Thinking about dipping your toes into organic gardening and looking for some growing tips? We’ve put together this massive list of 266 different organic gardening tips for beginners.
Even if you’re already an experienced organic gardener, you still might pick up something new with this list. Got a tip of your own? Leave a comment with your favorite organic tip.
1. Mulch your flower beds and trees with 3″ of organic material – it conserves water, adds humus and nutrients, and discourages weeds. It gives your beds a nice, finished appearance.
2. Mulch acid-loving plants with a thick layer of pine needles each fall. As the needles decompose, they will deposit their acid in the soil.
3. The most important step in pest management is to maintain healthy soil. It produces healthy plants, which are better able to withstand disease and insect damage.
4. Aphids? Spray infested stems, leaves, and buds with a very dilute soapy water, then clear water. It works even on the heaviest infestation.
5. Compost improves soil structure, texture, and areation, and increases the soil’s water holding capacity. It also promotes soil fertility and stimulates healthy root development.
6. Look for natural and organic alternatives to chemical fertilizers, such as the use of compost. Our use of inorganic fertilizer is causing a toxic buildup of chemicals in our soil and drinking water.
7. When buying plants for your landscape, select well-adapted plant types for your soil, temperature range, and sun or shade exposure.
8. Landscaping your yard is the only home improvement that can return up to 200% of your original investment.
9. Plant trees! They increase in value as they grow and save energy and money by shading our houses in the summer, and letting the sun shine through for warmth in the winter.
10. Think of trees and their locations as the walls and roofs of our outdoor rooms, when you are planning their locations and sizes.
11. Grass won’t grow? Find an appropriate ground cover for the exposed earth and fill the problem space, creating an interesting bed shape.
12. Plant vines on walls, fences, and overhead structures for quick shade, vertical softening, and colorful flower displays.
13. If gourmet cooking is in your plans, organically grown herbs make wonderful landscape plants. They flavor foods, provide medicinal properties, and offer up fragrances. And most thrive on neglect.
14. Shade gardens are low maintenance – they require less watering, slower growth, and fewer weeds to fight.
15. Everyone loves flowers! Annuals are useful for a splash of one-season color. But since replacing them each year is expensive, concentrate them in just a few spots.
16. There is no need to work the soil deeply when adding compost or soil amendments. Eighty five percent of a plant’s roots are found in the top 6″ of soil.
17. The best organic matter for bed preparation is compost made from anything that was once alive, for example leaves, kitchen waste, and grass clippings.
18. Dig an ugly hole when planting a tree or shrub. A hole with “glazed” sides from a shovel will restrict root penetration into the surrounding soil.
19. Planting from plastic containers? Carefully remove the plant and tear the outside roots if they have grown solidly against the container.
20. Think of mulching as “maintaining the forest floor”: add 1″ to 3″ of compost or mulch to planting beds each year.
21. Natural fertilizers, compost and organic materials encourage native earthworms. Earthworms are nature’s tillers and soil conditioners, and manufacture great fertilizer.
22. Bare soil should not be visible around a new planting. Always cover with a layer of mulch, any coarse-textured, loose organic material.
23. Think “biodiversity”. Using many different kinds of plants encourage many different kinds of beneficial insects to take up residence in your yard.
24. Organic pest control is a comprehensive approach instead of a chemical approach. Create a healthy biodiversity so that the insects and microbes will control themselves. Using natural products and building healthy soil is the best long-term treatment for pests.
25. Weeds? Spot-spray with common full-strength household vinegar, on a sunny day. It’s an organic weed killer that’s safe for you and the environment.
26. Mulch! The rain and irrigation water runs off the land, eroding and depleting your unprotected soil.
27. Residential users of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides apply more pounds per acre of these chemicals then farmers do. As these pollutants run off, they harm aquatic life and contaminate the food chain. If you keep your soil healthy, you won’t require chemical fertilizers.
28. Some mulching benefits are protection of roots from the sun’s heat, and protection of plant crowns from winter cold.
29. To prevent diseases and pest infestation , avoid piling mulch against tree trunks. Spread mulch out as far as the drip line.
30. For effective weed control use a layer of coarse mulch 3″ or more in depth. Some hardy grasses may need to be rooted out for successful removal.
31. For a good start, water the ground thoroughly before and after applying a mulch cover.
32. Use plants in your landscape that are either native to your area, or were imported from areas with similar climate and soil. They require a lot less water and care, and won’t die off in the winter.
33. Compost is what happens when leaves, grass clippings, vegetable and fruit scraps, woodchips, straw, and small twigs are combined, then allowed to break down into a soil-like texture. Use it instead of commercial fertilizers.
34. Formal gardens are for you if you love symmetry. They work best around a focal point like a fountain, sculpture, specimen tree, or group of plants.
35. Some flowers, including sweet peas, iris, foxglove, amaryllis, lantana, lupines, clematis, dature, poinsettia, and oleander, are poisonous.
36. When buying annuals or perennials, select plants that are budded but not yet in bloom, so their energy the first two or three weeks in your garden will be directed toward making larger and stronger plants with better-developed root systems.
37. To increase water conservation, look for drought-resistant plants. Usually these plants have silver leaves, deep taproots and small leaves. Succulents are also able to withstand dry weather.
38. When planting, take into consideration the plant’s size at maturity. Layer by height and bloom time for emphasis and constant color.
39. Soaker hoses deliver water directly to the base of the plant, reducing moisture loss from evaporation. Early morning is the best time of day to water.
40. Compost balances both acid and alkaline soils, bringing PH levels into the optimum range for nutrient availability. It contains micronutrients such as iron and manganese that are often absent in synthetic fertilizers.
41. Avoid frequent, deep cultivation, which can damage plant roots, dry out the soil, disturb healthy soil organisms, and bring weed seeds to the surface where they will germinate.
42. Use the least-disruptive and least-polluting protections against a pest. Try the following methods as applicable: first physical removal, barriers, and traps; next, biological controls; then, appropriate botanical and mineral pesticides.
43. Red, orange, and yellow in your landscape will draw the eye and bring objects closer.To make a small garden feel larger, place warm colors in the front of the space and cool colors in the back.
44. Cover street noise – sound pollution can be minimized by the use of water features, such as a waterfall, or a pond with a fountain jet. Wind chimes also help, as can bird feeders that attract songbirds.
45. Newly planted trees need supplemental water to avoid transplant shock, so water deeply on a weekly basis throughout the growing season.
46. Give order to your garden by defining the boundaries with fences, stone walls, or hedges. Include paths for movement.
47. Less than 2 percent of the insects in the world are harmful. Beneficial insects such as ground beetles, ladybugs, fireflies, green lacewings, praying mantids, spiders, and wasps keep harmful insects from devouring your plants. They also pollinate your plants and decompose organic matter.
48. Plant newly purchased plants during the late evening or on a cloudy day. They have a much better chance of surviving if planted during cloudy, rainy weather than dry, sunny weather.
49. Compost introduces and feeds diverse life in the soil, including bacteria, insects, worms, and more, which support vigorous plant growth.
50. Bright light washes out the cool colors, blue, green, and purple. They are best used in shaded areas for maximum impact.
51. Keep composting simple. You can simply rake your ingredients into a mound and the ingredients will eventually compost. There are no compost bins on the forest floor!
52. A garden should appeal to all five senses. Devote space to a vegetable garden, install a birdbath, mix in strongly scented flowers or foliage, and plant tactile specimens like fountain grass.
53. Don’t spray edible flowers with any form of pesticide: Remember, they are destined to be eaten.
54. Don’t run for a can of pesticide when you could pick off and mash a few harmful insects. A blast of water can strip aphids from your plants. Use pruning shears to remove tent caterpillars.
55. If the new plants were not in a full-sun location when you bought them, place the containers in an area that receives only partial sunlight for a day or two, then gradually expose them to increased amounts of direct sun for several days before planting.
56. A five percent increase in organic material quadruples the soil’s ability to store water. This is a significant amount in hot, dry landscapes.
57. When landscaping yourself, always start with a small area, and add space and plants as time and money allow. Start close to the house where you can enjoy your progress every day.
58. Ivy is one of the easiest, most successful container plants. It can be trained up a topiary, or be left to fall naturally from hanging baskets.
59. Black spot on roses is encouraged by warm, damp weather. You can fend it off by raking and removing any diseased leaves under the plants. Mulch in the spring, water early in the day, keep foliage dry, and space plants for good air flow.
60. Your tomato plants don’t want to be fed – it encourages their weedy nature at the expense of the fruit. Dig a hole, set the plant to the lowest healthy leaves, and water.
61. Use your lawnmower to lay out the shape of a new bed. You can form interesting curves, knowing the turns will be easy to maneuver, and avoid hand-trimming.
62. Choose bird feeders that are easy to fill and clean, as well as ones with bird-friendly features such as perches, an overhang to keep seed dry, and holes for drainage.
63. Borrow existing landscape elements. If there are large trees bordering your property, plant to match, blurring the borders between properties. And take advantage of great views by not blocking them with new plants.
64. Keep a bag or barrel of dry leaves next to your compost pile to cover up kitchen scraps – this will prevent the attention of critters and flies. If they persist, bury the kitchen scraps deeper inside the pile.
65. Weeds aren’t normally welcomed in gardens, but many weeds attract birds and butterflies in abundance because of their seeds, nectar, or the insects they attract!
66. Certain kinds of leaves contain substances that can be harmful to plants, and should not be used for mulching with composting them first. These include: acacia, California bay, camphor, cypress, eucalyptus, madrone, oak, pine, pittosporum, red cedar, and walnut.
67. Good landscaping includes variety and balance: consider color, density, size, and shape, and remember that contrasting colors stand out.
68. Wash edible blossoms thoroughly before eating – first in salt water, then in cold water, to remove dirt and tiny insects.
69. Barriers don’t kill pests, but keep them out. They include floating row covers which are placed over growing plants, netting for keeping birds off fruiting plants and trees, copper slug barriers – slugs cannot cross a 3″ wide sheet of copper, and protective collars, made from a 3″ piece of stiff paper of plastic pressed into the ground around seedlings, preventing cutworms.
70. If planting seeds in clay soil, cover seeds with vermiculite instead of soil because clay absorbs heat and can become too hot for the seeds to germinate. Clay also tends to crust over, making it difficult for the seedlings to emerge.
71. Placing your compost pile in a protected area, or in a container, will keep it from washing away during a rainstorm.
72. Structures such as fences, pergolas, arbors, walls, and paths provide relatively permanent “bones” for our gardens, bridging seasonal changes and contributing visual stability throughout the year.
73. Is birdseed sprouting under your bird feeder? To kill the germ of the seed so it can’t sprout, spread the seed about ?” deep on a cookie sheet and bake it for 8 minutes in a 300 degree oven. Let it cool.
74. Any sort of garden that’s meant to be a living space needs a floor. Consider a few slabs of stone, brick pavers, small gravel, or wooden decking.
75. To bloom nonstop, container plants need both a lot of fertility and water almost, if not every, day. Since watering washes out the nutrients, this presents a problem. Use your own compost as a top-dressing, or use a good organic fertilizer.
76. To deter deer from grazing in your landscape, try placing strongly scented bar soap, or human hair, around your plants. The hair can be “recycled” from a salon or barber shop.
77. The sound of running water from a fountain or pool will attract birds to your yard, to bathe and to drink.
78. When planning your landscaping, chose which you want to show off: expansive green lawns show off the house and make it stand out, large trees and thick vegetation tend to obscure the house.
79. Place several feeders throughout your yard to give both passive and aggressive birds a chance to feed. Position them in areas that offer good viewing from your home.
80. A rule of thumb most composters use is to build a pile that’s no smaller than one cubic yard – 3′ high by 3′ wide by 3′ deep. Piles in this range retain heat while allowing adequate air flow.
81. Provide protection for birds enjoying your birdfeeder from weather and predators by planting dense shrubs and evergreens nearby for natural cover. Ideally, site feeders about 8-10 feet from shrubbery and fences to prevent ambushes from cats.
82. To promote beautiful color in your garden, avoid haphazardly combining colors. Instead, pair hues that harmonize or contrast with eachother. Use a color wheel to find neighbors and opposites.
83. If you can keep an untidy spot in your yard, birds love deadfalls: brush piles formed by branches and twigs, because the tangle of branches prevents cats or hawks from gaining access.
84. Most North American bats feed exclusively on insects, eating more mosquitoes and other insects than birds and bug zappers combined.
85. When sowing small seeds such as poppy seeds, mix them with sand before broadcasting them thinly over the bed, then lightly cover with mulch or rake them in.
86. To make every drop count, don’t water in the middle of the day. Instead water in the early morning or wait until dusk, when the temperature and rate of evaporation have abated.
87. Coreopsis, feverfew, and sweet alyssum planted in your vegetable bed will attract beneficial insects, which in turn feast on pests such as aphids and whiteflies.
88. During the spring, if you don’t have a soaking rain every 10-14 days, begin deep watering your trees and shrubs.
89. For fastest results, turn your compost pile every two weeks. Finished compost should look and smell like dark, rich soil.
90. Where small, lightly covered seeds have been planted, it may be necessary to gently sprinkle the bed with water once or twice each day until the seedlings have emerged. If a seed sprouts, then dries out, it dies.
91. Safe herbal pest repellants include garlic and hot-pepper sprays, which can be made by processing these herbs with water in a blender, straining out the pulp, and diluting heavily with water. Keep handy to spray with a pump sprayer as needed.
92. Another way to make your garden interesting is to create a garden skyline by incorporating raised beds, pedestals, and containers that lift plants, flowers, and small trees up.
93. Grass clippings in the compost pile are a great source of nitrogen, but you should mix them thoroughly with a carbon-rich material such as dried leaves, straw, hay, sawdust, or shredded paper. Grass alone will become devoid of air and will start to smell.
94. Some plants are known as butterfly “feeders”, meaning the butterflies lay their eggs on them and the larvae then eat the plants before maturing. Three of these are the leaves of Queen-Anne’s lace, dill weed, and fennel. Including these in your garden is a sure way of attracting butterflies!
95. If you want your compost bit to remain active during a cold winter, use a black bin situated in the sun, or insulate the sides with hay bales.
96. Locate bird feeders where scattered seed and hulls won’t be a problem. Birds are messy feeders, and you won’t want them on your front porch, or sprouting in important flower beds.
97. For the ultimate harmonious garden, choose a single color and plant in profusion. Your monochromatic garden can be dramatically bright, with vivid red or orange, or soothing, with soft pink, lavender, or white.
98. Protective cover is vital when birds are sleeping or waiting out bad weather. Conifers and other evergreens, as well as dense deciduous plants, shelter roosting birds from predators and weather.
99. Build a place for a bat to call home. Bat houses are more likely to attract bats when they are placed in a sunny spot 12 to 18 feet off the ground. Buy a bat house that is premade or assemble one yourself.
100. Blocking an unpleasant line of sight with a blank wall or fence is confining. Erect a permeable screen instead, perhaps a panel of latticework or a free-standing trellis, and embroider it with a flowering vine or an espaliered shrub.
101. Be sure to wash your hands and fingernails thoroughly after handling bird feeders for cleaning etc., to protect yourself from possible bird-borne disease.
102. A tree planted in the midst of a flower bed adds height and interest to the plantings below it.
103. Most birds spend almost all their time hidden inside the cover of dense vegetation, travelling short distances from one stand of plants to another. Layering vegetation in your yard, from tall trees down to short shrubs provides a good natural habitat for most birds.
104. To take advantage of a bat’s contribution to the environment, make your yard bat-friendly by providing food, water, and shelter. Insects, a bird bath, and a purchased bat house are all that’s needed.
105. Plant morning glories along the base of an unsightly chain link fence, and enjoy a beautiful green and blue barrier through fall.
106. To reduce the risk of powdery mildew in your herb or flower beds, avoid overhead watering, using a soaker hose or drip irrigation instead.
107. Prune roses during the late winter, before they leaf out. A good rule of thumb is to remove ? their height to encourage new growth.
108. Compost organisms require a balance of carbon and nitrogen in the composting materials: high carbon materials are usually brown, eg. dead leaves, dry hay, and wood chips; nitrogen materials are thought of as green, eg. grass clippings, food scraps, and manure.
109. Container plants are often grown in a lightweight synthetic potting soil or peat moss, and will dry out quickly when planted. Check moisture with your finger frequently, and water the root zone.
110. Electric “bug zappers” destroy many more beneficial insects than harmful ones. Use traps that attract only the insects that are causing you problems.
111. Keep your compost free of pesticides by not using grass clippings that contain pesticide residue. You want to be free to use your compost on a vegetable garden with no concern.
112. Plant an assortment of species in your landscape that will provide seeds, berries, nuts, or other food for the birds throughout the year.
113. To start your compost pile with plenty of bacteria for decay, throw in a few shovel-fulls of aged manure or rich topsoil. Add some during the process as well to keep it going.
114. For the best chance at success, sow morning glories in peat pots indoors in mid-April. Scarify, scratch, or soak the seeds to soften before planting. Plant the entire peat pot after the danger of frost is over, protecting the delicate roots. Full sun!
115. Great plants for formal hedges are: Arborvitae, Barberry, Boxwood, Hornbeam, Inkberry, Juniper, Privet, Red Tip Photinia, Sweet Bay, and Yew.
116. Plants native to your region are excellent for birds, because they are familiar and accepted as food sources and shelter and nest sites. Native fruits and berries ripen on a schedule that coincides with natural needs at nesting and migration time, or during winter months.
117. Prepare bare root plants for planting by soaking the roots in water for several hours to remoisten them after their dehydration.
118. Planning a water garden? Avoid the lowest spot in the yard to avoid drainage problems. Keep in mind also, that most water plants require full sun to do their best.
119. If there’s a part of your garden that you want to draw the viewer’s attention to, use height, contrast, or color to draw the eye.
120. Try growing culinary herbs in a big terra cotta container near your kitchen door, in full sun, for the most convenient use.
121. Avoid strict schedules for watering houseplants. The water needed depends on variables such as the type of plant, type of pot, proximity to heat/air vents, and light. The only sure test is to stick your finger into the soil about 2″ deep, and water if the soil feels dry.
122. A compost pile with too much “brown” material will compost slowly; too much “green” material will create odor problems.
123. Curved lines in your landscape give a relaxing feel, making the space feel open and large. Angular lines imply control and structure, which is useful in some environments.
124. On a hot, dry day, newly planted broad leafed plants can lose more moisture through their leaves than their roots can supply. Watch for this sign, and refresh them with a light spray from the hose.
125. A no-fail slug and snail trap is a lid of beer – bury a lid or tuna sized can with the lip of the container level with the soil surface, so the pests fall in and drown.
126. Ashes from a wood-burning stove or fireplace can be added to the compost pile sparingly, because ash is alkaline. It’s most useful when composting acidic materials such as pine needles or oak leaves..
127. Birds are wary of water that is more than 2 or 3″ deep. Add a few stones that emerge from the water for smaller birds, butterflies, and beneficial insects to land on.
128. There are two approaches to combining the raw ingredients for your compost pile: alternating layers of “browns” and “greens”, with the occasional thin layer of manure or topsoil, or throwing all of them in together and stirring up. Either way is fine.
129. Visible boundaries in your landscaping can make the area seem small and confined. Disguise the fences or walls with foliage such as vines, or create softer boundaries using lattices or even chain link fence, both of which can be covered with airy vines.
130. For year-round color in your landscape, use ornamental grasses. They have varied color and texture in the summer, and beautiful plumes in the winter.
131. Need to screen your yard from the street or close neighbors? Work from the outside in, beginning at the perimeter of your yard, with a fence or wall that compliments your home’s style.
132. Let fallen leaves lie instead of raking them away. Let them settle into a bed of mulch that adds to the soil as well as creating insect-rich areas for ground-dwelling birds to forage.
133. When planting a tree, never cramp roots into a small hole and always spread out the roots of bare-root stock instead of wrapping them around the stem. Be sure to cut away plastic, twine, or cable wrapped around balled and burlapped trees before planting. Failure to take these precautions can result in “girdling”, in which a tree strangles, gradually starves, and dies.
134. Vertical gardening is suggested for vining food crops such as squash, melons, or cucumbers. Train the vines up onto a trellis so that the sprawl is directed upward. If possible, face the vines south.
135. Each week, plant a large terra cotta pot with mixed green seeds, and each week you can serve the mature salad greens as the centerpiece when dining outside.
136. Rejuvenate liriope and mondo grass by using your weed-eater or mower to trim back the old foliage at the end of the winter, before the new growth begins.
137. Your compost should stay lightly moist like a wrung-out sponge, all the way through. Wet each layer while constructing the pile, or when adding a new layer. Keep the surface damp during dry spells.
138. Botanical pesticides are derived directly from plants. Some are even more toxic than some synthetics. However, botanicals break down rapidly, and do not accumulate in the food chain as synthetics do.
139. The secret to composting newspaper or computer paper is to shred it first – if you have a paper shredder like the ones used in offices, you have another source of “brown” material for composting.
140. Whether you use a conventional birdbath or a ground-level pool for ground-dwelling birds, be sure it has rough edges so the birds can walk into the water without slipping.
141. In wet climates, you might consider building a little roof or cover to protect your compost pile from the rain, or cover it with a plastic tarp or old rug. You don’t want the pile to become waterlogged, or have the nutrients leach out from excessive water run-off.
142. If a plant receives less than its required number of hours of sun, it will probably be mis-shapen, won’t bloom, and is more likely to die. If it receives more sun than it requires, it will burn, be stressed, and is likely to die.
143. Planning a garden retreat? Include a grouping of wicker furniture, decorative accents, a table, and even a cozy fireplace.
144. Latticework, slatted screens, or loose vines can protect you from view while letting breezes into your outdoor hideaway.
145. Native ferns grow well beneath trees and in shady areas. Their fronds provide good cover for birds that move about on the forest floor.
146. Fresh, green foliage on a spent daffodil is photosynthesizing and contributing food supply to the bulb for next year. Resist the urge to cut it down, but loop or gently braid the leaves until they dry out.
147. A sheltered, south-facing wall typically acts as a solar collector, releasing its heat at night, creating a shallow zone that is warmer than the rest of the garden. This is the perfect place for specimen plants which want a warmer climate zone than you have.
148. Plant a “pesto pot” in a sunny location: include several types of basil, which are available in a surprising array of colors and leaf shapes.
149. A time saver if you’re setting out annuals or other small plants, prepare beds by working in plenty of organic material, spread a layer of mulch on top, then set the transplants at the appropriate depth and spacing through the mulch.
150. When composting materials are broken into small pieces, there is more exposed surface for composting organisms to attack. Twigs and leaves can be run over with a lawn moser, whole branches can be run through a chipper, plants and prunings can be chopped with pruning shears, and food scraps can be cut up in the kitchen, or chopped up in a bucket with a square-point shovel.
151. To create a haven for beneficial insects in your yard, provide water all year, in any size container (avoid stagnant water which attracts mosquitoes), shelter in a variety of plants, flowers, grasses, shrubs and trees, and food , such as pollen and nectar. Once beneficial insects, birds, and animals get to know a particular landscape as a place to find food all year, they will come back.
152. The average household produces more than 200 pounds of kitchen waste every year. You can successfully compost all forms of kitchen waste, with the exception of meat, meat products, dairy products, and high-fat foods.
153. Birds need clean water, so for your convenience try and locate your birdbath within reach of a hose so it is easy to keep filled and clean.
154. Inexpensive compost starters include aged manure, alfalfa meal, cottonseed meal, and blood meal. All are rich in nitrogen, and a sprinkling will jump-start the microbes already in the pile.
155. Ornamental grasses promise color and movement throughout the years. In spring the leaves have unique colors and patterns. As autumn approaches the flowers bloom and become puffy and delicate when they release seeds. In winter, grasses bleach and dry to a golden hue.
156. Awnings and umbrellas can shield your outdoor eating area from the second story windows of neighbors, often uncomfortably close in urban settings.
157. Mosses and mushrooms in your shade garden are signs that your garden is becoming naturally more diverse. Many birds use moss to line their nests.
158. “Native plants” grew here before the arrival of Europeans. They are often better adapted to their site than non -natives, though many “exotic plants”, those imported from other places, have adapted well and are successful.
159. Netting is a quick and easy support to erect, making it especially suitable for short-lived annual vines. It is also inconspicuous and doesn’t compete with the plant for the viewer’s attention.
160. Give tomato plants full sun, rich soil, and a trellis or stake to climb. Plant seedlings in the garden after all danger of frost is past.
161. Support tall flowers, such as delphiniums and foxgloves, as well as heavy-headed ones, before they bend and break in a spring storm.
162. Composting occurs most efficiently when the pile’s temperature rises to between 120 and 160 degrees. Composting can be successful at much lower temperatures, it just takes longer.
163. Dormant and horticultural oils are often recommended for spraying on fruit trees. They are low-toxicity mineral products used to suffocate insects and their eggs on plants, used in the winter when there’s no foliage.
164. It’s best to compost animal manure thoroughly to avoid the odor, and many are “hot”: they burn the plants they come into contact with. They also contain weed seeds and need composting at a high temperature.
165. Providing water for birds in winter in northern climates is easy now that safe, economical birdbath heaters are available. Find them at wild bird centers, hardware stores, and garden centers. Birds need water especially when all their natural puddles and ponds are frozen.
166. You can use coffee grounds as a mulch around acid-loving plants such as blueberries, azaleas, and dogwoods.
167. Low-growing ornamental grasses can cascade over walls, edge low borders, and taller varieties can stand in for a row of shrubs.
168. When chosing a shrub for a hedge: a 4’tall hedge provides privacy for someone seated, and a 7′ tall hedge is required for privacy while standing.
169. Include about half evergreen, half deciduous plants in your yard. Conifers and other evergreens provide yearround cover for the birds, plus food and nest sights. Deciduous plants likely will have flowers and seeds for food.
170. To achieve a great effect in a container, arrange three tall plants (not necessarily the same species) in the center of the pot, and fill in the edges with mounding or trailing plants. Visit your nursery and look for sun-loving or shade-loving combinations.
171. Garden centers offer ready-made trellises of wood, metal, or plastic, or you can customize your own shape from a panel of wood lattice sold at lumberyards and home centers.
172. Zinnias need full sun, good soil with lots of compost added, about an inch of water a week (less often but more deeply). Avoid wetting foliage, as some are prone to powdery mildew. Clip spent blooms often to keep each plant producing flowers, or cut just above the next branch emerging for beautiful cut flowers.
173. If you have controlled hedges, prune like a wedge, keeping the foliage at the bottom slightly wider than at the top. This will maintain foliage at the base of the hedge.
174. Algae, seaweed, and lake weed are good additions to your compost pile. Hose off salt water before adding, however.
175. Diatomaceous earth is a readily available organic contact pesticide – it is a white powder which is actually abrasive material used to damage the skin and joints of insects, and to create slug barriers. As the bugs and slugs climb over it, it damages them.
176. Straw or hay makes an excellent addition of carbon material to your compost pile, especially where few leaves are available. They may contain weed seeds, so the pile must have a high internal temperature to kill the seeds, about 131F. Compost thermometers are available at garden stores.
177. Incorporating the sound and sight of moving water will increase the number of birds to your yard or water feature. A dripping hose, or water dripping from a tiny hole in a bucket over other water will attract birds.
178. Do not add charcoal or coal ashes to your compost pile: they may contain high amounts of sulfur or iron, which can harm plants. Also avoid anything that’s been sprayed with herbicides, fungicides, pesticides, or other chemicals.
179. Tall-growing ornamental grasses such as pampas grass can replace a row of shrubs, creating a living fence for privacy, or screen against a view, or buffer traffic noise.
180. Living hedges will discourage tresspassing, provide privacy, and mark the perimiter of your property, and are softer and less forbidding than walls and fences.
181. Snags (large dead branches), standing dead trees, deadfalls (fallen trees), and stumps are excellent bird attractors, thanks to the insects and larvae that burrow into their wood.
182. Exuberant climbers such as wisteria and trumpet vines require the support of a sturdy arbor or trellis, as they very quickly amass a large weight of branches. They also want a lot of room to travel, so be ready with the clippers.
183. Perfumed flowers are enchanting on warm summer nights. Plant citrus, gardenia, and plumeria in pots on your deck or patio where their fragrance can be enjoyed.
184. As freezing temperatures end in your area, try sowing seeds of cool-weather vegetables, such as carrots, spinach, and turnips. At the same time, you can set out transplants of broccoli, cabbage, collards, and cauliflower.
185. Cat and dog droppings should not be used in your compost – they may contain disease organisms. It is best to bury they 5 inches deep in non-crop soils at least 100 feet from the nearest lake, stream, or well.
186. Some commonly used biological control agents are: Ladybugs to control aphids, small worms, and other soft-bodied insects; Lacewings to control aphids, scales, spider mites, a other insects and eggs; Trichogramma Wasps to control moth and butterfly eggs; Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) to control larvae of moths, butterflies, mosquitos, and other pests.
187. Since compost builds good soil, the first priority for a limited supply is probably an area where the soil quality needs the most attention: the flower bed in front of the house, or the vegetable garden, or a prized tree or shrub.
188. If the prevailing winds in your region come from the northwest, plant rows of evergreens or mixed plantings of evergreens and tall deciduous trees to block the winds.
189. The best time to apply compost to your garden soil is two to four weeks before you plant. This gives the compost time to get integrated and stabalized within the soil.
190. Many ornamental grasses grow abundantly once established – think “bamboo”. To keep them under control, grow them in a contained area where their ability to spread out is limited.
191. A formal hedge is planted in geometric lines and clipped into smooth, regular forms. More relaxed, informal hedges are planted in curvy lines and follow natural features of the land. They can be composed of several different species and plants, that are left to grow in their natural shapes.
192. If you have a small outdoor space, decorate your deck or a balcony with planter boxes of flowers and deciduous and evergreen shrubs. To passing birds this habitat will resemble a ledge on a cliff. A small tree in a tub increases the effect of the mini-oasis. Offer supplemental food to keep the birds returning.
193. For the most success, when choosing plants for your garden, always begin by analyzing the sun, soil, and climate in your garden and then select plants suited to those conditions.
194. Soil pH determines flower color in garden hydrangeas. In acid soils, pink and red garden hydrangeas often turn blue or purple, while in neutral or alkaline soils, blue hydrangeas turn pink.
195. After all danger of frost has passed, rejuvenate house-plants by moving them out to a shady, protected area of the garden. Sink pots into the ground to prevent them from drying out or blowing over. Water as often as needed.
196. Plants benefit most from compost when it is mixed thoroughly with the soil 6-8″ deep. Plants growing in a layer of pure compost have difficulty sending roots down below the compost into the soil.
197. A garden soil that has been well mulched and amended periodically requires only about a 1″ layer of compost yearly to maintain its quality.
198. A yard that has only a few shade trees underplanted with lawn can be made more hospitable for birds by removing the grass under one or more trees, then underplant with a mix of shade-tolerant shrubs and small trees. Add shade-loving perennials, ground covers, wildflowers, and annuals.
199. Finished compost left standing in an exposed pile for weeks will begin to lose its nutrients into the ground through leaching. To keep your compost as nutritious as possible, cover the finished pile with a tarp until you need it.
200. Each spring, ornamental grasses must be cut back to make room for new shoots. They will gradually fill empty space each year with new shoots. If the plants outgrow their space, move them or dig them up and divide them.
201. If a new plant’s label says it needs “sun”, that means direct sunlight for at least 8 hours a day. But if the label says “shade,” that means less than four hours of sunlight a day. “Part sun” means four to six hours of sunlight a day.
202. Get out your compass and find true north. How will you position your house and gardens? Remember that what’s shady in one season may be bright and sunny in another.
203. A formal hedge has a solid, architectural look. It’s an elegant way to set off a yard from the street and separate properties, or to create smaller garden rooms within a property. It can reflect a work of care and time a gardener has put into cultivating it.
204. When it comes time this spring to plant or divide perennials, aim for a day that is cool, overcast, and likely to be followed by rain – it will double your chances of a successful start. Use a perennial planting tool.
205. Bird netting is the most practical way to protect your fruit trees from birds. Put up the nets as soon as flowers start to open. Throw the netting over the top of the tree and fasten it to the trunk to prevent birds from getting trapped beneath it.
206. Vines that mask a chain-link fence need extra irrigation during hot, dry weather; greater exposure to wind makes them vulnerable to dehydration.
207. For big flower clusters of hydrangeas, cut stems back in the winter, reducing the number of stems. For uniformly rounded plants, prune back all canes to growth buds within a few inches of the ground.
208. Seedlings of recently planted annuals should be thinned carefully when they reach about 2″ tall.
209. Mix your compost into potting soil. Compost can be up to 1/3 of a potting soil mix in planters or seed-starting flats.
210. Late fall is the best time to spread compost over the garden bed. Just spread it on top and cover it with a winter mulch, such as chopped leaves. By spring, soil organisms will have worked the compost into the soil for you.
211. Plan to add plants to your yard gradually as your budget and time allow. Buy the largest plants you can afford, and only as many as you can care for at one time: soil preparation, watering, mulching, and weeding are all essential.
212. As a rule of thumb, your finished compost will shrink down to about half the volume of the raw materials you started with. But what is lost in volume is made up in density.
213. A large, imposing tree is called “canopy” tree, and a small, often decorative tree is called an “understory” tree. Most large shrubs can become understory trees if they’re not constantly pruned.
214. Whether it’s a waterfall at the end of a path, a Japanese maple in a mixed border, or a nicely planted pot at your door, create a special place for the eye to rest. Use focal points judiciously – too many will create confusion.
215. If planning a shrub border, variety and color are the strongest points, and it usually follows a linear pattern which can expand and wander.
216. Cold compost: compost made by simply piling up yard and kitchen wastes. It breaks down slowly, often taking up to two years, and the materials seldom heat up much.
217. Grapes, fruits, and even corn can be protected from the birds by enclosing each in paper or cheesecloth bags as soon as the fruit sets. Don’t use plastic bags, heat and moisture build up inside them.
218. Vines grown on free-standing supports are more exposed to frost, wind, and heat, therefore more vulnerable to climatic extremes. Make sure the vines you select for this purpose are extra hardy.
219. In the garden, colors need to work together to create visual harmony: bright primary colors that play off eachother, or subtle pastels that flow together seamlessly, the success of a bed or border depends on how well the colors combine.
220. Geraniums, Shasta daisies, and mums can be rooted in the spring to transplant later in the summer. Take 3″ long duttings from new growth, insert into a tray filled with sterile potting soil, keep moist til rooting occurs, then transplant directly into the garden.
221. Soak finished compost in water to produce a nutrient-rich liquid for foliar feeding (spraying on plants) or for watering gardens, landscapes, or potted plants.
222. Side-dressing around your plants is best done in late spring and early summer so that the rapidly growing plants can derive the maximum benefit from the compost. Start it about an inch away from the stem and spread it out to the drip line, scratching into the soil gently.
223. Planting trees, shrubs, vines, and flowers that appeal to birds is the most important step you can take toward creating a backyard bird haven. Adding a source of fresh, clean water is a second essential step.
224. Gardeners in warm climates may find they need lots of compost because their growing season is long. Crops growing in rainy climates and sandy soils also benefit from additional amounts of compost to replenish the nutrients that are constantly leached away.
225. Most native trees rarely need pruning and feeding, and they fight off insects and diseases with natural defenses developed over the centuries.
226. For pond margins, these plants are among many that like wet feet: Louisiana iris, Horsetail, Rush, Pennywort, Chameleon plant, Juncus effusus, Cardinal flower, Pickerel weed, Water Celery, Thalia, Umbrella plant, Black taro, and Canna. Take care not to let them escape into natural streams and rivers – many have caused big problems.
227. Prune azaleas just after blooming. Doing it any later will damage the bud formation that produces next spring’s flowers.
228. Handle your home-grown vegetaables carefully, especially those that will be stored. Cuts, bruises, or other damage will lead to decay and a short shelf life.
229. Most canopy trees will need little, if any, pruning. Kept to a minimum, prune a tree only if a branch is dead, the branch is hopelessly diseased, or a branch interferes with a walkway or driveway.
230. Repeat your home’s architecture in the garden. Repeat motifs, shapes, colors, patterns, and building materials. Bring architecture to the garden through patios, decks, arbors, gazebos, fences, and more.
231. Planting a shrub: Set the new plant in its hole so the root ball is at, or slightly above, soil level. To eliminate air pockets, firm the soil around the roots as you fill the hole. Water well. Add a 2 to 3″ layer of mulch and water again.
232. Get a lush effect on your outdoor deck by grouping containers made of the same material, such as red clay; place the containers at different levels; use plants of all sizes, heights, and textures.
233. Hang shiny objects that flap in the wind, such as aluminum pie plates or even strips of aluminum foil, to discourage birds from eating the flowers and fruit from your trees and plants.
234. Herbs can create a wonderfully colorful and textural border. Study the plant forms, sizes, and colors to create your own border. Many will winter over and provide the base for a border each year.
235. Don’t try to grow grass under big trees, the trees not only soak up all the sunlight, they also suck moisture and nutrients from the soil. Grow hardy ground covers instead, such as English ivy, liriope, or Asian jasmine.
236. When you dig a hole for flower or vegetable transplants, throw in a handful of compost before positioning the plant. The compost provides nutritional support throughout the season, and it improves the soil structure around the plant.
237. More than 90 species of birds eat dogwood berries, and many others hunt for insects among the branches, and on the bark.
238. As you buy your seeds for your garden, it’s wise to have a map planned for your crops. Otherwise you may end up with too much or too little seed. You may need to have a formal map drawn to scale, depending on the size of your garden.
239. Garden soil isn’t considered suitable for potting outdoor plants in containers, or houseplants. It’s quality is too variable, and may be heavy and drain poorly, or loose and unable to hold water well. It may also contain disease organisms, weed seeds, and insect eggs.
240. For the freshest cut flowers from your garden, cut early in the morning while it’s still cool. Cut each stem at an angle with sharp clippers, and plunge immediately into a container of warm water.
241. Start your purchases at a nursery with a flower you really like. Take the plant with you as you shop and hold it up against the other flowers and plants you like. Make sure they all take the same exposure, water, and soil conditions before buying and planting them together.
242. The best way to achieve constant color in your garden is to keep a list. Every two weeks, write down what’s blooming, or at its peak, in your community. By the end of the year you’ll have a regionally accurate plant list of what to plant for months of bloom and beauty.
243. Choose a mulch to fit your landscape design. Wood chips are often a good choice, but brown lava rocks will complement a tropical garden, white stone works well in formal designs, and chipped bluestone fits a modern design.
244. To plant a new tree, dig the hole about 2 or 3 times as wide as the tree’s root ball, and the same height as the root ball. Then put the tree in the hole and fill around it with the same soil that you dug out. This actually helps a tree grow to maturity more than adding any special soil.
245. After tomatoes are fully ripe, they can be stored in the refrigerator, but for best flavor, let them warm to room temperature before serving.
246. Dividing plants? Divisions are likely to fail if they become dehydrated. Try to divide plants during the coolest part of the day, best is the evening. Replant as soon as possible to minimize moisture loss.
247. Maintain permanent clumps of perpetual vegetables in your garden, such as chives, scallions, and perennial herbs. Even a small garden should always have something to offer.
248. Saving zinnia seed is easy. Just let a blossom dry and brown on the plant, then cut off the flower, and store it in a jar over winter. Next spring, pull apart the bloom, and sow in the garden. Direct-sown zinnias perform much better than transplants.
249. Plant a circle of sunflower seeds around your compost pile. Within a short time there will be a wonderful enclosure of well-fed, happy sunflowers hiding your pile.
250. Geraniums may be your garden’s best friend: they are fairly drought tolerant, don’t need fertilizer, and have no pest problems or diseases.
251. Coleus profit by being pinched off vertically, to encourage horizontal growth, giving you a bushier, fuller plant, and to keep them from flowering.
252. Increase your gardening space and soften the harsh lines of deck railings by attaching planter boxes to the edge: they’ll be easy to reach and to enjoy.
253. Bell peppers and other sweet peppers can be used at any size. For the best flavor, however, let them stay on the plant until they reach their mature size and color. Store in the refrigerator.
254. To speed the decay of a tree stump, drill holes in the stump, deep, big, and close to the edge. Fill the holes with any kind of sugar , such as white, molasses, etc. Buttermilk also works. Wet thoroughly, cover with a 6″ to 12″ layer of mulch.
255. The trunk of a tree needs a dry environment. Position plantings 3′ or 4′ from the trunk of a large shade tree. Try to match the plants and the tree in terms of water requirements. Don’t add more than an inch or two of soil.
256. Even on the hottest, driest days, potted plants and hanging baskets are the only plants that need watering every day.
257. Mark each plant from which you want to save seed while the plant is in full bloom. A piece of ribbon or stretch plastic tied loosely around the stem will identify the plant without injuring it.
258. Garlic, leeks, and shallots are well adapted to growing in a garden or containers. They take up very little space, have shallow root systems and don’t need deep soil preparation, and have few insect or disease problems.
259. When spreading small seeds over a wide area, mix the seeds with sand and put the mixture into a grated-cheese dispenser with a metal lid and large holes. Sprinkle confidently.
260. To propagate strawberries, space the runners out around the plant, and peg them down. When they are rooted and showing signs of growth, sever the runners and replant.
261. Are you rotating your crops? Changing the position of plants in different crop families from year to year can help reduce pest problems.
262. Frequent, shallow waterings lead to plants that develop shallow roots in the top 1 or 2″ of the soil, where they find moisture. When you go away for a week, the surface of the soil dries out quickly and your plants suffer. Practice watering deeply and less often.
263. Succulents are natural choices for outdoor rooms that are primarily hardscape. Their architectural shapes look good against stone, stucco and concrete, and the reflected heat that bounces off these surfaces doesn’t bother them.
264. To help keep roots cool and moist in a container, use plants with trailing foliage to shade the sides of the container.
265. Onion bulbs are ready to harvest when the tops have fallen over. Harvest when the soil is dry, remove any soil, and place in a warm, shady area with good air circulation til the tops have dried. Cut off dried foliage, leaving 1″ of stem, and store in a cool, dry place.
266. Dried seeds you’ve harvested from your flowers can be planted immediately, or they can be placed in airtight, moisture-proof containers in the refrigerator for the next planting season.
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