A well-tended 400 square foot garden will feed a family of four. The trick is planning, planting, tending, and harvesting that garden right. Below, you’ll find everything you need to know to maximize your garden’s production, everything the experts don’t tell you!
How to Grow from Seeds
I like to use natural topsoil to start my garden seedlings in. I usually don’t use potting soil because it generally does not produce the results I want.
I fill a large, deep baking pan with top soil and bake it for thirty minutes at 350 degrees. This sanitizes the soil and ensures that no unwanted weeds or grass will come up in your soil. I usually start on this project in the winter and I fill up a couple of large plastic barrels with lids with the sanitized soil.
After I have planted the seeds in the sanitized top soil, I sprinkle the top with powdered cinnamon. This keeps away fungus that can cause damping.
I cover each seedling with a clear plastic cup that I wash and reuse. This protects the seedling and keeps the moisture in. It also keeps away cold and wind. I do my seed starting on a screened-in porch.
If you plant your seeds outdoors, sprinkle flavored powdered gelatin in the soil with the seeds. This will feed beneficial bacteria and provide needed nitrogen to your plants as they come up.
Starting from a Clipping
1.If you want to root a plant or cutting in water, add an aspirin or two to the container. Buy a cheap bottle of aspirin and grind it up before you add it to the water. This will aid in water absorption and will help the cutting to start roots.
2.You can easily start plants from cuttings from roses, saliva, and geraniums. Just dip the cuttings into a rooting hormone, then put them into potting soil. Spray the cuttings several times a day with water until you are sure they are rooted. Hibiscus are also easy to root this way.
How to Plant or Transplant Tomatoes or Peppers
Try it this way and I promise you that you’ll be rewarded with faster growing and healthier plants:
When planting any type of tomato or pepper plant, pinch off all but the top leaves.
Dig a deep hole. Always add a cup of water to the prepared hole and then set the plant into the hole and put a tablespoon of powdered, unflavored gelatin in the hole as near to the roots of the plant as possible. A teaspoon of cinnamon also goes in. The gelatin will feed and encourage helpful bacteria and the cinnamon will keep away fungus and cutworms.
For sweeter tomatoes, put two tablespoons of baking soda in the bottom of the hole. Cover the baking soda with an inch or two of dirt before you put the plant in the hole.
Carefully fill the hole with dirt and pack the dirt down tight.
Use tomato cages or wooden stakes and garden twine to tie your tomato plants up and give them support to keep them from getting blown over by the wind. If they aren’t supported, they won’t produce nearly as much and may develop fungus diseases if the plant is laying over on the ground.
Note: I suggest that everyone learn everything they can about heirloom tomatoes, which have much better flavor than modern ones.
How to Keep Deer out of Your Yard
If you follow the below tips, you can keep deer out:
Purchase motion-activated sprinklers. If the deer or other animals go near them, the sprinklers activate automatically and run them off quickly. Deer and most other animals don’t like to be sprayed by water.
Sometimes something as simple as hanging up tin pie pans around the garden can keep the deer away. You will want to hang the pans so they swing freely and make noise. Move them to another spot about once a week to be sure the deer don’t become used to them and just walk around them.
Human urine works great as a deterrent. Bring a container full from the bathroom and pour it around the edges of your garden. Put down fresh urine as often as you can and the deer will stay away.
Hang up noisy wind chimes. As with the pans, you’ll want to move them every week or so.
From Garden to Kitchen and Back Again
When you boil or steam vegetables, don’t throw the water away. After it’s cool, use it to water the plants you are growing in containers. You’ll be surprised how plants respond to this type of water.
Always put leftover tea, tea bags, and coffee grounds under your azaleas. You will end up with healthy plants with bright flowers.
The quickest and best place to dry herbs is on a few sheets of newspaper on the back seat of your car. The herbs will dry out quickly, usually in 1 – 2 days.
Don’t be afraid to grow your own kitchen herbs. Most herbs are easy to grow and you’ve never tasted anything as good as your own homemade pesto sauce. I grow purple heirloom sweet basil and it is so delicious. It also gives a wonderful smell to my garden. Don’t forget to compost what you don’t use.
Do you stir fry? You should if you don’t. If you do, try using things like immature broccoli, baby squash, and tiny eggplants. You won’t believe the wonderful flavor of these tiny baby vegetables. Don’t be afraid to pull baby green onions to add to the mix. You can come up with some wonderful flavors this way.
Blood, fish, and bonemeal are great organic fertilizers. Apply them throughout the growing season to your vegetables and flowers. Blood and bonemeal will also keep rabbits and groundhogs out of your garden and away from your plants.
If you grow an abundance of cayenne pepper, keep it picked off green and keep adding it to a gallon ziplock bag in the freezer. If you wish, go ahead and cut the stems off before you freeze the cayenne. (Don’t forget to use those stems to enrich your soil.) You can add a tablespoon or two of fine diced green cayenne to soups and stews to add spice and flavor.
If you’re going to be growing a garden every year, you should learn how to can as soon as possible. Growing and canning tomatoes is easy and very satisfying. Do some research and learn everything you can about canning and preserving what you grow in your garden.
If you don’t have one yet, purchase a food dehydrator to preserve your vegetables. You can make wonderful sun-dried tomatoes this way. You can dry almost any kind of fruit or vegetable and if you do it right, you’ll end up with delicious treats. Store them in a tightly-covered container or freeze them in a large ziplock bag. If you make a dried mixture of tomatoes, peppers, squash, and onions, you’ll have the perfect soup mix. Add the dried vegetables to chicken or vegetable stock and you can quickly have a delicious soup. Add pasta and fried hamburger for a delicious stew. Be sure that you carefully read the instruction book that comes with the dehydrator.
Save all your banana skins and let them dry outdoors. Plant them at the base of your tomato plants: It’s like giving your tomatoes a pick-me-up and will encourage growth. You can speed things along by pureeing the banana peels with water in a food processor or blender and then pouring this around the base of the tomato plants.
You can use chamomile tea to prevent fungus on your seedlings. Spray it on before sunrise or after sunset for the best results.
Canning is the preferred method of putting up your garden veggies because cans don’t need refrigeration and won’t spoil if the power fails. The next best solution is to dehydrate as many of your fruits and vegetables as you can. And if you plan to store a lot of fruits and vegetables you should have a small chest freezer. You can make things like squash casseroles or zucchini bread to freeze for later use. Make sure that you date and label each item so you know what it is and how old it is.
Use Leftover Fruit and Vegetable Peelings
Take all of those peelings and vegetable scraps and run them through your food processor, then sprinkle this in your soil to feed your growing plants.
Peppers especially love this and will grow and produce bumper crops when you feed them this way.
Use Newspaper and the Lint from Your Dryer as a Mulch
Instead of throwing away the lint your dryer filter collects, save it in a tightly-sealed container and till it into your dirt to help hold moisture in your soil.
You can also shred your daily newspaper and add the shredded paper to your compost bin. It will help you to have healthy compost and will help to retain the soil’s moisture.
When you plant things like tomatoes, peppers, and squash, put a fist-sized piece of dryer lint in the bottom of the hole. The dryer lint will hold moisture in and around your just-planted plants, insuring that the water stays there at the roots where it is needed.
What Expert Gardeners Know About Planting
Go on the Internet in the winter and very early spring and order all your seeds.
Plant the vegetables that your family likes to eat. Why plant asparagus if no one likes it?
The easiest plants to grow include beans, tomatoes, radishes, Swiss chard, peppers, corn, cucumbers, and potatoes. Anyone should be able to grow these.
Plant your cucumbers so they can grow up a fence or trellis and you will grow far more cucumbers.
Plant pole beans around the base of a tee-pee bamboo frame and the plants will grow up it and you can easily pick and enjoy your beans.
Grow cherry tomatoes in hanging baskets—they will grow well there and will be easy to pick. Be sure that you keep them well-watered. Keep them picked off and they will keep producing.