. Most fruits and vegetables (except melons and potatoes and the eggplants) will tolerate varying pH levels, but they will usually do anywhere between 6.5 and 7. Testing soil nutrients is a key step for effective gardening. Furthermore, testing these different kinds of nutrients, including potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorus, is also an essential factor in this step. If your test results incorrectly, you’ll need to take some time to fix the shortcomings.

Select the best place to grow

Realizing what you’d like to grow will give you a better idea where the best place to have a garden is in your yard. Some plants prefer sunlight directly, while others favor shade.

Choose what to grow

Effective gardening begins with knowing which plants are viable in your place of living. Packaging seeds and labels on plants will tell you what grows best in your field. In-home gardens, some people prefer growing vegetables. Others may be more interested in making a makeover of their yards with beautiful flowers. Still, most people prefer to grow flowers, vegetables, and fruits as an all-round solution in their gardens. First, know your intent and pick which plants you are going to grow in your field. A more useful type of information is the length of a plant’s growing season. It’s the period-per-year cycle in which the temperature stays above freezing-day and night. Knowing the growing season is particularly useful for planting annual plants, such as most vegetables in the garden and several flowers that live only for a single year.

Plant green manures in the fall (Fall rye, winter wheat)

This may not seem like one of the logical gardening tricks. But, each fall, when you are putting your garden to bed, rototill the beds and plant a green manure like fall rye or winter wheat.  The green manure will add fertility to the soil and keep the garden beds from blowing away in the wind or hardening in the cold and snow.  In the Spring, once the soil can be worked, allow the green manure to grow to a height of  6 inches to a foot and till it in.  Till in about 6 weeks before the final frost in your area.  The green manure will decompose quickly and be ready to plant in a month. Get more useful tips by subscribing to the Joybilee Farm newsletter and pick up my Free eBook, “4 keys to Food Security and Homestead Abundance” to help you with your gardening plans this season.

Plant marigolds and other companion plants

When you’re planting the plants anyway, one of the quickest gardening tricks is to use companion planting to prevent pests. Marigolds are amazing plants.  They are strongly scented and discourage some insect pests.  But their main benefit is in their roots.  They discourage soil nematodes, soil pests that destroy the roots of your plants before they even begin to fruit.  When soil nematodes abound in your soil, yields suffer and get worse each year.  Marigolds of the tagete species discourage soil nematodes and cleanse the soil.  Harvest the heads for a bright yellow natural dye.  Save a few plant for seed.  The flower heads produce seed through insect pollination, so you might needs a few plants outside your greenhouse for strong, viable seed each year.  Seed from 10 flowers will keep you in marigolds each year.

Keep the pH of your soil between 6.5 and 7.

Of all the gardening tricks, checking and maintaining your soil will do more than expensive additions and fertilizers. You want to keep the soil pH between 6.5 and 7 for most vegetables.  So check your soil pH and don’t add so much wood ash that the soil pH locks up essential nutrients from your plants.  Soils with a pH above 7.5 will prevent plants from absorbing trace elements.  Acid soils below 5.0 will lock up phosphorous .  Calcium, magnesium, and potassium also leach out of acid soil.  Soil pH can be raised by the addition of bone meal, oyster shells, lime and ashes.  If the soil becomes too alkaline.  You can amend alkalinity by adding pine needles, sawdust or wood chips, peat moss or leaf mould.

Don’t waste the ashes

Use the ashes from your woodstove (untreated wood only) in your garden to add potassium to root vegetables, especially beets.  Ashes will raise the pH of the soil, if you have plants that lean toward being alkaline loving.

In areas where water is scarce plant in a hollow rather than using raised beds.

A logical member of the inexpensive gardening tricks arsenal, use your land and rainfall to your advantage. Raised beds work great when water is abundant and soil temperatures are slow to warm up in Spring.  Where water is scarce, however, you want to ensure that available water goes to your roots.  By planting at wider spacing and planting in a hollow the available soil moisture will go to your plants where it is needed most.  Raised beds dry out faster than hollows.  However, as hollows also get frost sooner than raised beds you’ll want to take this into account in your planning and protect from frost where necessary.

With expensive hybrid seed consider beginning the seed in flats and transplanting out at proper spacing.

If you start them indoors use a growlight so that your plants get the correct amount of light and don’t end up too “leggy.” This maximizes your value from the purchase of expensive seed, because you don’t waste any of the plants.  When transplanted out at proper spacing each plant grows to its full potential and you reduce your water usage. If you pay for water, this is one of the very relevant gardening tricks.

Properly space your plants to allow for maximum growth

Many of the current books on gardening suggest very close plantings in small spaces.  If you have the space, spread your plants out to allow for maximum growth.  They will need less fertility and less water if they aren’t competing with other plants in the same area.  Closer spacing doesn’t allow plants like squash and cabbage to fully develop, and leaves you with stunted growth.  I usually plant two beds of lettuce, one spaced really close for early spring greens, and another with proper spacing to allow for fully developed heads later in the season.