Gardening Tips from Our Readers

We received a lot of helpful time-saving garden tips from our readers during our recent contest.

Vicki D writes: We use a square foot garden plan and irrigation hoses my husband installs on each plant; we turn the water on for 10 to 15 minutes a day. It saves our time and water also.

You can pack a lot more into a square foot than you’d imagine. Photo courtesy of Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot

Betty S. writes: I find that making sure gardening tools, rakes, hoes, shears etc. are clean, sharpened, sanitized and ready for next season is helpful to get a jump start come spring. Organize and replace anything you are out of (gloves, fertilizer etc.). It makes it so much easier and makes you feel good that everything’s in order and ready to use when you’re ready to get back out in the spring.

Also, if there’s a plant you love and want more of, spread the seeds on the ground when dead-heading, cover with straw or mulch  and usually some of the seeds will come up in the spring.

clay pots in the garden

Potted plants make gardening easy!

Our 2nd prize winner, Carrie G. from OK writes: I have to grow everything in pots, because I am on crutches permanently, so when I plant or refresh the soil in the pots in the spring, I put down cedar mulch, and then organic Preen. I don’t have to weed the entire season. I grow vegetables, flowers, and ornamental grasses in 75 pots in clusters around my yard!

Jenny B. writes that using a bucket to carry her tools, bottle of water, gloves, glasses, hat, etc. saves the time of always searching for them.

Victor SF posted this tip and Sherry U. agrees – says she lives in the country and so can get away with it!  It’s that time again to get the lawn prepared for the winter. We mulch all the leaves rather than rake and bag them. This saves us quite a bit of time, taking an all-day task down to approximately one hour. While it’s much easier to mow over the leaves than to rake them up, it also helps the lawn too. We allow the nutrients from the leaves to degrade naturally and turn into just a little bit of topsoil.

buying plants

Buying plants from a reputable garden center is often key to gardening sucess!

Claudie C. writes: From our own experience buying plants from a reputable greenhouse is a big time and effort saver. While they may be slightly more expensive to purchase, the strong root system helps while transplanting them in the yard.  Strong root systems also helps the plant get water from a wider area, reducing the amount of watering that we need to do. It also helps get additional nutrients to the fruit, vegetable or flower. The disease resistance seems to be better with these more established or better-cared for plants as well; we have never had any real problems with mildews or rusts.

Carole C. sent us this tip for keeping down weeds over the fall and early spring: Use simple black garbage bags for weed control. Arrange them over the desired area ,weighting them down with stones. The black will absorb heat and sterilize the soil. You can put mulch or compost on top as desired.

Mary J. has a good tip for dealing with tender bulbs: After frost has killed the tops of your potted tender bulbs like dahlias, trim off the dead matter and put the pot in your garage for the winter. In spring pull out the pot, water and fertilize then put it in a sunny spot. No pulling, cleaning and storing of the bulbs. Way less mess and effort. Editor’s Note:  this is a good idea but within 2-3  years the bulbs will outgrow their pots and will either become stunted or pots will break, so you’ll need to re-pot them every few years.

long lasting color in the garden

If you are able to accumulate enough perennials you can eliminate the time and expense of buying and planting annuals each year.

Judy M writes: I have a large garden on a hill with a mountain stream running through it. Every year I buy a few perennials that bloom at different times throughout the summer. Eventually I will not have to spend so much on annuals.  Editor’s note:  Plant swaps and “plant dividing parties” are a great and inexpensive way to accumulate a nice array of perennials for your garden.

Patricia Lanza books

Author Patricia Lanza practices what she preached in her book “Lasagna Gardening”

Patricia Lanza, author of Lasagna Gardening  practices what she preaches: layer all the organic matter you can find and never dig or till.

Rachel M. likes to do here chores a bit at a time: My quick tip is do a little each day.  I do one hard job, such as trim down the vines that need to be pruned, then do one easy job, such as deadheading flowers that are not bird-food-friendly. Do this each day until all chores are done. It helps get more chores done and in less time and is not so back-breaking.

Melissa A. has a good idea for transplanting: Always be sure to soak roots in a bucket of water for a couple of hours when transplanting anything.  Also, before transplanting if you loosen the roots so they are not bound it makes a huge difference in the plants growth and ability to thrive.

Michelle G. sums it all up:  mulch, mulch and more mulch.


welcome to my garden

Great combination planter and welcome sign!

A few of our Home Garden Testers also sent some tried-and-true tips:

Groundcover roses

Kathy’s Flower Carpet Scarlet and Amber after a rain.

Kathy S. from Wisconsin writes:  Don’t be so fussy by trimming your Flower Carpet rose bushes too far back. As they get bigger, they put on a spectacular show, even when they grow into each other and their branches cross over one another – Love love love!

Stop using the little kneeling pads, it’s a pain to keep moving them. Use the square block pads that your kids (or grandkids) play on or the utility ones for your basement. they are big and you can move around on them without moving them. They are cheap and wonderful  and make great for gifts for your fellow gardeners.

Linn S, of our home garden testers from Virginia sent us a nice array of helpful hints:

I save all the labels and planting instructions on plants that I receive or purchase. At the end of the season I like to read them over and compare with what I saw throughout the growing season. I do again this near the beginning of the growing season in the spring. It keeps things fresh in my mind so I can make sure to make my plants as happy as possible in their homes.

I keep a sketched-out diagram of my property and what is planted where. This helps me when I start pouring over magazines to se what might look good with other plants I have. It also helps to remind me of what heights different plants have so that I can utilize that information in my selections.

Groundcover roses

Linn’s Flower Carpet Amber will have a new plant “neighbor” this spring!

One of the things I like to do when traveling is to visit any botanical gardens in the area. I try to find the experts and talk to them about plants I see and might consider for my own garden. These people have a wealth of information and are more than happy to share their knowledge. This summer I visited a botanical garden in South Carolina. They were tearing out an hibiscus that had beautiful flowers on it – not colors I see here in Virginia. They had delayed their removal until the plan started going to seed. Before they destroyed the plants, the gentleman I spoke to gathered 25 seeds and mailed them to me! I’m looking forward to starting t hem next season and putting them in an area  to accent my Flower Carpet roses. I think they’re going to do well and look great together!

Linn also likes to share her garden with her grandchildren. She writes: This summer I taught my 15-month grandson how to gently stroke plant leaves, to smell them and give them a light “hand shake.” Children love to interact with plants if you teach them. At one point my grandson fell into one of  my hostas; he pulled himself up, leaned over, gave the plant a kiss, and then took his little hands and stroked over the top of the hosta ever so gently!


Do you have any garden tips that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear them!







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