20+ Easy Gardening Tips for a Bountiful Harvest
Whether you’ve planted your garden, are harvesting your garden, or watching the snow pile up on your garden; now is the time to think about gardening!
It’s commonplace for me to be thinking about gardening throughout the year, I love to garden. I love to plant and harvest vegetables, to preserve them by canning or freezing, to pick them for a fresh lunch or dinner, and even eat them right off the vine. I enjoy planting flowers to use in fresh cut vases for friends, to adorn my house with bright bouquets and, of course, to sit in the yard watching the bees buzz the flowers in the morning sun.
Gardening, it’s one of my things…
I learned most of my gardening tips and skills from working alongside my Mama. She always has a big garden, with lots of veggies to feed the family and the most astounding flower beds. It’s been said she has a “green thumb”…I must have inherited that. It’s my desire to share some of the knowledge she taught me, pass on some of the things I’ve learned after years of gardening on my own, and encourage you in your gardening endeavors.
DISCLAIMER: I am not an expert! I haven’t taken a master gardener class. I don’t know what pH the soil needs to be for blueberries. I’m just a gardener, learning more each year, like you.
That being said, here are 20+ gardening tips I’ve learned over the years.
Do you use it? What do you use? My mom didn’t “mulch the garden”. She used cow manure, which was plentiful on the farm. Dad would scrape up a pile with the tractor and dump it over the fence to spread on the garden every spring.
Cow Manure – A great fertilizer, but not a mulch.
Grass Clippings – Our neighbor, whom I used to weed for while growing up, used grass clippings in the rows to keep weeds down and moisture in.
Wheat Straw – Try to buy certified organic & weed-free straw, this will help with weeds and also be pesticide free. It can be found from local farmers, feed stores, or farmer’s market. Purchased in the bale it can be an easy ground cover once broken apart.
Pine Needles – Pine needles can be purchased in a bale or raked up from the forest floor (for free!). They knit together well for gardens on a slope, and can last a couple years. Watch the pH levels in the soil with pine needles, you can add lime if you need to counter act the acid levels. If you use pine needles, it’s a good idea to test your soil. This can be done at your local county extension office, usually for just a couple bucks.
Cardboard/Newspaper – These two are great for weed barriers, it is suggested to place newspaper 3 sheets thick and overlapping, while cardboard can be broken flat and laid on large areas to dampen weeds. I’ve used cardboard along the outside edge of my garden. I have found, for me that mulch is not a necessity. I can mulch or not. Some gardeners swear by it.
Compost – If you have your own compost from a pile made from kitchen scraps, leaves and/or yard clippings, this is an excellent source for nutrients and weed dampening. If you don’t have your own compost pile, you can purchase bagged compost. However, if you have the space, making your own compost is super simple and extremely economical (not to mention, keeps a ton of waste from ending up in the trash can).
Rows vs. Beds
Mom always planted traditionally in rows. Very long and very straight rows! I know this because I had to take the string attached to the wooden stake to the other end of the garden, placing it in several different spots until it was “straight”.
I use both rows and “beds”. When I say “beds”, I’m not referring to raised beds, I mean large planted areas in the garden. I plant my carrots, herbs, strawberries and raspberries this way. It makes planting, and harvesting a bit easier and these plants seem to do well like this. I plant the rest of my veggies in rows, very tight rows. My garden space isn’t huge, it requires creative planting in order to fit all the veggies in.
Using rows or beds is up to you and what works best in your space. I haven’t noticed one way producing any better than the other.
As I mentioned above, Mom always used steer manure because it was an available resource. I was taught (and still live by the principle) you use what’s available. Never pass up free fertilizer! That said, we don’t have cows, I could drive to the farm and collect cow manure, but I have chickens! YES, free fertilizer!
I clean my coop directly into my garden each fall and spring. During growing, season I make a pile of chicken manure to put into the garden once it’s been harvested. Do understand that chicken manure can be too “hot” and kill your plants. It basically over fertilizes them. I haven’t had this issue, but have been cautious.
We also have ducks and geese who swim in a little “pond” we made. When I empty out the water, I take 5 gallon buckets and spread it around the garden, or put it in the compost pile.
The one and ONLY fertilizer that I purchase is Alaskan Fish Fertilizer, you can find it at your local farm store in gallon size jugs or smaller. It is a very versatile fertilizer, I use it on my flowers and vegies. If you do not have your own cows, or chickens or ducks, ask around, most farmers are willing to load up your truck with extra manure for free! Always know your source, visit the farm, looking for the health of the animals and ask about pesticides.
Utilize your chickens
If you have backyard or farmyard chickens, use them to help with bugs and aerating the soil. I have a 6 foot fence around my garden, to detour the deer, and along two sides of the garden the chickens have their run.
I have chicken wire about two feet up around the bottom to keep the chickens from sneaking in. I have noticed a huge decline in bugs throughout the garden and the fence along these two sides does not have grass growing in it.
Also, I have cut a little gate in the wire, that I can open and close. When the harvest is done, the chickens can come in to eat up the plants that are left and scratch up the soil. The birds love this and it helps keep the soil from becoming packed down, I also put them in during springtime.
To Till or Not to Till?
Mom always used the Troy Built, Rear-Tined Rototiller to break up the soil in the spring and fall. The rototiller would leave the garden space with neat rows of fresh crumbly earth…and mom with anxiety. She may or may not have lost control one year and the rototiller may or may not have climbed up the house a little…but that’s a story for another day!
I carried on the tradition of tilling the ground, even borrowing that old Troy Built, Rear-Tined Rototiller. The family would gather to watch the show as I struggled to till the garden in the confines of the fence. I loved the smell, the beautiful rows of crumbled earth, oh it was so pretty, but so stressful and difficult.
I decided two years ago to try a “no till” method in my garden. I had enough of the rear tine rototiller. I grabbed my trusty garden tool that has three tines and a long handle like a hoe. I went to work loosening the soil to prepare for planting. It was hard work, but rewarding. I took each section of the garden, broke up the soil and planted. I didn’t notice any difference in the amount of harvest or size of plants. I have researched some on the topic of “no till” and found that researchers say over time the soil loses less nutrients with the “no till” method. I love it!
But the rototiller does the job much faster…it’s your choice!
Make a Garden Map
This is something I do each year. I take graph paper and measure out the dimensions of my veggie garden area. Then, I map out where the plants will go. I look at what I planted in that spot last year, and typically rotate crops every other year.
I like to do this, because it helps me know what I need to purchase. I can say, “I need 10 tomato plants for this space, and 4 cucumbers over there.” I also plan for flowers throughout the garden. Snap dragons, zinnias and marigolds are some of my favorites for the garden. And no garden would be complete without sunflowers, in my opinion!
Know What You Love
Think about what your family loves to eat, and what produce you regularly buy at the grocery store. Do you find you buy tomatoes every week and use them daily? Then plant tomatoes! How about carrots? Do you love them? Plant them? Potatoes, green beans, kale?
One method of planting a garden can be to plant what you love and what costs the most at the grocery store. Jason and Kelsey plant what costs them the most at the grocery store, and what they plan to make with their produce. So they focus on tomatoes, cucumbers (for pickles), cabbage (for sauerkraut), strawberries (for eating fresh and freezing for smoothies), etc. They don’t bother growing carrots because they’re so inexpensive at the grocery store (even organic!). Other friends grow a Kimchi Garden! They love kimchi, and love having the majority of the recipe grown “in-house”…so they plant the necessary crops!
Save Your Own Seeds
When you find a variety of plant that grows particularly well in your area, save the seeds. The seeds purchased in stores can be genetically modified and altered so they may or may not reproduce. If they do, it won’t be as nutrient dense of a crop.
If you cannot save your own seeds, always try to by heirloom seeds that are organic and have not been genetically modified. My growing season is short, so I purchase a lot of my plants as starts at the local farmers market or from friends who start their own. I have started my own seeds in the past and save seeds on a regular basis for flowers, but in this season in life it isn’t necessary for me, because I have a great source for organic, region-hearty plants. Although, I treasure the knowledge of being able to save my own seeds.
Ask local gardeners, ones who have been gardening in your region for years, what works. Most will be happy to share their gardening tips, and some may even be willing to come to your site and help you get started or evaluate what you have established.
If you are an avid gardener, share!
A few other tips:
- Know your zone and what plants are hardy.
- Know when to plant.
- Know your planting season. (And also your region! In our region there are many micro climates. Some areas are two weeks ahead of me, others are 2 weeks behind, know what works best in your area.)
- Check out local greenhouses.
- Visit your local farmer’s markets.
- Make friends with those who work at the county extension office (they’re a great resource!).
Find out what works for you and your family and enjoy gardening. It takes a lot of hard work and research, but it is so worth it. And don’t expect perfection from your early gardens. Look at them like a classroom, where you’re continually getting better with each year!
Gardening, providing natural, nutrient dense vegetables for your family, friends and neighbors is so rewarding. If you find yourself with an excess bounty from your garden, pass along the rewards! I always share of the bounty from my garden, whether it’s the neighbor next door, or a large family in need. It’s a great way to use up items that are in abundance.
It’s my hope that these few gardening tips spurred you on to do your own research, to take the time to learn and share with your community, and to enjoy your garden.
I have many memories with my Mama in her garden as a child, and with my own children, pulling weeds, picking and snapping beans, watching little bare feet run down the rows. Today, make your day full, make memories that will last a lifetime and be passed down as heirlooms. Memories in the garden!
Share With Us!
Have you been gardening for years? Or even just a couple? Share your gardening tips with us! We want to hear them!