Tried and True Gardening Tips

Everyone who gardens, enjoys receiving tips and tricks to make the job of gardening a little bit easier. I offer these tips, all of which I have tried and used in my own garden, with many being part of my everyday regime. My two favourites are the first tip about toads. I do everything possible to encourage toads on my property. My second favourite tip is the last one about vinegar and any one who visits my yard and sees all my vast hardscape installations, marvel at the fact that it is weed free. Once I explain the secret of vinegar to keep weeds from growing in the cracks, they are a convert.

 

  • Toads are a great form of natural pesticide. They love to eat the many insects that can wreak havoc on your plants such as snails, slugs, cutworms and other crawling insects. Toads like cool moist environments so they rest in the shade during the day and then patrol the garden during the night looking for food. Toads are not scavengers so they prefer live insects that they zap with their quick, sticky tongue and during the prime of insect season they can eat up to 3000 bugs per month. To encourage toads to stay in your garden do not use toxic commercial pesticides, as they not only kill bugs but are also very toxic to toads because the pesticides are absorbed through the toad’s skin. Create toad houses by over turning clay pots that you have broken away a piece to create a doorway. The saucers can be placed in the garden in the shade and filled with water for the toads to drink. Unlike frogs, toads do not swim in water they just drink it. On really hot days soak the clay toad house and surrounding soil with cool water to help to keep the toad cool.

  • There are many great garden gadgets on the market today but one of my favourites for carrying around weeding tools is a plastic tray with two compartments and a handle on top. It is very light-weight, the tools fit laying down in both sides and it is great place to deposit the plant tags after planting. These trays are often found in the cleaning supply area of big box stores as they often market these for carrying cleaning supplies around the house. For me it works better for garden supplies, is very lightweight, the tools are very easy to spot in the box and can be grabbed quickly.


  • Another favourite way for gardeners to carry tools around the garden is by using a carpenter’s apron or tool belt. An apron can be inexpensive while a tool belt costs more. When choosing one of these options, look at what is available and gauge what your needs are and how each apron/tool belt style can work for you so you only have to make this investment one time. The right tools can always make a job easier and whether you choose the plastic handled tote, an apron or a tool belt, they should all be able to hold the essential tools for your garden tasks.

  • Once you choose a way to carry your tools around when doing garden tasks, make it a habit of returning the tool to the container as soon as you are done using it. This way a tool doesn’t get lost in the garden. I have to admit a very high-quality pair of pruners went missing last summer in our haste to prepare the gardens for end of season. We do not know if they are under the bark mulch or ended up in a pile of weeds that were removed from the property. All we know is they were not in the container at the end of the day and haven’t been seen since.

  • Some gardeners in an effort to not overlook their tools when left in the garden or on the ground, paint them with a bright colour. There are a few types of paint to choose from like a plastic coating type paint that handles can be dipped in or painted to make them more comfortable, to neon spray paints. Other gardeners add some neon coloured duct tape to handles (or add foam first and wrap in the duct tape) or the flexible self sticking bandage wrap (also known as vet wrap) which is sold in the pharmacy/first aid section, in tack shops (the best place to buy it) or vet clinics. There are other options too just check what is available in your local market area but if you keep losing tools you will want to find something soon.

  • Used coffee grounds are a great source of nutrients for acid loving plants such as ferns, azaleas, rhododendrons, blueberries and hydrangeas. Roses also love the boost coffee grounds provide. Just sprinkle directly on the soil around the base of these types of plants. They can also be placed in with the regular compost too. The coffee grounds are an excellent source of slow release nitrogen which helps promote healthy leaf growth and have an acidic pH range of 3.0-5.0 so they lower the acidity of the soil. Ask at your local coffee shop if they provide their spent grounds to the public as many do so to help reduce their volume of garbage.

  • A great natural form of herbicide is white vinegar. Buy the cheapest you can find and place into a spray bottle. Do not dilute. If you are doing a large area (patio or driveway) use a hand pump pesticide applicator. You will want to do this on a sunny day preferably when the there is no rain forecasted for a few days. Spray the desired weed directly and generously with the vinegar in the morning after the dew has dried. The combination of the acid in the vinegar and the hot sun the rest of the day should fry those weeds up. If some weeds remain a second application may be necessary. When using vinegar as a herbicide, make sure you spray only on the weed as it will kill the good plants too. If you do accidentally get some on a good plant, make sure you douse generously with the hose for at least a minute in order to fully dilute the vinegar. Vinegar is best used as a herbicide when trying to kill weeds in hard to get areas like between lock stone, driveway cracks, patio blocks, etc. You may have to repeat throughout the summer but it is a natural, cheap and easy way to quickly rid the hard to reach areas of weeds. I used this method this summer on my flagstone patio and there was a full two months of absolutely no weeds between the cracks.

I hope you will find these garden tips as helpful to you as they are for me. I like to share tips that I have tried myself and believe in, so that you can use them to become and effective and efficient gardener too. So clip and save these tips so you have them handy all season.