5 tips to make gardening a little easier this summer

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The joys of gardening are many. Being one with the land, learning how to grow your food, planting flowers to help the pollinator population, and beautifying the neighborhood are just a few of the positives.

But let’s not pretend that gardening can’t be backbreaking work that also comes with all sorts of frustrations and disappointments. Not to discourage anyone, but when materials get expensive, you find yourself drowning in weeds, and critters destroying your seedlings, things can get overwhelming.

Do not worry. Here are some great tips that can help you get through spring and summer a little easier, a little cheaper, and in a way that benefits the earth and the environment a little.

1. Rethink your seedling pots

Source: Michele Pacey/YouTube

It might not be a revolutionary idea at this point, but there’s no need to buy seedling trays these days. Cutting plastic bottles in half and using the base as a seedling starter does the trick nicely. Yogurt or pudding cartons and the bottom half of Tetra packs also work. Be sure to drill drainage holes in the bottom of everything before filling it with soil.

The plastic containers that hold supermarket salads and blueberries are really good because they already have holes in the bottom and the lid makes a little greenhouse!

Thrift stores are full of ice cube trays. These make excellent seedling starter trays. The spaces are quite shallow, but are great for starting lettuce and annual herbs like basil. Again, don’t forget to punch a hole in the bottom of each cup.

If you want to become completely biodegradable, you can make your seedling pots from old newspapers or old cardboard tubes. These pots are perfect because the whole thing can be planted instead of having to disturb the delicate roots of the graft.

2. Use biodegradable weed barriers

Before constructing a new garden bed, cover weeds and/or grass with a biodegradable weed barrier. You can use old cardboard boxes, old cotton sheets, shirts, or towels to cover the space where you want to kill the weed. Now this is not a long term weed solution. This layer will eventually return to the soil, but it will give you some breathing room for weeding and a chance for small plants to establish themselves.

Once you have built your bed above the weed barriers, remember to drill a hole in the barrier under any new plants you plant. This is to let the roots find their way into the earth below.

3. Space your seedlings

Source: CIL Lawn and Garden/YouTube

A fun and inventive way to space out your seedlings is to use a muffin tin. When you press a muffin tin into the prepared soil of your garden beds, you end up with divots that guide you in sowing your seeds or planting transplants at equal distances.
You can also make yourself a giant ruler from the handle of your spade or your rake. Simply use a marker to make marks on the handle of your tool at regular intervals – inches, feet or centimeters! Lay the rake along your garden bed and sow seeds or plant seedlings at the recommended distance.

4. Let your greens go to seed

Source: Loganberry Forest/YouTube

While this technique may not work for very small gardens, letting a few of your lettuce, mustard, and arugula plants go to seed can have many benefits.

First, you will allow your plants to produce flowers that will undoubtedly appeal to local pollinators. Additionally, you are allowing self-seeding to occur. This is when a plant creates seeds and naturally disperses them to the surrounding area. With this method, you allow several willing plants to grow over the next growing season.

Depending on your luck, this could be a blessing or a curse. What do you think of cilantro, arugula and lettuce popping up all over your garden beds and mulched walkways?

You can always prevent this from happening by removing the dried pods and saving the seeds for next season.

5. Recycle your old dish sponges

Source: GrowVeg/YouTube

Instead of throwing away your old dish sponges, put them at the bottom of the flower pots before filling them with soil. The sponge helps block the drain hole at the bottom, preventing soil from falling. It also acts as a reservoir to hold water in the pot and make it available for plant roots longer.

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