Fun FactsGardening

27 Tips & Tricks from a Master Gardener

A couple of years ago, I took a class taught by Marta Waddell, Master Gardener in Arizona. I’ve been referring back and forth to my class notes, and decided they were necessary to pass on to you! Master Gardener’s feedback is invaluable.

  • Practice consuming what’s locally in the season. This will get your family used to consuming seasonal produce, and what you can cultivate in your own backyard.
  • Learn what herbs could help your family’s health problems, and start a herb garden specifically for this purpose.
  • Marta advises Four Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables From Your Home Garden All Year Long by Eliot Coleman.
  • If you’re concerned about too much shade in your garden area, plant dwarf trees instead of full-size trees. An appealing, practical dwarf tree, like a lemon tree, would be ideal.
  • Many heirloom crops are open pollinated, but not all partially pollinated plants are heirlooms.
  • Choose more than one variety of vegetables to see what gives you the best performance.
  • Calorie crops, including potatoes and sweet potatoes, use far less space than grain. More information on growing higher calorie crops can be found in this article.
  • To survive, study what the poorest farmers in third world countries are growing: sorghum, peanuts and chickpeas are three such crops.
  • The Extreme Gardening by David Owens is another good book for those residing in harsh desert environments.
  • High quality equipment are a must. Keep a bucket filled with sand and a little motor oil mixed in to clean up filthy gardening tools.
  • Solarize the garden area to get rid of weed a few weeks before the growing season. Clear out the shrubs or scalp mow your garden beds. Moisten well the ground and encompass with a large sheet of clear plastic. Weight the plastic across the edges with stones or bricks. Weed seeds will germinate, but they will be destroyed by the sun. Keep the plastic sheet on for up to 6-8 weeks. This will lower the rate of germination of the weed seeds by 60-80 percent.
  • A wire mesh trash can is perfect for compost sifting.
  • Check the germination level of your seeds. Place ten seeds on a damp cloth. Cover it and then wait ten days. When eight seeds have germinated, the germination rate is 80 per cent. If only five sprouted, the rate is 50 percent, and so on.
  • Place seeds in an airtight container in the fridge. “Frost-free” attracts moisture from the crops.
  • It’s illegal to save the seeds which have been patented.
  • High temperature and humidity are the foe of plants. The seeds can sprout, but nothing will develop. Properly stored, some seeds may last 5-10 years, but most will only last 2-3 years. Younger seeds will always grow better.
  • Mail order firms are ideal to buy seeds as they store their seeds in optimal conditions.
  • Just because a nursery sells such plants does not imply that a particular variety grows well in your region. They’re offering what they think people are going to buy.
  • Never work the soil when it is muddy or very dry and have the soil tested so that you know what compounds it needs.
  • The reuse of your kitchen waste by applying it to the compost pile is fine, but will not necessarily result in a good ground.
  • Transplant when the day is rainy or at night.
  • Prepare the garden to cultivate for a phased harvest. Otherwise, you may be harvesting heaps of zucchini, for instance, in a single week and then have to wait a few more weeks for the next harvest of zucchini.
  • Do not spray at night, and be sure to spray the ground, not the leaves.
  • Make the use of gray water from rain barrels. When you stay in a drought-prone area and need to conserve water, drip hoses are perfect for raised beds, and will help make sure the soil and roots don’t get too much water very soon.
  • A few teaspoons of oil or a drop of soap in a rain barrel stops mosquitoes from laying eggs.

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