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In the Garden

Get down and dirty in the garden

7 Tips for Everyday Outdoor Gardening, Part 2

by Taylor Miller

Tags: The Garden Gnome, Taylor Miller, My Garden, Secrets, Tips and Tricks, DIY,


Continued from 7 Tips for Everyday Outdoor Gardening, Part 1.

Also read 7 Tips for Everyday Outdoor Gardening, Part 3.

8. Use Newspaper to Line Garden Beds – Unlike plastic tarps or cloth weed killers, newspaper is a great solution for lining garden beds.

Resolution: When the paper is wet, it mats down grass and weeds, killing them in a few short days. This gives you a fresh canvas in which to plant, and it breaks down quickly, to assure you aren’t harming nature in the process. Lay down newspaper and attach to the ground using garden staples (or dry-wall nails - see the next tip!), wet with your hose, wait a week, cover with top soil and begin planting your new, weed-free garden.

9. Think Outside the Garden Box – However, funnily enough, if you ever HAVE used garden staples, you know what a pain they can be: one side goes in, the other bends out of shape and you push and push with all your might, but your efforts fail.

Resolution: I’ve discovered that, where possible, using dry-wall nails is an excellent substitute. The nails come in boxes of hundreds (compared with the 30 or so that come in a box of garden staples), puncture the soil more easily than garden staples and keep your weed-cover down more securely because you can use more of them per square foot than with a garden staple. Tada!

10. Bring Back Healthy Tulips, Lilies and Daffodils – When spring flowers fade and fall, it can be tempting to cut back the green foliage nature left behind, but don’t. LiliesA plant invests a lot of energy building greenery before it blooms, and it needs that energy restored in its roots to come back at full strength next year.

Resolution: Wait until the leaves of the plant begin to yellow, and then snip away.

11. Water in the Morning or the Evening – During warm summer months, you may have to obey certain city water ordinances, especially daytime “curfews” allowing you to water only during designated time slots.

Resolution: Watering early in the morning and early in the evening assures your plant absorbs the maximum amount of water before it evaporates off, meaning you’ll use less water for the same plants than watering in the heat of the day.

12. Know Your Mulches – Mulching is an essential part of any garden. It prevents weeds, retains moisture, deters some pests and can add a finishing touch to any pleasant garden.

Resolution: Say you have a flower garden you want to garnish with a beautiful mulch: Choose un-dyed cedar. The warm brown hue creates a palette from which your flowers will pop – plus, insects hate it. Cedar mulch also lasts longer than other mulches, and smells amazing, making it an investment for any long-time flower garden.

Now let’s say you have a vegetable garden, and you want to add as much organic matter to the soil as possible. Here, you should choose pine mulch, which breaks down much quicker than cedar, inhibits weeds and also helps to insulate the soil from extreme heat or cold, protecting your plants.

Aphids and their Casts 

13. Easy Pesticides – You have animals you’d like to keep, and bugs you’d like to … sleep. (Sorry, best I could do.)

Resolution: Ants hate cinnamon. Sprinkle it around infected plants, under potters, along the side of your house. It is easy, safe and healthy to use around family members of all ages and breaks down easily in rain without infecting our water sources – reapply as needed.  

Spiders hate cinnamon oil. Mix a little cinnamon oil with water and spray on annoyingly placed webs. While some spiders are dangerous and others just scary-looking, killing them off could make other, more annoying, pests worse. Just divert them where possible.

Aphids on the other hand, should die, and at the hands of rubbing alcohol. Mix 1 part rubbing alcohol with 2 parts water, spray directly on the plant, around the plant and make sure to spray the undersides of leaves. Reapply twice a day for two weeks, then taper off over the next three. (read more about killing aphids, in my blog post: When Aphid's Attack)

14. Mulch your Grass Clippings as Often as Possible – It is very tempting to want a "Brady Bunch lawn," but there is a smarter solution.

Resolutin: Your grass and your back will be happier if you use a mower-plug to shoot clippings out the side of the mower instead of collecting them. The residual grass clippings are rich in nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, breaking down to add a  quarter of your lawn’s fertilizer needs and a wealth of moisture back into your soil.

Stay tuned for part 3! UPDATE: Also read 7 Tips for Everyday Outdoor Gardening, Part 1 and 7 Tips for Everyday Outdoor Gardening, Part 3. 

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