Boost Your Green Thumb with These Garden Tips
If you haven’t already embraced the warmer weather, it’s officially time to start working on getting your yard and garden back into shape. Whether this is your first year attempting a garden, or you’re a seasoned pro, we’ve got some tips to help make this your best growing season yet.
Aerate and Nourish Garden Soil
What’s the difference between soil and dirt? Dirt is the stuff you vacuum up, clean off your kids and your dog, or wipe off your windows. Soil is a living entity, full of organic materials, nutrients, and microorganisms. Plants will not flourish in the dirt alone; instead, they require healthy soil. Make sure your garden soil receives the air and water it needs. You can loosen up the soil to create pathways for water, air, and plant roots. This process is called aeration and is accomplished by using a pitchfork to loosen the soil, or an aerator, which you can usually rent from your local garden center.
Nourishing your soil is an essential aspect of maintaining your garden. You can purchase plant food or fertilizer at a store, or you can go a little off the beaten path and recycle some household waste. You might not think of these items as garden food, but coffee grounds, tea bags, banana peels, eggshells, and ashes are all beneficial additions to your soil. Coffee grounds and tea bags both boost the nitrogen levels in the soil. Similarly, banana peels and eggshells will boost calcium levels. Eggshells will also help keep snails and slugs away if you sprinkle them around the base of your plants. Ashes have a high alkaline content, as well as potassium and calcium.
Fun garden science experiment tip:
If you have a hydrangea bush in your yard, try sprinkling coffee grounds around one side, and ashes on the other side. This process of changing the pH in the soil will give your blossoms different colors on either side.
When to Plant Your Garden
What’s the best time of year to start seeds or transplants in your garden? In general, that will depend on what plant hardiness zone you live in. The USDA has set thirteen different plant hardiness zones, which are based on the average annual minimum winter temperatures. The USDA’s website has an interactive map where you can look up your specific zone. As a quick tip for our local readers, the majority of Oregon and Washington fall into zones six through eight.
Being in zones six through eight means that you can start putting seeds and transplants into the ground now since we’re through the majority of our frost season. Here’s a list of common garden veggies you can start putting in the ground now. These you can plant as either seeds or pre-started plants:
Here’s a list of common garden veggies you can start seeds indoors for now, and then transplant into the ground over the next few months:
- Brussel Sprouts
Pest Control Tips for Common Garden Ailments
You’ve heard that every rose has its thorn; likewise, every garden has its pests. With careful planning and a few of our tips, you should be able to keep the pests manageable, so you’re the one enjoying the bulk of your produce instead of pesky critters.
Aphids tend to multiply quickly because they are born pregnant. They suck the sugar out of plants, weakening them in general. Aphids can also be the cause of sooty mold, and will occasionally inject plants with viruses while they’re eating them. The good news is, birds and ladybugs both love to eat aphids. If you notice an outbreak of aphids in your garden, the primary tip we have for you is to spray the plants with water to get the aphids off.
Additionally, make sure you get the bottoms of the leaves, as aphids tend to congregate there. Repeat this process several days in a row until you notice the number of aphids going down. You can also purchase packages of live ladybugs and release them in your garden to help with the aphid population. A single ladybug will happily eat up to 50 or 60 aphids in one day.
Have you previously noticed that your squash, zucchini, or cucumber plants developed white chalky splotches on some of its leaves? That’s most likely powdery mildew. Powdery mildew tends to show up later in the summer growing season, especially once the nights turn colder and wetter. It actually looks worse than it is.
Overall, powdery mildew is not likely to impact the amount of produce you get from your plants. You can simply cut off the affected leaves and place them in your yard waste bin instead of your compost to help reduce spreading.
The Northwest is full of slugs, and if you have a garden, you’ve probably seen your fair share of produce destroyed by them. We’re going to focus on the natural remedies since there are lots of natural and low-cost options available. For instance, slugs love citrus! After you’ve eaten a grapefruit, you can set out the rind’s upside down, and the next morning, dispose of any slugs caught inside.
Ground-up nutshells also work well as protective barriers around the base of your plants. Likewise, if you have petroleum jelly or vapor rub, apply it around the rim of your plant containers to deter slugs from climbing the sides. If you have chickens, they love to eat slugs as well. However, since chickens also love plants, you should probably keep them outside the garden and focus on trapping slugs and feeding them to the chickens afterward.
Weeding is a never-ending aspect of having a garden or a yard. It’s impossible to prevent weeds completely, but you can follow these tips to keep the weed population lower. Spread mulch, such as wood chips, straw, leaves, or bark several inches thick over bare soil. Water only where it’s needed because weeds will develop more frequently in hydrated soil. Pull weeds within four to six weeks of sprouting; this will help you get the weeds out before they form seeds or develop strong roots.
In pathways and cracks, you can either pour boiling water on weeds or use a propane torch to burn them. As long as you’re not using chemicals to combat your weeds, you may be pleasantly surprised to hear that several common varieties can make a nutritious addition to your meal. For example, dandelions, clover, chickweed, and bittercress are all common weeds that you can eat.
In conclusion, there are several ways to maintain your spring garden, many of which do not require additional trips to the store. We hope you enjoyed our tips. Additionally, if you’ve got some ideas we didn’t cover today, we’d love to hear from you!
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