As much as we all love gardening, let’s be honest! It’s not the easiest of jobs. Over the years, the average gardener would develop a few of their own tips for a successful vegetable garden. In this issue, I give you 10 of my simple tips/hacks that should help you grow a better vegetable gardening.
Tip 1. Water Conservation- as we are now in the dry season, water conservation should be our main priority. Keeping your large plants (tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, etc.) well-watered and healthy in the dry season is no easy task. However, by filling a water gallon and making a small hole on the cover and at its base this would allow you to have a crude drip aggregation system. This will ensure that your plants are kept watered throughout the hot days.
Tip 2. Turn your Planting Tool into a Ruler- whatever tool you use for plantings, such as a gardening shovel or a gardening fork, it can be also used to help you evenly space your seedlings during transplanting. Place the tool on the ground and using a measuring tape and a permanent marker, make markings at the 6-inch mark, 9-inch mark and the 12-inch mark unto your gardening tool. This will help you know the exact distance to space your plants when transplanting.
Tip 3. Plant Labels- using a recycled plastic water gallon, use scissors and cut them into finger length pieces with one end pointed. Use a permanent marker to indicate what plants they are for and when you are finished, take a cotton swab with alcohol or nail polish remover to remove the writing so you can reuse again.
Tip 4. Seedling Watering Cup- using a recycled yogurt quart and an ice pick, use the ice pick to bore holes around the entire circumference of the bottom of the quart container. Use this cup to water newly planted seed to prevent them from drowning and also to water your newly transplanted seedlings.
Tip 5. Pest Control- If you are growing organic, as we all should be doing, then this gardening hack is for you! As aphid season is approaching, some gardeners chose to remove these by hand. However, they are very hard to get at just using your fingers as they are very small and also hard to see. By wrapping four of your fingers with masking tape with the glue side up, you can pat the leaves of the plant where the aphids are and remove them all as they will stick to the masking tape.
Tip 6. Go Vertical- if you are running out of space in your garden, GO VERTICAL! There are many varieties of vegetables that grow well in shallow containers such as pipes and gutterings. As most of us in this region has retaining walls, these pipes and gutters can be affixed to the walls in several levels to allow you to plant most shallow rooted crops such as herbs and leafy greens. Vining plants such as cucumbers can also be trained to climb vertically.
Tip 7. Pre-Soak Seeds- large seeds such as pigeon peas, sorrel, corn, etc. and all other seeds that possess a hard endocarp take a while for germination to begin when planting directly into the ground. By pre-soaking these seeds in room temperature water overnight, it allows the endocarp to break down quicker and in so doing speed up the germination process when planted into the ground.
Tip 8. Keep Seeds Longer- You don’t need to keep purchasing seeds every time you plant. If you don’t use all the seeds you purchase, you can keep them for the next planting season. Seeds go bad as a result of them drying out. Place your seeds in a Ziploc bag, you can either put a label in the bag or on the bag or write directly onto bag using a permanent marker as to what seeds they are and the date they expire. Place these sealed zip lock bags in a plastic container with a cover in the refrigerator to ensure the seeds stay at their most viable state.
Tip 9. Seedling Trays- if you prefer sowing individual seeds, in individual seedling trays you will love this easy hack. Using empty egg cartons, use an ice pick to make two holes at the bottom of each space where an egg sits. Fill the carton with potting soil and plant a seed in each compartment.
Tip 10. Biodegradable Seedling Pots – for most people growing herbs, it is very difficult, especially when transplanting seedlings which are very delicate. I like using this hack for germinating most of my herbs since it lessens having to handle them and decreases my chances of any lost. Using your empty toilet paper or paper towel rolls makes the perfect biodegradable seedling starter. You can use a serrated kitchen knife or a pair of scissors, cut the toilet paper roll or paper towel roll in pieces about 3 inches long. Arrange these cut pieces standing upright in a recycled foil pan or any shallow container. Fill cut pieces of rolls with potting soil, then water thoroughly. Pay close attention during the first initial watering to ensure there are no dry spots on any of the rolls. Plant seeds in each roll and after germination, when they are at the right height they can be planted directly into the soil without having to remove them from the rolls.
I hope that these 10 simple hacks help you to have a more fruitful garden or help you on your next gardening project.
By Devon R. Joseph