Apr 24, 2010

Amateur Gardening Tips

Now that spring has sprung (hopefully for most of us) I am getting that gardening itch once again. The smell of the freshly tilled dirt, the feel of it between my fingers, the smell of tomato plants, watching little green plants poke out of the ground...AHHH can't get enough of it. I thought that since I am an amateur gardener myself but have developed a love for this little hobby, I would share a few tips and tricks that have really made things more successful in our gardening and therefore that much more addictive and hopefully they can help you catch the itch too. I am just stating right now that I am not a pro. I know very little and I am not guaranteeing anything. So here is my list of helpful garden tips for the beginning gardener:
1. If you want to start seeds indoors try using these Jiffy Peat pellets. They are amazing. I have used these for two years now and I haven't had one single seed not germinate. They are easy to use and then once your seeds have sprouted and grown some you transplant them into larger pots. Really easy and pretty much fool proof.

2. If you are starting seeds indoors it is a good idea to start them in smaller pots or containers and then plan to transplant them at least once while they are still indoors before setting them out in your garden or plant them in larger pots but don't fill them full of dirt all at once. This will allow you to add soil around the stems of the plants as they grown and make them more stable. What I am saying is if you leave your plants in one little container and expect them to get big it probably won't happen because they will become too root bound.
3. Use good potting soil when starting seeds indoors. It pays to use something good. I made the mistake 3 years in a row now of using cheap potting soil or regular dirt and it just doesn't cut it and I have always had plants die when I do this.
4. This book is a great resource for all kinds of gardening information from vegetables, to fruits to trees and grasses. It has a great section with a bunch of tips for almost any vegetable you could imagine growing and a bonus to all the naturalists out there-all the tips in the book are natural.
5. If you plan on planting tomatoes start saving your egg shells now. I just put mine in a cool whip container under my sink after I crack the eggs. They don't have to be covered and in fact it is better if they aren't so they can dry. When it fills up I put the shells in a ziplock bag and let small fry pound on it with a wooden meat mallet. Egg shells are great for adding calcium to your soil for all kinds of plants but especially for tomatoes. We put a big handful in each hole we dug before we plant our tomato plants.
6. Also right before you are going to plant tomatoes go on a banana eating spree and save your peels. A banana peel in each hole also acts as a great fertilizer.
7. Lastly before planting tomatoes stock up on Epsom salts as well. They are also a great nutritional supplement. Last year we put Epsom salts, a banana peel and a handful of eggshells along with a shovel full of compost in each tomato hole before planting and we had huge tomato plants that were loaded with tomatoes very early in the year.
8. I just read this in a magazine, when watering tomatoes don't get the leaves wet as that can cause rotting. I didn't know that but we have had that problem before because we do pour water on the leaves when we feed our tomato plants so that is great to know.
9. Get some coffee grounds. Even if you don't drink coffee, apparently the grounds are great for your soil so find a friend and ask them to save some of their coffee grounds for you. I planted my carrot seeds with coffee grounds this year so we will see how that goes. Otherwise you can just till them into your soil.
10. Get started. Even though there are still cold nights you can get planting your cool weather crops. (well in some areas-not all are ready). Peas, potatoes, broccoli, and cabbage. If you live in a warmer climate add carrots and onions to that mix.
11.My mom always said when we planted our garden, "it is easier to plant too much and then thin it out then to not plant enough." I hold true to this policy. I can always go over my rows and thin out the extra plants that I don't have room for or don't want but it is much harder to add some in, so when you are sewing your seeds in the ground don't do so too sparingly. I know the back of the package says how far to space them, but who are you going to listen to-me or the package? Don't answer that!!
12.. Lastly here is my philosophy on gardening-you can do it anywhere. You can grow veggies in containers or in planter boxes or in a full on garden. Seeds are inexpensive and I say, "what the heck you can't go wrong by putting some in the ground." If you have never done it before go to a store that sells bedding plants (plants already growing) and buy a couple an stick them in the ground. The feeling you get when you can eat something that you grew is amazing. Don't be afraid!!!
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