Every gardener that has developed their own “tricks of the trade” for getting the best results from their plants. Here are a variety of these tips and tricks I have heard and found on my own.
Watering Practices: Unless you live in a tropical area, watering is a priority; this is especially true in containers, as they dry out quickly.
- Keep soil moist with daily watering and a covering of soft mulch.
- Water before 10:00 am and/or after 6:00 pm.
- Water the ground, avoid watering foliage and blossoms.
Treating Diseases Organically:
- Spray squash and pumpkins that have powdery mildew with a mixture of 1 cup whole milk and 6 cups water – this also works on Roses, Grapevines and Figs.
- Keep removing developing flowers from basil to prolong its life.
- Add a light layer of compost to your beds in early spring.
- During the growing season mulch with lawn clippings.
- Work soil well and deep to encourage a good root system.
- At the end of the season, add an inch of leaves and allow to winter over; till into the soil in the spring.
- Push pumpkin, squash, and melon seeds into mounds of soil.
- Plant roses in sunny, breezy areas and space well to deter diseases.
- For fresh tomatoes at Christmas, sow seeds and set in a warm window in late July.
- To replenish garden beds for a later harvest, till in manure, compost, blood and bone meal the last week of July and allow to set until mid-August, then replant with radicchio, radish, peas, spinach, spring onions, or other late crop favorites.
- In warm climates, plant Jerusalem artichoke, potatoes, and passion fruit the last week of July.
- Use corn stalks or sunflowers to support pole beans.
- Feed berry bushes, strawberries, and fruit trees the last week of July.
- To encourage growth of pumpkins, feed them lots of water. Make a small hole in the stalk of the fruit. Insert one end of a length of lamp wick. Rest the other end of the wick in a jar of water. Keep the jar full, checking it often. Pumpkins will grow twice as fast and be ready for harvest much sooner when wicked in this manner. This would work well with most squashes and melons, too.
- Surround beds with one-inch galvanized mesh fencing to keep rabbits from entering.
- Battery-operated electric fencing around beds will keep out squirrels. It is safe for humans and animals.
- To deter snails and slugs, place a saucer of beer dregs among plants, put an empty toilet paper roll around each seedling, or pour a ring of used coffee grounds around plants – this may also deters cats.
- Crushed eggshells as a border around each plant will keep out slugs and snails; they don’t like to cross jagged surfaces.
- Large pieces of eggshell around cabbages, cauliflowers, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts will deter cabbage butterflies.
- Putting tomato leaves around peach trees can deter curculio beetles and ants. You can also make a tea of the tomato leaves and spray it on roses, oranges, melons, and other plants to rid them of pests.
- Boil potato leaves and stems and spray the cooled liquid on plants that are attacked by insects. It destroys caterpillars, black and green flies, gnats, and other insects while not harming plants.
- Spread salt on gravel walks and driveways to kill weeds. An application early in the season and another when small weeds start to appear will keep the area weed free.
- Prune roses in February to remove thin and twiggy stems. Afterwards, feed them generously with a mix of manures, compost, and potash for beautiful blooms.
- Remove spent blossoms to encourage more blooms and keep some plants from self-seeding.
- Prune camellias, poinsettias, winter-flowering natives, and hibiscus plants in September.
- Prune fuchsias and geraniums for full, bushy plants.
- Don’t prune camellias from mid-January on, as they are starting to put on buds.
- Cut ornamental grasses almost to ground level to remove dead foliage and fertilize with composted poultry droppings to produce fresh growth quickly.
- Harvest early in the day just after the dew disappears for the best flavor and to keep leafy veggies from wilting.
- When harvesting garlic and onions, leave them on the ground in the sun to harden for a few days.
- Vine-ripened tomatoes develop fullness of color and flavor.
- Let suckers grow on determinate plants. On indeterminate plants, decide how many “main” stems you want, and pinch off all suckers. Fewer stems means larger but fewer fruit.
- Prevent blossom rot by adding one tablespoon of Epsom salts to each hole at planting time and keeping soil evenly moist. Adding calcium will also help prevent this issue.
- In cold climates, use row covers to protect transplants from frost and to improve yield.
- Plant tomatoes in full sun for faster, more prolific fruit production.
- To build stronger stems, place a fan over the seedlings for ten minutes twice daily. This also improves air circulation and prevents fungal infections.
- Start seeds inside six to eight weeks before planting outside. Transplant when the ground is warm and frost danger has passed.
- Seedlings need lots of light. Use a grow light up to eighteen hours a day or keep in direct sunlight.
- When seedlings become tall and leggy (weak), lower temperature to 65° F and lower grow lights to two inches above plants to strengthen.
- If you purchase tomato plants, look for healthy, green plants with thick stems and no flowers or tomatoes on them.
- To reduce the chance of insect infestation, rotate your plants so they don’t grow in the same spot more often than once in three years.
- If a heavy frost is expected, harvest all tomatoes – including green ones. They will ripen in storage.
- Tomatoes prefer rich, well-drained soil, amended with organic compost and well-aged manure.
- Avoid working in wet soil to keep from compacting.
- As plants reach three feet tall, remove leaves from the bottom foot of the stem as they receive little sunlight and are often first to be hit with fungi.
- A layer of organic mulch deters weeds and helps hold in moisture, so add mulch after soil has warmed up.
- Weekly applications of compost “tea” may deter many fungal diseases.
- Thin cloth strips make great ties for tomatoes. Start tying to stakes when they reach a foot tall.
- Encourage earlier harvesting and larger yield by covering beds with black or red plastic about two weeks before transplanting seedlings to warm soil.
- Transplant tomatoes when conditions are perfect – late in the afternoon, on a cloudy day, or shortly after a rain.
- Container-grown tomatoes dry out faster than those in garden beds; keep the soil moist but not soggy.
- Tomato varieties like Early Girl, Stupice, and Oregon Spring are bred for early fruit production.