It is March and oh how I am READY for spring! I can't wait to start our garden this year and just get outside without a coat! Last year, our garden was exploding with yumminess since we were actually getting some rain! And here is something you didn't know about me- My parents were farmers and both sets of grandparents were farmers! Perhaps having a green thumb is in my DNA... As a child, I thought gardening was completely annoying and my least favorite garden chores were shelling peas and getting the popcorn off the cob (the trick is to use another ear of popcorn, but still seriously annoying - especially when you are 8 years old). Since having our own house though, I have really enjoyed gardening. We have a side yard garden with seven raised beds that my Hubby made. It is just fantastic to pop outside and come in with fresh organic produce for dinner. The photo to the right is how our garden looks as of the end of June last year.
With all the farming in my lineage, I thought I would share with you some of the things passed down to me to help your garden or inspire you to start a garden! These items last for many years and help both the environment and your garden expenses.
Here are a few household items that have great uses in the garden:
Use on your plants in the spring as a mini-greenhouse. To use: Cut out the entire bottom of the milk container and save the lid. Plant your tender vegetables as you normally would. Water well, then put the milk container carefully over top the little plant (without lid). Pull dirt up around the bottom of the milk container to help keep it in place (and finish with marking flag instructions below). This is especially great for plants that like a little warmer weather, like tomatoes and peppers. It also helps little plants like cabbage, brussel sprouts, and broccoli stay away from garden nibblers - until they grow out of the container. Keep the lids just in case the weather decides to have a frosty night. Just put them on overnight and take them off again in the morning. I also use these containers on my sunflowers until they are big enough to hopefully not be eaten off. To store from year to year, tie a long string or twine to one handle of the milk container and slide the other containers on the string through their handles. Finish the string with a loop at the top to hang. If you don't have a place to store them, just recycle them and save new ones in the spring. You will need quite a few, so start saving them now! Don't forget to rinse them before using them in the garden.
Marking flags end up being in your yard anytime you call for underground utility locating (eg: JULIE). They are a thin piece of metal with a plastic brightly colored flag on top (also found in any home improvement store). Bend over the marking flag top and use it to hold down the milk container over your plants. These are especially helpful on windy days. Make sure the flag doesn't cover the open hole so water can still get in. I also use these flags to mark rows. I keep a paper with my beds drawn out that I write down what, where, and when I plant, so I just need to know in the garden is the where part. To store the flags, hang up a piece of decent sized pvc with a cap on the bottom.
In the garden is a great way to recycle your pantyhose with holes! These can be used from season to season to tie plants to stakes. They are soft and stretchy and forgiving to vegetation. Last year I tied all of my brussel sprouts to stakes in the garden to keep them more upright (or to try to keep them that way!). Just be careful how you tie them or it will be hard to untie in the fall. I like to tie it once around the stake and then wrap the ties to the other side and tie again, instead of a double knot on top of itself. We also use old nylons for our climbing rose, clematis, and an arborvitae that died in the middle. I don't ever have an occasion to wear pantyhose, so I had to purchase new ones! I store them with other garden tools in a basket on the pegboard (in a small cardboard box to keep them from falling everywhere).
Although not a reusable item, it is something you may have on hand. Are rabbits or chipmunks eating off plants inside your fenced area? We did last year (before working to plug all the holes in the fence again). The chipmunks managed to eat off all the snap peas - I planted them FOUR times! The last time I planted them, I sprinkled curry powder all around them. Nothing ate them off or dug up the seeds to eat. Later this spring, rabbits ate off one section of green beans and one section of beets before we got the fence closed off better. While waiting for the fence to be fixed, I sprinkled chili powder and curry powder around both. It did succeed and they moved on to the kale (which is prolific, so I didn't put any spices around it). The spices that were recommended to me were both the curry powder and chili powder along with cumin and cinnamon.
I hope these hints will help in your garden this year and for years to come! Happy gardening!!!!