Over the years I’ve received a lot of great tips about gardening. It fascinates me that even with those tips, some things just seem to resonate better for other people. For example, one year my cucumbers were spindly, but my neighbor was canning pickles.
There seem to be a few things, however, that really do work across the board. The “Basics:”
-The first and foremost is the quality of your soil, or planting medium. We use horse manure, peat moss and either Perlite or Vermiculite mixed. We compost, too, and that is added after harvest.
-Water-gently, steadily, and often in the summer heat.
-Keep those weeds out as much as possible.
I know, that was stating the obvious. Here are a few other things that could also help:
-Planting certain plants together can often bring good results. I had a grapevine that looked like it was dying, only to plant some hyssop near it, and now the grapevine has lots of green leaves! Onions or garlic are good companions for a lot of plants, like the cabbage family plants, potatoes, and beans. They also are good companions for roses. I plant chives near my roses and the roses thank me for it every year. The chives produce a beautiful purple flower in early spring, followed by the glorious rose show thereafter. For more in-depth information, read Louise Riotte’s “Carrots Love Tomatoes and Roses Love Garlic,” available here.
-I don’t use chemicals. When we have stubborn weeds, we might pour white vinegar or boiling water on them, which makes for easier removal. One must take care not to douse any nearby “good” plants in the process.
-Fear not! Don’t be afraid to try planting something in your garden. What is the worst that could happen? It won’t grow? “If at first you don’t succeed…..” Just make notes about it so you can refer back the following year(s).
-Talking to other gardeners is one of the best ways to obtain information. You can read every book on the subject, but local neighbors will have the inside scoop for your area. If you can get hold of your local Cooperative Extension, that is most excellent as well.
And, in the interest of frugality:
-Plant seeds as much as possible. As you gain confidence, the seeds you plant can be seeds that you have saved from your own plants. Venture out and exchange seeds with others. Look online for a local seed exchange near you.
-Exchange plants. I had to thin some lilacs, roses, and lilies. My friend took them happily. She is the same friend who gave me starts of lamb’s ears and rose campion.
-Get the manure from a local farmer, or, if you raise animals, you have that covered in spades!(a little gardening humor)
-Look on Craig’s List or the local classified ads for things like hay for your compost. Some people have old barns full of hay that they would gladly give away for free.
-Don’t give up! I have had severe challenges with tomatoes for YEARS! This year, FINALLY, I think I will have salsa and marinara sauce coming out of my ears! I read A LOT about them, talked to my gardener friends who grows great tomatoes, and there you have it. Here is how I did it this year:
-I bought plants. Starting tomatoes from seed has turned into “Epic Failure”(as my kids would say) in the past.
-Strip away bottom leaves.
-Place cardboard tube around bottom of plant and plant at a sideways angle, deep into the soil, covering where the leaves were stripped.
-Plant carrots and basil next to the tomatoes.
-Water regularly.(Again, stating the obvious, but….)
-Sprinkle with egg shells and coffee grounds every so often. ( At the beginning of the season, I tried a little store-bought, organic fertilizer, too.)
-As the tomato plants grow, use cages, stakes, or some kind of supports. Tie them to the supports with old nylon stockings.
-Pick ’em as they ripen!
Here is a peek at some of my cherry tomatoes. Those little yellow and white flowers are chamomile: