Use these smart, simple tips to save time and money in the garden, and, in some instances, avoid making long-term mistakes. Pinching zinnias, making use of burlap, and avoiding invasive plants are just a few of the ways you can help your garden thrive without creating other issues.
Also see 7 Cheap (But Smart) Tips to Create Your Dream Garden for helpful ideas for frugal gardeners.
10 Handy Garden Tips—Some Minor, Some Major
Some of these tips are simple and perhaps obvious but do make things easier. A couple of them can mean the difference between a long-term ecological disaster (hello, invasive species) or a miserable time tending one’s garden (hello, spiteful neighbors).
Please take them in the spirit they are offered: just a mish-mash of tips to—we hope—make our gardens (and lives) better.
1Use Burlap Instead of Coir Liners
One roll of good quality burlap (also called hessian or jute depending on your location) will save money and solve all sorts of garden problems.
In the photo (above), I used burlap fabric ($1) instead of a fitted coir liner ($15) for the wall-mounted, metal hayrack planter.
There are countless other smart uses for burlap in the garden here.
2Pick a Color Theme
If your outdoor space is missing that something-something that brings everything together as one cohesive space, consider introducing a color theme to repeat throughout your garden.
38 Blue Garden Accent Ideas: Art, Decor, & Flowers shows a bunch of ideas.
I use a specific blue color. It started with the shed door and just kept going. So far I’ve used it for obelisks, tomato cages, my garden art ladder, the decorative farmhouse door, old garden tool handles I display as garden art, and more!
I like the blue because it stands out from the flowers and fauna and creates focal points throughout the garden.
Find a color you love and go with it.
3Don’t Forget To Pinch
Zinnias offer a beautiful burst of colorful blooms all summer long—if you pinch them.
Use these pinching tips to encourage yours to grow new branches and more flowers. It’s the gift that keeps on blooming!
You can also root zinnia cuttings and grow them indoors or outdoors. They grow smaller indoors but they are still very sweet!
4Beware of “Fast-Growing” Plants
“Fast-growing” sounds great—especially when you have a bare space to fill in and want it to look better asap—but be careful. Many trees, shrubs, vines, and herbaceous perennials known to grow quickly (unusually fast) also tend to spread aggressively and/or be short-lived. The price for faster results may be long-term regret.
If you’ve had persistent, invasive plants take over a growing space you know how awful it can be.
For long-term success, research your plant choices, not just to be sure they are suitable for your region, climate, and growing conditions, but to ensure they support local wildlife—that is key. Along with avoiding pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic and excessive fertilizers, the right choices will reward generations to come.
Because suitable plant choices depend on where you are located, it’s very helpful to find a local conservation group keen on reintroducing native species for specific plant recommendations. You can also find regional native plant groups on Facebook.
5Save Your Plant Tags
For many of us, it’s unrealistic to keep a detailed garden journal—we’d rather use our spare time working in the garden.
But, if you do nothing else in terms of record keeping, save your plant tags and seed packets—even if you just toss them in a shoebox for safekeeping.
I’ve kept mine this way for years and they have proved to be such a valuable resource.
Because they land in chronological order (newest ones at the top of the pile), it’s quite easy to find the tags and information I’m looking for later on—effortlessly.
If you want to mark plants in the garden, this has tips on making your own creative plant tags and markers. Excellent project for a rainy day.
6Shop Your Own Garden First
Sometimes we forget the best source for free plants may be our own gardens.
If your perennials are at least a few years old, you’ve probably got several that could be divided and planted elsewhere in the garden to fill in other spaces.
I’m also a big fan of moving plants simply to give the garden a refresh without the need to spend any money.
If you have a gardening friend nearby, a little plant swap may be just what’s needed.
Improve Your Garden Instantly Without Spending a Dime has more ideas as well.
7Mulch In Spring—If You Can
While you can mulch your garden beds any time, it’s easiest in spring before everything gets leafy and lush.
Done early, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and get the job done before the weather is hot.
This spring garden checklist has lots more handy reminders. Print it out and refer to it year after year.
If you want to keep track of your garden journey and map out your beds—present and future—this printable garden planner offers a useful framework to collect your thoughts.
8Save On Potting Mix
To save money, just use potting mix right where plant roots need it. This is often just around 6 to 8 inches deep for most annuals. The rest of the space can be filled with low-cost, safe, space fillers.
Options include things like upside-down flower pots and slices of tree branches.
Just be sure whatever you choose will not pollute or contaminate the soil.
I’m not a fan of things like Styrofoam packing peanuts that end up so intermingled with the soil that everything ends up in the garbage.
Instead, the ideal is that, when done, the old potting mix can be added to the garden.
This has lots more ideas for filling both containers and raised beds.
9Cookies Can Help Avoid Bylaw Officers
It is not fun to have disputes with neighbors—our homes and neighborhoods should be somewhere we feel safe and welcome. But disagreements about plant choices and yard maintenance are far too common for many gardeners.
Turns out—surprise!—the best way to create peaceful relations is not to argue about property values, debate dandelions, pesticides, or excessive use of fertilizers, but to set an example as a caring, trustworthy person concerned for the well-being of the entire block.
I’m not saying this is easy—because, wow, some situations are very difficult—but there is research to support the idea that knowing your neighbors and building relationships can sway even the most traditional, un-eco-friendly yard-keeper who might otherwise want to call bylaw enforcement rather than learn about sustainable garden stewardship. Worth a try, no? Plus, besides baking cookies, find out what the bylaws saw and work to get them changed to support ecologically-sound choices.
10Grow Cool Crops In Containers
When our favorite cool-tolerant crops like leafy greens, broccoli, beets, and carrots are exposed to hot summer weather, they may bolt.
Bolting is a natural response when a plant senses its survival may be threatened, causing it to switch to flowering and seed-production.
Besides growing varieties known to be more bolt-resistant, it’s also smart to grow cool-tolerant crops in containers. This way, if a heat wave is coming, you can relocate your crops to a shady location, out of direct sun, where temperatures should be lower. Maybe even poor a cool drink, grab a comfy chair, and join them there.
This explains more on why plants bolt and how to prevent it.
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~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛
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