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What is your best garden tip ever?

 
pollinator
Posts: 643
Location: SW Missouri, Zone 7a
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I was telling someone in a PM about something I discovered to stop vine borers attacking my squash, and I thought it was worth sharing. Then it occurred to me that some of you might also have great tips to offer as well. So... what is your all-time best garden tip?
Here is mine...

A little tip to save you heartache IF you have vine borers where you live. As soon as your baby squash plants get a few leaves on them, wrap up all the stem you can see from just below soil level. Keep wrapping the stems higher up as the plant grows -- but not so tightly it will be strangled as it grows. Wrapping foils vine borers from slitting the stems and laying their eggs inside. If you don't do that, especially if you plan to trellis the squash instead of allowing them to sprawl, you will end up with dead plants in short order. I used to tear strips from old sheets or t-shirts and loosely wind them around the stems, but it took forever and was always slipping down or blowing off. Then I discovered that vet wrap (a bandage roll made for wrapping horse's legs, originally) works perfectly. It's a kind of stretch gauze embedded with latex, so it stretches and sticks to itself, which allows it to expand with the growing plant and not to slip off. It lets air and water in, but doesn't stay wet, so won't cause rot the way cloth might in too much damp weather. You can buy rolls of vet wrap at any farm supply or feed store. Best thing I ever discovered for stopping vine borers in their tracks -- haven't lost a squash to those little buggers since!

By the way, old-time gardeners probably already know this, but over the years of my trying to get my squashes neatly off the ground to save space and make it easier to harvest the squashes, I have gone back to letting them sprawl. WHY? because squash has a built-in survival mechanism to help it foil bugs -- it readily puts down new rootlets along the stems. When on the ground, those rootlets find soil and dig in for water and nourishment. When bugs attack other parts of the stem, the squash uses its reserve root system to keep the rest of the plant alive. When you hang them neatly in the air, only the original stem has contact with the soil. If it dries out, gets damaged or infected, your plant has no backup and usually dies. Nature knows best! (And I am finally learning to listen to her.)

 
steward
Posts: 2482
Location: FL
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Mulch.

You can mulch once or weed every week.
 
Deb Stephens
pollinator
Posts: 643
Location: SW Missouri, Zone 7a
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Ken Peavey wrote:Mulch.

You can mulch once or weed every week.



Saves watering too! My only problem with mulching is that it gives blister beetles and squash bugs a convenient place to hide. I use living mulch as much as possible, to keep soil cool and moist and because I can see those darned bugs better to pick them off!
 
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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Healthy soil takes time and effort!
When I first started the garden, my soil was weak and I had all sorts of problem bugs etc
Now I any I have are in small, manageable numbers.
My sandy, dead, organic matter-free 'soil' took at least three years and a lot of work to get healthy.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1557
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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My best single piece of advice for beginning gardeners : take care of your worms. For around here (I'm in Hawaii) that means:
...keep the soil evenly moist. Worms don't thrive in overly wet or overly dry soil.
...provide them shade via mulch to keep the soil cool enough.
...lightly till in food for them -- compost, manure, vegetation, on a regular basis.

By doing this, your soil will greatly improve, your plants will benefit, your garden will do fine.
 
pollinator
Posts: 2282
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Mulch ++++

I'm fairly new to the joys of deep mulching and it makes a HUGE difference. I've basically beaten a massive bindweed problem with it's help.
 
pollinator
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Add biochar.

Whatever you are doing in the garden, it needs more biochar.
 
master pollinator
Posts: 8716
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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Create habitat for reptiles and amphibians. This is 100% of my bug control regimen. I do absolutely nothing about bugs and have few problems.
 
gardener
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Feed the soil not the plant.
John S
PDX OR
 
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Get a desk top diary and start writing everything you do into it, when you plant, what you plant, what the weather is like, what soil improvements you have made. Then write in what you need to do and the date on which it needs to be done.

I add seasol, a seaweed extract, and charlie carp to my various pots. Some you add weekly, some you add every two weeks until the growing season starts, some you do monthly for trees but weekly for lawns. So I write it all down and then I go through the diary and I write in when the next dose is required. So now I don't have to remember when I last treated the pots or the trees or the lawn, I just turn to this week's pages and I can see what needs to be done.
 
Dale Hodgins
master pollinator
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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I never write anything down except for posting results on this site. I add amendments whenever I come into a good free supply and harvest whenever stuff is ready. I'm only gardening a few thousand sq. ft. As the size increases, I may need to keep notes.
 
Posts: 1444
Location: Fennville MI
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Pay attention
 
master steward
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Location: USDA Zone 8a
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I had Powdery Mildew on my Blue Sage for the first time ...  This is what I used minus the vegetable oil.  This solution really worked.




To find out if your soil is acid or alkaline:




Here are some things you can do to get rid of weeds:




 
pioneer
Posts: 1158
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Wood chips
 
gardener
Posts: 6256
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Hmmm, lots of great tips. I suppose my best one would be to increase the amount of life forms in your soil and feed them the organic matter they need to thrive.
Doing this has the tendency to reduce or eliminate most diseases and it strengthens the plants because what they need to thrive is in the soil.

Fungi in the garden are one of the best things you can add.

Redhawk
 
Posts: 208
Location: On the plateau in TN
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Always make sure all soil in garden is covered with plants (or plastic if you have to).
 
Su Ba
pollinator
Posts: 1557
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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Personally I wouldn't recommend plastic mulch. Just go to the Hawaiian island of Lanai and see what plastic soil covering has done to that beautiful island. The pineapple fields were mulched with poly film which eventually degraded, as all plastic will. The wind then tore it into pieces and shreds, spreading billions upon billions of plastic pieces downwind of the pineapple fields. There's plastic pieces imbedded everywhere! And who knows how much of it ended up in the ocean and coral reef. It is irreparable damage. It will never get cleaned up.

While poly film won't produce as large as a catastrophe in a personal garden, it will still eventually breakdown and make clean up a long, tedious, difficult job. Not worth the bother to use plastic in the first place.

I totally agree with Michael about keeping the soil surface covered. Mulch is wonderfully beneficial. On my farm I use ground up green waste, including shredded tree branches. It's all biodegradable and eventually builds soil.
 
Posts: 29
Location: Charlotte, NC
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Black soldier fly friends
 
gardener
Posts: 1330
Location: mountains of Tennessee
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The best tip I didn't see posted already is to not let a single leaf leave your property.
 
Posts: 28
Location: Kentucky - Zone6
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Get chickens
- If you want to start small, take only as many as you can feed with chicken scraps
- Set up the run to protect against predators
- Set up a watering system (PVC pipes) where you don't have to bring water every day
- Same for feeding system as a backup if not enough chicken scaps

Throw wood chips in the run, throw your chicken scraps on the wood chips. Let the chicken inoculate the wood chips with their manure. After a while, use the wood chips/manure/fungi combo in your garden beds (Back to Eden style). Eggs are icing on the cake

Another tip:
When planting trees, plant the tree in the soil you dug out to make the hole. Add compost or fertilizer on top of the soil, don't mix in with the soil. If not, the roots may not break out of the new soil mix and act like in a potted plant. Plus, if ,for instance, the soil is clay, the water will get stuck in the new soil mix, unable to drain, rotting the roots.
 
steward
Posts: 4672
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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My best gardening tip ever came from my daddy... He said, "Every day after work, take a hoe, and a bucket, and go for a walk in the garden." He continues, "You might put some seeds in the bucket on your way out the door, so you can plant something. You might harvest something and put it in the bucket while you are out there. You might decide to chop a weed. You might merely sit on the bucket, or lean on the hoe. Whatever you do, you are in the garden every day, and that is the most important thing, cause you may see things that need doing, even if you don't act on them immediately".

I love my daddy, and his wisdom.
 
pollinator
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Never make your garden bigger than what your wife can manage.

 
Su Ba
pollinator
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Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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Mike Barkley wrote:The best tip I didn't see posted already is to not let a single leaf leave your property.



Agreed. Once I learned that if I ground up the Mexican elderberry branches it would prevent them from rooting, I stopped taking any and all green waste to the dump. That Mexican elderberry can be tough to control, so I used to ditch it. But no more. Everything gets ground up and used for either mulch, compost, or livestock bedding. The only vegetation or animal products that leaves the farm are those that I trade, sell, or give away. I almost never give away my compost, mulch, or manure.
 
gardener
Posts: 2688
Location: Central Texas zone 8a
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Beat the rain. Even if its a week sooner than you would normally plant, if rains coming, get it in the ground.

( freezes are not a big concern in my area)
 
Posts: 525
Location: Australia, New South Wales. Köppen: Cfa (Humid Subtropical), USDA: 10/11
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A few ‘words of wisdom’ handed down from the ancestors:

• Spades are for digging, shovels are for shovelling and a fork is for turning/aerating soil – most people use them incorrectly
• Secateurs are a garden’s friend - learn when and when not to use them
• A blunt tool is a dangerous tool
• Don’t garden on the basis of ‘the squeaky wheel gets the oil’ – it’s easier to do ongoing maintenance so there aren’t any potential squeaks
• The occasional use of soapy clothes washing water thrown over citrus trees kills sap-sucking bugs, mildew and feeds the plant
Chickens are a fundamental component of a successful garden
• Grow, harvest and eat according to the season – fruit/vegetables at their nutritious peak, work with nature not against it/her/him

Also, I prefer to plant odd, rather than even, numbers of plants – it’s almost an Obsessive-Compulsive need! It just looks/feels more natural.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Don’t garden on the basis of ‘the squeaky wheel gets the oil’ – it’s easier to do ongoing maintenance so there aren’t any potential squeaks  



That is a good one but I'm the squeaky wheel in our gardens, not the tools.
 
pollinator
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Don't put a greenhouse in the shade.

I mean that literally, of course, but figuratively as well.

Plant for the location.

Grow shade-loving plants in your shady areas instead of trying for something like tomatoes, which require lots of full sun and might not even flower, much less ripen fruit.

If you don't have the sun for tomatoes, or whatever else you dream of, find out what like it, or what heirlooms, might do in the situation you have.

Use fresh, manure-rich beds for plants that need them, like squash or beets, rather than burning something delicate, or delaying flowering with too much vegetative growth.

If you're not going to irrigate except perhaps at extreme need, select for varieties of plants that will tolerate that action.

If you don't like the conditions, see what can be done to change them, but I would plant for success rather than optimism.

I planted for optimism this year, in a raised bed and third-story container garden, each with my standard tomato guild, and some squashes, beets, kales, and beans arranged in the back bed.

It was too shady, and I knew it. The squirrel pressure is just insane, as a neighbour used to feed them peanuts out of the raised bed I was granted (don't ask, I will tell you). And I planted anyways, without adequate anti-squirrel infrastructure, in the shade.

Oh, I got some growth, but every single fruit on every single plant was eaten green by the tree rats. They dug up the containers on my balcony after having chewed through the netting we had put up and killed all my tomato plants there.

So don't put a greenhouse in the shade.

-CK
 
pollinator
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I don't have enough experience to know about the "one best tip ever".

If I could go back these are the things I'd say to myself.

-Be patient.
-When a crop fails It's not always your fault.
-Don't give up. Your plants have to fend off bugs, deal with drought, hail, a bad gardener, etc. Life isn't just hard on you so keep pushing.
-Take advice with a grain of salt. According to the advice I got the tomato sandwich I'm looking at right now should not exist.
-Don't just focus on your garden, systems within systems.
-Take notes. They will help you learn and as a bonus the memories will keep you warm during winter.
-Remember to look, touch, smell, taste and listen. It's not just about the work to be done.
 
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I always loved gardening but living in the cold New England climate really limited me to a short growing season. every since I discovered hydroponics, I am able to enjoy that joy of gardening every month of the year. It was kind of a life changer for me!
 
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Anne Miller wrote:

Here are some things you can do to get rid of weeds:






I love the boiling water!  I used to empty pasta water and such down the drain.. now put a lid on the pot, walk outside, and water my driveway and sidewalk weeds! then back inside to drain the remainder.  The lid allows most of the water to drain!

:) Sandy

 
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The best tip I have to give is give those lawn clippings a job to do! Spread them at the base of your tomato vines and get a two-fold bonus,besides not having to dispose of them: the weeds will not grow and the tomatoes will taste awesome!
 
Posts: 79
Location: Wichita, Kansas, United States
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Ken Peavey wrote:Mulch.

You can mulch once or weed every week.



I have used strips of old carpet as mulch.  Large staples or tent pegs or something else to hold down the corners keeps it from blowing away in Kansas wind.
It keeps weeds from growing.  It lets rain flow right through.  It can be rolled up and used multiple years.  And you can walk on it while the ground is wet.  I've picked things in the rain and not gotten my shoes muddy.
I've laid out large areas and cut little holes in it to plant tomatoes or peppers.  The only weeding I had to do was right in the hole.
Guys who lay carpet are happy to have you haul off their trash.  Coordinate with them to be there when they are carrying it out of a house or business so they throw it right into your vehicle so they don't have to unload it at their shop and you have saved them the effort of unloading it and saved yourself the effort of loading it.
I unroll it in the yard and cut it with a utility blade.  Neighbors think I'm crazy.  But, a couple months later when they do lots of weeding and I just do a fraction as much they think I'm a genius.
My wife found this idea on the internet years ago.
 
pollinator
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Not necessarily the best tips, but I just thought of them yesterday while working in the yard and I don't think I've seen them mentioned before.

This one seems obvious.  I have a lot of concrete remesh panels in various sizes laying around.  (It's the metal grid stuff they put in before they pour concrete to strengthen/hold the concrete together)  The steel grid is about 6 1/4" square, so it makes a good quick grid to put on the ground if you're trying to space out seeds/starts in a square foot style garden.  The panels can be cut to the size needed (for example 2' X 4' to make it manageable, or a bunch of different sizes for different areas) then after everything is planted out, the panels can be used as small trellises for some of the plants.  

I also am putting in a bunch more drip irrigation and had the idea of instead of paying for the pre-made staples to hold the main lines down to make my own using acoustic ceiling wire.  (This is the wire that drop ceilings use to suspend the grid that holds the ceiling tiles and light fixtures up.)  I used to have access to tons of free 10' sections of the wire, but this time I had to buy a 100' roll for $7 at Home Depot (I'm guessing if I went to an electrical distributor it might have been cheaper).  I figure about 150 staples can be made from 100' by simply bending the wire, and using some lineman's pliers to cut it.  It's softer metal than what's commercially available, but I'm guessing it will work just fine, and be cheaper than what they want for it pre-made.  Ideally the wire could be had for free at a construction site, especially if they were remodeling or removing an existing building.

 
Posts: 10
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Once I learned that if I ground up the Mexican elderberry branches it would prevent them from rooting



Su Ba, any thoughts on the safety issues re grinding elderberry brush? Did you take any precautions? We're thinking a respirator mask wouldn't hurt along with a shower and change of clothes afterward.

 
Posts: 15
Location: Southern Oregon
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I've gardened for 60 yrs from Alaska to Florida and from Oregon and CA to NJ -- and the two most useful things are things already said - in many forms --- FEED The soil - using MULCH - whatever you have that will rot and turn into worm food--leaves, wood chips, compost, grass clippings, straw, but something that will ROT...and turn into dirt.. A thick layer of leaves (more than a foot) can turn hard packed soil into a garden in a year... the worms will do the work for you. Almost everyone has access to leaves...  Nothing will cut down on the amount of work you do in the garden like a thick layer of mulch. Nothing will grow good soil better. Nothing will cut down on the need for water better than a 6-8" layer of mulch...I can't say enough for it.

And Peter said it --- be observant... I walk my whole garden every morning in the growing season and look at everything... This way you see when something is in trouble when it first starts. Or you see the first flower - or the first fruit forming.  You get a sense of where change needs to happen (something getting too much sun, or too little - or too much water, or too little) You really learn about your garden and what goes on in it if you just spend time really looking at it every day or so... or at least as often as you can. If you only go out to water or prune something or harvest or plant - you aren't truly SEEING everything... observing what's going on. That's truly how you learn about that garden in that place...
 
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