As an avid veggie grower I’m always looking for ways to improve my (not so little) vegetable garden. These vegetable gardening tips will help you grow more food with less effort. I’ve purposely left out the all-too-common tips that every gardener worth their salt already knows, so hopefully you’ll find plenty of things you haven’t seen before!
Rehydrate Dry Soil With Dish Soap
If you’re finding that water is just running off of your potting soil then try this little trick. When soil becomes too dry it will start to repel water instead of absorbing it. This is especially true for soils high in organic matter and low in clay.
A simple trick is to apply eco-friendly dishwashing liquid next time you water. The dish soap will break apart the wax and oils in the soil (tree leaves and wood are high in oils) and the water will soak right in.
You can mix the soap into watering cans, squeeze it over your soil or use a hose-end sprayer to get the best coverage. A little dish soap goes a long way!
Turn Yellow Lawns Green Again
Fertilizers are expensive and they don’t always work. If you need to green your lawn in a hurry then try this secret tonic. The sugar in the soda helps stick the nutrients to the lawn, the yeast in the beer reactivates soil microbes and the dish soap acts as a wetting agent.
Mouthwash is very effective at killing lawn beetles and pests, and the ammonia provides a quick hit of easily absorbed nitrogen to get your lawn growing.
- One full can of regular pop (any kind-no diet soda)
- One full can of beer (no light beer) 12oz
- 1/2 Cup of Liquid dishwashing soap (do NOT use anti-bacterial dishwashing liquid)
- 1/2 Cup of household ammonia
- 1/2 Cup of mouthwash (any brand)
Spray the tonic onto your lawn using a hose-end sprayer like this one to get the best coverage. Using a hose-end sprayer is one of the best vegetable gardening tips for beginner gardeners.
Protect Seedlings With Eggshells
This is a common vegetable gardening tip but I still see so many gardeners throwing their eggshells into the trash or compost bin! Eggshells are the most effective way to deter snails and slugs from feasting on your young seedlings and tender plants.
Either crush them in your hands and sprinkle them around your crops or blitz them into a coarse sand in a blender to make an easy to use dust. Ideally you want a eggshells to be a sandy consistency, if they are too fine the eggshells breakdown too quickly to be useful.
Get Rid Of Mould With Cinnamon
A great tip for raising young seedlings or getting rid of mould and mildew without using chemicals. Just dust the cinnamon over infested plants and the antimicrobial properties will quickly take care plant diseases.
Put half a cup of cinnamon in a glass jar then secure some cheesecloth to the top with an elastic band. Shake the jar over your crops to leave a thin layer of cinnamon on the leaves.
Pro tip: you can get cinnamon in bulk for cheap here
Milk Bottle Watering Can
Upcycle plastic milk bottles into watering cans by giving them a rinse and poking holes into the cap. Be careful not to leave them outside in the sun though as the plastic will quickly break down and become brittle.
This works even better for liquid fertilizers. Just add specific nutrients to individual milk bottle waterers to give your plants a quick pick me up when they are showing signs of deficiency. I usually have one bottle for worm juice (diluted), another with a potassium fertilizer (like this liquid bat guano) to boost my tomato crops and another with some chelated iron and magnesium to fix yellowing leaves.
Lower pH Using Coffee Grounds
If you’re about to plant blueberries or other acid loving plant then mix in some coffee grounds into the dirt. The grounds are acidic and will give your plants a big boost to their growth, plus they have plenty of nitrogen too.
Pro tip: many cafes will give you their grounds for free – just ask!
Apply Dolomite Lime Every Single Year
It surprises me how many gardeners don’t do this. Even if you’re growing a garden in highly alkaline soils you should be applying dolomite lime to your crops at least once a year. Dolomite lime contains 50% magnesium carbonate and 50% calcium carbonate – two essential nutrients for growing healthy vegetable crops.
Calcium helps plants to create strong cell walls that deter pests and diseases. Magnesium is one of the key building blocks for photosynthesis which is how your plants produce energy and grow.
Apply 100g per square meter in sandy soils or up to 300g per square meter in soils with high organic matter.
** Make sure you use Dolomite lime and not Agricultural lime (which has no magnesium carbonate)
Keep Soil Moist With This Strange Vegetable Gardening Tip
We go through so many diapers at our house it’s almost crazy! So I’ve been coming up with fun ways to reuse them. This is by far my favorite method. Put 2-3 diapers in the bottom of a pot then fill with soil. When you water your plants the diapers will absorb the water and slowly release it as your plants need it.
Pro tip: I made the mistake of putting the diapers in the wrong way and they didn’t absorb much water, so make sure you put them in with the absorbent side facing up!
If you don’t have children then you can always buy some cheap diapers here.Wanted: used diapers. Must be willing to deliver and repot my potted plants. Will pay in vegetables.Click To Tweet
Broken TerraCotta Markers
Yikes! Don’t you hate it when you break one of your TerraCotta pots? Well instead of just throwing the pieces away you can reuse them as garden labels. All you need is a sharpie (this chisel tip sharpie is best for writing on terracotta) or permanent marker and you’re all set.
Write your label then push the pointed end of the broken pot into the ground. Pieces too small for labels can be ground up into a dust and added back into the soil to increase aeration and drainage.
Photo Album Seed Organizer
Every vegetable gardener has dozens of veggie seeds lying around. It’s easy to misplace seed packets or knock them over and loose all the seeds on the floor. One of the best ways to keep your seed packets organized is in a photo album (yes they still exist – you can buy them here).
Pro tip: get one album for each season so you can just pull out the right seed catalog and start sowing! Make sure that all your seed packets are clearly dated so you can plant old seeds before they go out of date.
If you’re just starting your first vegetable garden then make sure you check out this free guide.
Save Your Cooking Water
Cooking the vegetables you grow can be very rewarding. If you boil or steam your veggies then keep the cooking water. Wait for it to cool down and then water it over your plants. There’s plenty of nutrients in the water to give your plants a quick pick me up and the mixed smell of vegetables will confuse pests!
You’re not just limited to vegetable water either. You can use any cooking water or food liquids including meats and dairy. Just make sure you dilute anything that’s too concentrated.
Super Sweet Tomatoes
If your tomatoes taste a little bitter then you’re going to love this vegetable gardening tip. Just sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons of baking soda around the base of your tomato bush and you’ll have the sweetest tomatoes you’ve ever tasted!
Be sure to leave them on the vine until they fully ripen for the best taste and strongest flavor.
Seed Tape Dispenser
We’ve all heard about using toilet paper to make our own seed tape, but storing seed tape can be annoying. That is unless you use this little trick and wrap it back around the toilet paper roll!
Make sure you use septic or sewer safe toilet paper as it breaks down much faster than regular toilet paper and it doesn’t have any nasty chemicals.
Muffin Tin Spacer Tool
The cook in your household may not appreciate this quirky vegetable gardening tip but just remind them of all the fresh produce you’re going to grow. Muffin trays have the perfect spacing for your lettuce, carrots and onion seedlings.
Freshly rake over your garden bed, then use a muffin tray to press the holes into the soil. Once you’ve put the seeds in run the back of your rake over the holes to cover them with dirt.
You can sometimes find old muffin trays at secondhand stores. Otherwise these cheap muffin trays are perfect for the garden.
Make Old TerraCotta Pots Look Brand New
This is a super simple vegetable gardening tip that I got from my grandma. Just make a solution of equal parts vinegar, water and rubbing alcohol, then spray it onto your pots. Give them a light scrub and rinse off. They’ll look brand new!
Get all the hard work done for you with one of these drill brush power scrubbers.
Stop Dirt From Getting Under Your Nails
Before you get diggin in your vegetable garden grab a bar of soap and rub it across your fingernails. The soap will collect under your nails and stop dirt from building up there when you’ve got your hands digging around in the dirt. When you finish gardening you won’t need to use soap either!
Although any soap will do, I prefer soap made specifically for gardeners. It’s higher in fat and includes more antibacterial oils which protect your hands from insects and stop cuts from getting infected.
DIY Potting Bench
This one is for the handy gardeners out there. Make yourself a potting bench to organize your pots, soils and tools. You’ll be far more efficient at repotting or potting up your plants, plus it’s much easier on your back.
Pack Your Pots With Packing Peanuts
If you’ve got big heavy pots pack the bottom third of them with packing peanuts. Your pots will weigh less and you’ll also save on buying potting soil. The packing nuts are non toxic and can be bought in bulk online.
This is great if you’re looking to grow your vegetables in containers as you’ll need half as much potting soil. Plants take up almost all their nutrients from the top foot of soil so you’ll still get a great crop of tomatoes too.
For a list of the best vegetables to grow in containers read this.
Soak or Scarify Seeds
Ok so every gardener knows this one – but how many of you actually do it? Most gardeners forget (sometimes on purpose) to soak their seeds overnight before planting. But taking this extra little step will save you from buying so many seeds. Germination rates are much higher and seedlings emerge 2-3 days earlier too.
Soaking your seeds too long can drown them and lower your germination rates. That’s why I prefer to scarify seeds instead. Use fine sand paper or a file to scratch one side of the seed coating just enough to reveal the layer underneath. This helps water penetrate the seed when you sow it and you’ll get much higher germination rates.