Buying organic food all the time can quickly get expensive, so why not grow your own natural produce at home?
Not only will you know exactly what your veggies are being fed, you’ll also get to enjoy the fruits of your labor as fresh as they come! Plus, it’s quite relaxing to spend time outdoors tending to your veggie garden.
Be warned, some of the tips below are a little strange, but they certainly yield great results!
Here’s a list of 18 gardening tricks that you should definitely try.
For the perfect soil:
1. Give Your Waste a Second Life
Instead of splurging on questionable fertilizers and manure, invest in a backyard compost bin. You’ll be able to turn your kitchen waste into nutritious soil. To speed along the process, invest in some worms to help break down the scraps and water and turn your compost every week. Once the compost has broken down, mix it in a 1-1 ratio with regular potting soil.
If you have limited space in your backyard, bury the scraps directly in your veggie patch. Simply space out your rows of produce while planting and dig a foot-deep ditch in between rows. Add your waste (except meat and dairy products) to the ditch and cover with a bit of soil each time. Come next year, plant your vegetables in the ditch, which will have become a raised soil bed, and turn your previous row into your new compost ditch. By cycling through soil like this, your food will always have a nutrient-rich medium in which to grow!
2. Stabilize the pH
Certain plants are sensitive to the pH of the soil in which they’re grown. For example, blueberries and roses prefer more acidic soil while asparagus and broccoli need a more alkaline medium.
You can test the acidity of your soil by purchasing a simple pH kit at your local gardening supply store. To make your garden more alkaline, add ash from a wood burning stoves and fireplace to the soil. To make it more acidic, add coffee grounds.
3. Steep Dandelion Tea
When you clean up your flower beds, don’t throw away the weeds! They’re actually filled with nutrients and nitrogen that can benefit your crops.
Keep a bucket of water in the sun for a day and fill it with weeds. Keep the mixture out in the sun for a few days to let it steep. Remove the weeds and pop them into your compost. Use the tea immediately to fertilize your gardens and lawn.
Dandelion and comfrey (Symphytum officinale) make potent weed tea, but just about any weed works well. Just keep away from seed-filled pods or flowers, and they might populate your veggie patch.
4. Get Closer to Nature
Be warned: this unconventional tip isn’t for the faint of heart. Your urine is high in nutrients, meaning that it can help your garden grow lush and strong, especially if you’re growing grassy plants like corn (1).
Peeing directly on your plants isn’t a good idea as your urine is full of leaf-scorching sodium, but you can pour a bit of urine a few inches away from the base of your plants before watering generously to give them an extra boost.
5.Whip Out the Vinegar
Is there anything vinegar can’t do? If you’ve got a patch of stubborn weeds that seem to multiply every time to pull them out, burn them with vinegar.
Just fill a spray bottle with vinegar and drench the weeds on a hot sunny day, taking care to avoid your prized plants. Repeat every day until the weeds are dead and gone. If possible, try this trick in the spring before planting up your garden. If you have to use it mid-summer, neutralize the excess acidity afterward by sprinkling some baking soda on the site where the weed grew.
6. Shell it Out
As they say: you can’t improve upon nature. Boost your soil with a slow-release fertilizer by crushing eggshells and oyster shells into a powder. Their high-calcium content will also alkalize the soil.
For disease-free plants:
7. Pennies for Your Crop
The copper in pennies acts as a natural fungicide. Bury a shiny penny in wet soil to help it release the mineral and watch fungal spores disappear. Replace the pennies every few years or so.
8. Sprinkle A bit of Baking Soda
Dissolve a tablespoon of the powder in a tall spray bottle of hot water. Drench a fungi-infected plant with the solution so that the mixture drips down its leaves and saturates the soil. Your plant will perk up after a few days of treatment.
For pest control:
9. Consider Neem oil
To protect your plants from harmful insects by combining a few drops of natural dish detergent, half a teaspoon of water, and a teaspoon of Neem oil in a spray bottle. Let it infuse for 8 hours and spray it all over the soil at the base of your plant and on the surrounding area. Repeat once a week.
10. Recruit Some Help
Use the food chain to your advantage by combating aphids and other pests by introducing some of their natural predators into your garden. Aphid-eaters can typically be purchased online or in garden centers. Also, consider planting some yarrow, clover, mint, and fennel to naturally attract these predators.
11. Get Soapy
Aphids reproduce very quickly, meaning that it doesn’t take long for them to take over your crop. The quickest non-toxic way to get rid of them is to drench leaves and stems of infected plants with soapy water.
The ideal ratio to kill them quickly is two tablespoons of dish soap in a gallon of lukewarm-to-hot water. The soap will cut the waxy coating on aphids to dehydrate them.
12. Ban Ants with Borax and Honey
If thought aphids were bad, you’ve probably never had ants. Funny enough, both pests actually have a symbiotic relationship and rarely appear without one another. While aphids feed on the sap of plants, ants actually feed on the honey-like secretions of aphids. Ants are even known to farm aphids for food. Together, it can spell serious trouble for your plants (2).
To keep ants under control, make a paste using honey and borax and place it around the base of infected plants. The ants will bring it back to the colony and will clear the problem quickly.
For healthy plants:
13. Get Out Your Tool Kit
To coax a mature tree to flower and fruit, drive a nail into the bark. The practice works well for coconut and apple trees. The tree will isolate the foreign body and create scar tissue around it to minimize damage. Use the trick once a year for best results.
14. Get Nutty
Coconut water is a great source of electrolytes that aren’t just good for your body: they’re also great for your plants (3)!
When cloning your plants, place the new stems in a glass of coconut water to promote root growth. The water actually contains gibberellic acid and cytokinins, the same active ingredients as chemical growth hormones.
15. Use Epsom Salt
To help pepper plants fruit, dissolve 2 tablespoons of Epsom salt into a quart of warm water. Shake well and spray the mixture on your plants daily for 2 weeks, starting as soon as they bloom. You can also sprinkle the salt on the soil at the base of the plant.
The high magnesium content of Epsom salt will boost your crop’s chlorophyll production, thereby increasing energy production, which in turn helps your plant produce fruit.
16. Extend Growing Season Using Water
Greenhouses are a tried and true method to get the best yield from your garden, but there are ways to make them even better. Soil and water both absorb heat from the sun, but soil tends to lose most of its warmth when the sun goes down. However, water slowly releases heat. And so, you can actually heat your greenhouse slightly by placing a few plastic tubs of water in the space and covering the tub with black plastic material to prevent evaporation (4).
This will also absorb excess heat in the daytime, protecting your plants from dehydration. It’s also an easy way to lengthen your growing season as the nights get colder.
17. Nail it!
Iron is an important mineral for most plants and not getting enough of it can cause leaves to yellow and wither. Sometimes, this is caused by either a lack of iron in the soil or an excess of phosphorous.
To remedy this common problem, add a few rusty nails to your plastic or glass watering can and let the water sit overnight before soaking your plants.
18. Play Music
Just like how we tend to talk to our pets, most gardeners talk to their plants to help them grow. Some even play music, and it seems as though the trick really works.
Several studies have demonstrated that the vibration of sounds are felt by plants and seem to help them grow. Some vineyards even rely on the method to ensure a bountiful harvest. But don’t blare out heavy metal: plants tend to prefer classic music and jazz (5).