Who, better than local gardeners, know the intricacies of successful gardening? They trade tips over the back-yard fence, call in to radio garden hosts to share ideas or simply talk gardening in the tool aisle at the hardware store. It seems that all you have to do is ask and you’ll get a wealth of information about growing flowers and vegetables in the Inland Northwest. So we asked.
Readers responded with tips that ranged from common sense to a couple we pass along with just a bit a reservation since we weren’t able to test all of the ideas.
An ad hoc committee of gardeners here at the newspaper selected a tip submitted by Kellogg gardener Mary Pierce as the most creative. But there were many that, although simple, might make a big difference in how your garden grows.
Here’s the advice of other readers:
For safety and maximum use of garden tools, I paint all my tools with a blaze orange or yellow paint to prevent accidentally stepping or kneeling on a concealed tool. Tools left by shrubbery or bushes can be readily located.
- Jack Raleigh (Spokane)
Build a small wood box or use Tupperware storage tray and place young pumpkin inside. You will need to cut a slot in the container to allow stem and pumpkin to lay flat. Let grow and when mature you will have a pumpkin with a square flat bottom. A good trick-or-treat pumpkin that won’t roll around.
Save the plastic nursery containers that come with the plants. Cut off the bottoms and bury in the ground so that 2 inches of the container are above ground. Then plant your seedling in the container which provides a permanent watering basin. Five-gallon containers work great for tomatoes.
- C. Kensington (Spokane)
I have the problems of very sensitive skin and difficulty finding small, well-fitting garden gloves. This spring I tried wearing latex medical gloves when working in the garden. The small size fits great, they are surprisingly strong, and generally hold up for the entire work session. The gloves don’t cost much and have worked well keeping my hands free of irritation.
- Marilyn Johnson (Spokane)
White, apple cider or red wine vinegar zaps snake grass. Remove soil around the plant to the knobby joint. Pour vinegar on joint - probably 1/3 cup.
- Mrs. Gene Gunning (Spokane)
Use black plastic everywhere you can. Spread a large sheet, cut holes in the plastic where you want the plants to be and leave about four inches of space around the plant to water. The black plastic holds in heat and the moisture and most everything will grow with very few weeds. I have used it about 40 years now and if you take care of the plastic it will last for years.
- Vera Pugh (St. Maries, Idaho)
Instant mulch for the fall garden: Put dry fall leaves in a trash can half-full. With your weed eater, chop the leaves, shaking the can once in awhile.
- Lois Watts (Spokane)
The best piece of advice I was given about gardening came from my grandmother and she believed the best thing you could put on your garden was your shadow. Which meant you were spending lots of time there the best way to spot trouble and keep weeds at bay.
- Virginia Fitzner (Cheney)
To conserve water, lawns should be no bigger than what can be comfortably mowed with a manual push-type reel mower. If you need a $300 power mower, your lawn is too big.
- Wayne Rainer (Spokane)
Plant your tomato plants between large rocks or cement blocks. They hold heat and the tomatoes love it. To plant tomatoes, dig a shallow hole, put in a small amount of epsom salts first, then cover, lay the plants in the shallow hole flat and cover all the stem except about five inches of the top.
The stem will put out roots and you will have strong, healthy plants. The best type of tomatoes I have found are Early Girl and Celebrity Hybrid.
- Erma Coffield (Spokane)
Insert a banana peel into a 2-liter plastic soft drink bottle. Mix 1 cup vinegar and 1 cup sugar and pour into bottle. Add water to within 2 inches of the top and tie a cord around the neck of the bottle leaving it long enough to tie to the lower branch of a fruit tree. Bugs are attracted to the fermenting sugar, vinegar and banana peel more than the fruit on the tree. Once they enter the bottle, they can never get out again.
- Marilyn Weaver (Bayview, Idaho)
I am a firm believer in “putting everything back.” In the fall I grind up all the corn stalks, potato vines, zucchini, etc., with a chopper. Along with fall leaves and some grass clippings I rototill it all into the garden.
- Jim Nelson (Sandpoint)
Give yourself a fighting chance against weeds by following two basic rules: Don’t let them get away from you by weeding while they are small.
Also, prepare your garden by watering two days ahead of weeding so the soil will be soft, making it much easier to pull the weeds.
- R. Boge (Spokane)
Through the years I have learned of several garden tips. The common ones have been growing tomatoes in old tires for heat.
Also, place tires over potato plants and fill the tire with dirt as the potato grows so you get a tall stock and the potato plant produces more potatoes all the way up.
- My Dad soaks his corn and bean seeds overnight before planting so they germinate faster.
- A neighbor, Bob Arnold, relayed the true story of how Mrs. Dunn (now deceased) grew her potatoes.
You dig a trench 1 foot deep in the fall.
Lay a layer of straw (not grass clippings) in the trench, put in your seed potatoes on the top of the straw and over with soil. Let them sleep through the winter and in the spring they will come up and with the extra ground time they become nice large potatoes to harvest in the summer or fall.
- Claudia Childress (Murray, Idaho)
If pocket gophers pull your petunias right into the ground, try putting a piece of window screen bent into a cup shape into the bottom of the planting holes and putting the petunia into that cup before covering with soil.
- Theresa English (Spokane)
When planting tomatoes, place a handful of bone meal into the hole, mix it with the soil and then plant the plant. Make a fairly large saucer around the plant to hold water.
- Francis Peck (Spokane)
Here are some suggestions that have helped me:
The lawn mower is the gardener’s best friend. Be sure the aisles between rows in the garden are spaced so you can run the lawn mower up and down them to control weeds.
Pulling weeds is useless long-term, if there is a vacant lot nearby that reseeds everything. Mow them instead.
Use Round-Up on really nasty stuff like cockleburs and Canadian thistle.
If you are appalled at the number of weeds in your garden, but are time-limited, stomp them into the aisles. Then mow.
- Pam Powell (Spokane)
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: AND THE WINNER IS … Mary Pierce of Kellogg, submitted the most creative gardening tip which might help other gardeners: Instead of using a sheelbarrow when I pull weeds, I use a child’s sledding saucer and pull it alongside me. It’s light, holds lots of grass and weeds and it doesn’t hurt the lawn.
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