What Are Your Gardening Secrets?

Updated on May 16, 2011
K.H. asks from Swords Creek, VA
14 answers

We are in the process of preparing for a garden and I was wanting some input on how to grow a successful garden or just and neat ideas for gardening.

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S.R.

answers from Greensboro on

I read somewhere that radishes are easy to grow and are ready to eat at about 25 days. I planted some in a windowbox with my 3.5 year old son and they have germinated within a week. He is thrilled that what we planted is growing. I'm not a gardener either. Before this, all I've grown has been herbs, so I am excited, too. (And I don't even like radishes!)

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H.L.

answers from Cleveland on

Soil prep is key. Start with a mix of fresh topsoil, amended with horse manure and peat moss. I add horse manure yearly and also feed my flowering plants/bushes leftover coffee and grounds (not hot!). For slugs, I put out soup cans of beer that I toss (save soup cans during cooler months).

Use a variety of perennials for color all season. Key plants: daylilies (Stella D'Oro are more petite, bloom continually, don't need to be watered once established), purple coneflower (there are other colors as well), Black-eyed susans (late season, this is a coneflower), shasta daisies, peach-leaf bellflower and other bellflowers, columbines (spring bloom, like part-sun), achillea (yarrow) which are great for areas you don't want to water (need to water the first two weeks), Russian Sage (gorgeous, tall anchor plant for back or center of beds), catmint, Japanese Anemones.

Be careful with groundcovers, they are INVASIVE and really best in an area ALL to themselves!

Use a variety of shrubs: my favorite, try the Endless Summer hydrangeas - keep in mind they WILL be huge - give them a 5-6 foot area all to themselves. Weigela and azaleas are nice, easy to trim.

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T.M.

answers from Charlotte on

Hi K.,
I don't really have any secrets. Mine are just ole fashioned. LOL. I use dishwater for pest control. Once a week I wash my dishes in a dishpan and then take the dishpan out and pour it over the plants. Simple. Then for starters, with the garden , of course, get yourself some good horse manure. I haven't ever used any commercial brand fertilizers or pest control. We also have used merigolds. They work. Good luck.

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T.S.

answers from Lexington on

The very first thing before planting ANYTHING is amending your soil. You can take a soil sample to you county agriculture extention office for testing and they can give you exact information on what your soil needs. For example...really hard clay soil is going to need lime. Most soils are going to need sand tilled into it, but that doesn't deliver any nutrients. You'll also need to till in organic compost, manure, peat moss etc.
Depending on the size of garden you're going to have, you may just choose to do container gardening and fill your posts with a sandy loame from someplace like Lowes or any nursery etc. Then when winter comes just dump your containers where you would have your garden takes a little longer, but it is much less work. I save all my organic garbage such as coffee grounds potato peelings any vegetables and such as long as you haven't put butter on them and compost them all year long. Grass clippings make wonderful compost material.
Just remember that gardening is a journey not a destination, and the garden is finished until the gardener is planted!
Hope this helps and enjoy!
T. S.

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C.J.

answers from Los Angeles on

After many failed attempts to start a real garden in our yard we finally threw in the towel and bought three self-watering boxes called Earth Boxes. They are a bit on the pricey side but they really work well (especially if you want to conserve water). Even if you end up doing an in-ground garden, try a few container gardens as well. The kids get to make it their own, be responsible for planting and watering, and can pick while you are working on your own garden! We planted cherry tomatoes and they kept the kids busy watering and picking right from the vine while I did my own gardening chores.

If you plant a lot of gorgeous flowers and shrubs, your kids WILL want to pick them; so we set aside a bed for wildflowers every year and the kids are free to pick these any time they want. They spend a lot of time using the flowers and leaves as decorations for mud pies, sand cakes, and the most beautiful Mother's Day gift I got was a bouquet of handpicked flowers from that bed. :)

The most satisfying project I did last year was to make a succulent garden in some containers. These are pretty much foolproof. There was something relaxing about putting together a few exotic looking but inexpensive cacti and some strategically placed rocks, and it ended up growing in and looking really pretty.

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V.C.

answers from Wheeling on

Hi~
I'd recommend going small the first time. Plant a few things you LOVE, but keep in mind that any crop can 'fail' for many reasons (animal invasion, draught, too much rain, etc) so don't be too disappointed if it does fail. Also plant a little of a couple 'novelty' things just to experiment. Potatoes and corn take quite a bit of space and need to be 'hoed' (which is piling dirt up arount the root), but leaf lettuce can take just a small corner. Tomatoes take quite a bit of care (hoeing, removing the 'suckers' [darker shoots of the plant that have no blossoms -- which means they don't bear any fruit, but they 'sap' or 'rob' water & nutrients from the rest of the plant] weeding, staking or caging, etc.), but they sure are nice to have! I'm thinking of trying those upside down planters for them. Onions are easy, fun and tasty to have. I love beets for pickling. Beans are great ('bunch' or 'bush' beans are easy and don't need staked).

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Y.L.

answers from Louisville on

Please let me know if you are planning to plant for fall-winter seasons, I might can help you a little bit with some late produces. Regards.

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K.S.

answers from Raleigh on

I love to container garden. I love impatiens, they are easy, the colors are gorgeous. I love the dark vibrant colors, one of my favorites, is to mix the bright orange, purple and lavendar colors, but I love them all. Enjoy!

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J.C.

answers from Raleigh on

Hi K.,
Preparing your soil and location is key. Square foot gardening is loaded with ideas for getting as much produce compatibly situated in the smallest space. You can start really building up your soil by keeping a compost bin, but this requires turning every week or so. When it breaks down by the end of the season, it will boost your garden soil remarkably! That's covered in the square foot gardening book. Your energy level is also a consideration. If your daughter loves to be outdoors, you'll probably be OK with a garden that you can check on, weed, water a little every day. Mulching around your established plants will save a lot of weeding and watering energy. A good leaf mulch about 3 inches thick works well, and isn't acidic. When it breaks down, it will add to your soil. In your perimeter and walkways, you can lay down several layers of newspaper under the mulch to keep weeds out. You can buy alfalfa meal at your local agrisupply, and just sprinkle it around your plants for great fertilization without the risk of burning. It's a natural fertilizer (not chemical) so it will add to, not leech from, your soil. If you have water near your garden, you can place a soaker hose about 4" from the base of your plants throughout your garden. Water seeps out tiny holes along the length of the hose right into the soil, watering everything at once with minimal water evaporation. You can put a timer on your hose to make it easy to keep track of watering, and insure you won't forget and leave it on. Been there done that ; (. I keep herbs up close to the house, on the sunny side of the deck, so I can get to them while cooking. My favorite (and Rachel Ray's) is sweet basil, whose leaves can be cut all season, rinsed, patted dry, and frozen for use through the winter. Loose leaf lettuces make pretty borders right in your flower garden, but won't do well in scorching heat. Any vining veggie can be trained up fences, deck lattice, poles in teepees, etc. Green beans are fun for little kids to plant and harvest. If you plant 12 plants, 2 weeks apart until the end of June, you'll have a continuous harvest until fall. Roma tomatoes are the densest, and are great fresh or to cook with. You can freeze them whole, without peeling or anything. When you're ready to cook with them, just run them under warm water, and the skin will just slide right off. The rule of thumb for most plants is to grow 3-4 of each thing (at least) to insure good pollination and the best crop. (Except corn, which takes 3-4 rows, requires trenching and lots of water.) I try to weigh how much I'm really saving by growing something. For instance, a 4' x 4' square of garden sweet peas yields about one can of peas, which isn't worth the effort and space it takes. However, tomatoes yield about 20 per plant per season, which would cost $10 or more at the grocer. Spices are expensive to buy, and are stronger, fresher when used right off the plant. Even if you dry them, you're saving a lot of money by growing them. Some are natural insect and deer deterrents, too. In the winter, you can plant winter rye throughout your garden plots. It will grow bright green all winter, and then you turn it right into the soil a month before you plant in the spring. It's a natural fertilizer, will keep weeds from landing and taking root in the off season, and will build up your soil's nutrition for the new planting season. Sorry this is so long, but there are so many things to consider. Feel free to email any questions? J.

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A.B.

answers from Nashville on

To help with the bug problem in a small garden, plant merigolds around and thru the garden. They help keep the bugs away and will give your daughter flowers to pick. Don't use chemicals on your garden. Jerry Baker has booklets about how to grow gardens using things we have in our homes to control pests etc. He uses coke and vinegar and baking powder etc so the things we eat out of our garden are healthy.
Have fun and stay healthy.

M.S.

answers from Johnson City on

Even though we have lots of room for a garden, I am finding that having the small plots are so much easier to care for. The last two years, we had an area turned up to make our garden, it never got done.

This year, I have already planted my tomatoes. I have them in larger (small tree size) plastic planters. These work great, because I can move them if it should turn cold again. I need to get more of these as they make gardening so easy!

I am also going to be trying cucumbers and lettuce. And maybe some green beans. These are some of our favs (we love a good salad). I would like to do corn, but don't really want to do any row gardening.

Two other tips that I use for growing our garden. I am using a horse manure mixed with a small amount of top soil and all our household organic waste, for our potting soil. I've been using this mix on my flowers and it does absolutely wonderful! I also use Conklin's 9-13-9 spray fertilizer on the plants. This helps the roots grow deep to get the most out of the soil, and gives them a good strong hold.

Good luck with your garden, and enjoy the summer months outdoors with your child, and enjoy your fresh home grown veggies all year!

M. S.
Conklin Team Leader
http://diamondmenterprise.com
http://homebuisnessdm.com

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M.C.

answers from Lexington on

THe soil in KY is hard to work with so we went with Square foot gardening. We built the boxes about ground and filled them with a good organic mix. They are a bit expensive to get started, but once they are done you have a great garden with little watering and weeding. I just bought a new book on it. Pretty cheep though amazon, but if you have any questions feel free to contact me [email protected]____.com.

M.

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B.L.

answers from Jacksonville on

I am so excited to finally be starting a real square foot garden (www.squarefootgardening.com) I bought the book on amazon (for $12, or it's $20 everywhere else) and we went to work last week and built the garden boxes (pretty easy with a drill, and I got the folks at Lowes to cut the boards I bought there into 4' lengths). I found a nursery that ordered some vermiculite for me, and today is planting day!!!

I love the premise of SFG. He makes it as simple, efficient, easy and cheap as possible. He says that most experienced gardeners turn their noses up at the idea (like my mom - a master gardener) because, basically, you can't teach an old dog new tricks. But people who haven't gardened yet, or have failed at it love it, because once you get started (build the boxes and mix the soil) it is so easy and productive. You don't ever have to hoe, or use a shovel, or break your back, or weed, or fertilize, or use lots of water, or know anything about gardening (he tells you everything in the book), or try to fix the crappy soil, or any of that. The book is easy and interesting to read, too, but a lot of the information is on the website (for free).

To get started, there is a small investment (between the boards, which he recommends trying to find for free, but I spent about $30 getting exactly what I wanted to make 3 4x4 boxes), and the vermiculite for my three boxes was about $45, then the peat moss and compost, which aren't too bad, then the seeds (which you use sparingly and save/store for years). So, I've probably spent $100 or so, but this is meant to last for years, and you never have to replace the soil mix (except for the compost as you replant, but he encourages you to make your own compost...).

Good luck!!!

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Y.F.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hi Momto1,

The value of a well-selected, well-grown plant can't be underestimated when landscaping. You won't want to grow something that half the neighborhood will be allergic once you nurse it to maturity, right? and you will also not want something that hasn't been properly cared for before it gets to your home because, like anything, the early days are the formative days -- you want something that has had a great start.

That is why it's recommended you buy a plant from a reputable nursery and not just a plant broker.

That said, there are some gardening organization that rate plants -- they are looking for hardiness, reliability, good-looks in more than one season. One such organization is National Garden Bureau. Their 2010 awarded annual plants are here: http://www.Y..com/users/AASWinners/aas-winners-2010. They also rate new vegetable varieties.

The Perennial Plant Association rates multi-year lived plants, which each have a season of bloom so you can mix and match for a continuously changing landscape.

Soil is important, but plant selection and plant history is key!

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