23 Spring Gardening Tips and Tricks from the Experts

Before You Begin Planting Your Spring Garden

If you’ve been thinking about planting a spring garden, don’t get started until you have read the tips and tricks that we’ve gathered from several experts in the gardening field, as well as other knowledgeable gardening enthusiasts.  Their knowledge, practical advice, and budget-friendly ideas will help you whether you are an expert or a beginning gardener.

You’ll find tips on the importance of preparing your soil before planting and how to create a charming buried pot garden (tip# 11).  You’ll learn how to use Epson salt to promote growth in your garden (tip #6) and how to grow your own fresh herbs (tip #8).  We hope these gardening tip and tricks that we’ve listed below will help you get started off on the right foot.

Before you start digging, make sure you have the necessary garden supplies to begin with. Start with a sun hat with a wide visor, to keep the sun’s ray’s off your face.  Use a long pair of garden gloves to protect your arms and hands from scrapes and thorns.  Don’t forget to protect your knees as well.  A soft, cushioned kneeling pad while working in your garden will keep your knees from sinking into the dirt.  Or, if you’d like a kneeler that can do double duty, we have a knee pad that turns into a comfortable folding seat.

grouped-collage-garden-spring-tools-outdoor

We also have a portable garden/lawn sprinkler that can water a small or large size garden.  You can choose one of five adjustable spray settings that would best suit your needs.

Something else you may want to consider is trying a pair of these cute garden shoes.  They come in three different patterns that are all adorable!  They’re cute enough to wear when running errands and also sturdy enough for gardening.  Check out more gardening accessories, décor and supplies by checking out our website at Collections Etc.

1)  Pre-Sprout Vegetable Seeds for Successful Gardening
“Most people plant seeds according to packet instructions and pray that the seeds will sprout,” says Foodie Gardener, Shirley Bovshow of Hallmark Channel’s “Home & Family”. You can stack the odds in your favor by pre-sprouting seeds that are difficult to germinate such as peas and tomatoes and plant the sprouted seeds. Soak dry hard peas in water over night and in the morning, the pea will sprout a small tail. Place tomato seeds on a damp paper towel, cover, and put into a plastic baggy. Keep the towel moist and place on a warm counter. Tomato seeds should sprout within 24-48 hours and are ready to plant.

Shirley Bovshow
Garden Designer- EdenMakers Blog and Hallmark Channel’s “Home & Family”
http://www.hallmarkchannel.com/home-and-family
FoodieGardener.com

2) Pay Attention to Soil Depth

Tree roots do their “grazing” near the surface of the soil, not down deep. The top two feet of the soil provides over fifty percent of the water and nutrients for good, healthy growth. Deeper roots gather some nutrients and moisture during droughts and help anchor the tree. Tree roots are lazy – they’ll feed where the eatin’ is best and the easiest. If you put a big pile of compost and fertilizer in a planting hole, the roots will simply colonize the hole and happily pig out on the convenient feast. If the goal is to naturalize a tree, don’t serve it a huge “breakfast” and then expect it to find lunch and dinner outside the planting hole all on its own. Save your compost for the vegetables.

Robert Kourik
Author and Publisher, “Understanding Roots”
http://www.robertkourik.com/

3) Top Dress Your Garden Beds with Wood Chip Mulch

Other than educating yourself, the single best tip we can offer other gardeners is this: top-dress your garden beds with about 6″ of wood chip mulch twice per year. Do not till this mulch in to your soil: let your soil microorganisms do the work for you. We usually mulch our garden late winter/early spring and again in the late summer/early fall.

Here are some of the scientifically-proven benefits of mulching:

  • Improved soil moisture
  • Reduced soil erosion and compaction
  • Maintain optimal soil temperatures (up to 50°F in some extreme environments!)
  • Increased soil nutrition
  • Reduced salt and pesticide contamination
  • Increased binding of heavy metals
  • Improved plant establishment and growth by: a) Improving seed germination and seedling survival, b) enhancing root establishment and transplant survival, c) increasing overall plant growth performance;
  • Reduced diseases and pathogens
  • Reduced weeds
  • Reduce watershed pollution
  • Reduced pesticide needs
  • Aesthetic improvement (mulched beds are much more attractive than beds of plowed, exposed soil)
  • Substantial cost savings (less inputs, higher plant survival rates, less plant maintenance, larger crop yields, etc = big financial savings)

Aaron Von Frank
Co-founder and CEO of GrowJourney
https://www.growjourney.com/

4) Utilize the Benefits of Microbial Agents

In the United States, the unsung microbial agent Trichoderma is underutilized. But overseas, Virginia Tech scientists unleash this tiny hero as a parasite to scarf up other fungi before they can attack and destroy crops. Using Trichoderma as a soil amendment increases beneficial microorganisms and can give roots a boost, leading to more bountiful harvests.

Amer Fayad
Associate Director of the Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab
Virginia Tech
http://www.oired.vt.edu/ipmil/

5) Test the Soil for Contamination Prior to Planting

One of the top mistakes people make when they start their spring vegetable garden is not testing the soil prior to planting. What people may not realize is that the soil around their house may be hosting a variety of contaminants, including lead, pesticides, bacteria, and heavy metals.

Another possible source of contamination is tainted compost. If you use public compost, you may be exposed to dangerous levels of lead and other toxins. Here’s why: When municipalities pick up lawn clippings and organic debris for composting, they don’t test first to see if the clippings and debris are free from contamination.

The damaging effects of ingesting these toxins — chromium, lead and other metals, petroleum, solvents, and many pesticide and herbicide formulations – are many. These contaminants can be carcinogenic, cause congenital disorders or other chronic health conditions.

Most importantly, hire a certified environmental inspector to test your soil and water for contaminants. If the test reveals the levels of lead in your soil are just too high, you may want to consider remediation of the contaminated soil. There are several options, including soil removal, raising pH levels and adding organic matter, or mixing in new soil. A certified lead inspector can tell you which may be the best option for your situation.

Robert Weitz
Certified Microbial Investigator and founder of RTK Environmental Group
http://www.rtkenvironmental.com/category/gardening/

6) Employ Epsom Salt to Promote Plant Growth

Epsom salt – actually magnesium sulfate – helps seeds germinate, makes plants grow bushier, produces more flowers, increases chlorophyll production and deters pests, such as slugs and voles.  It also provides vital nutrients to supplement your regular fertilizer.

Plants will show visual cues if they are starved for a particular nutrient.  If a plant’s leaves turn yellow all over the plant, it can be a sign they need more sulfate. If lower leaves turn yellow between the veins (that is the veins stay green), they may need more magnesium. Some nutrient disorders can look alike so growers can contact their county extension agents either before they plant to test a soil sample or, if they notice a problem, they can bring in a plant for diagnosis.

“Plants need those building blocks,” says Mattson. “Magnesium and sulfur are essential nutrients.”

Although magnesium and sulfur occur naturally in soil, they can be depleted by various conditions, including heavy agricultural use. But unlike most commercial fertilizers, which build up in the soil over time, Epsom Salt is not persistent so you can’t overuse it.

Mattson – who adds Epsom salt to his fertilizer for plants such as roses, pansies, petunias and impatiens – says gardeners can proactively mix Epsom salt with fertilizer and add it to their soil monthly or they can mix one tablespoon with a gallon of water and spray leaves directly every two weeks.

Epsom Salt is recommended by Master Gardeners and used regularly by commercial growers around the world.  Tests by the National Gardening Association confirm that roses fertilized with Epsom Salt grow bushier and produce more flowers, and it also makes pepper plants grow larger than those treated only with commercial fertilizer.

Here are some other tips for using Epson salt in the garden:

  • Houseplants:2 tablespoons per gallon of water; feed plants monthly.

  • Roses:1 tablespoon per foot of plant height per plant; apply every two weeks. Also scratch 1/2 cup into soil at base to encourage flowering canes and healthy new basal cane growth. Soak unplanted bushes in 1 cup of Epsom Salt per gallon of water to help roots recover. Add a tablespoon of Epsom Salt to each hole at planting time. Spray with Epsom Salt solution weekly to discourage pests.

  • Shrubs (evergreens, azaleas, rhododendron):1 tablespoon per 9 square feet. Apply over root zone every 2-4 weeks.
  • Lawns:Apply 3 pounds for every 1,250 square feet with a spreader, or dilute in water and apply with a sprayer.
  • Trees: Apply 2 tablespoons per 9 square feet. Apply over the root zone 3 times annually.

  • Garden Startup:Sprinkle 1 cup per 100 square feet. Mix into soil before planting.

Neil Mattson
Cornell University Assistant Professor
https://hort.cals.cornell.edu/people/neil-mattson

7) Plant the White Portion and Roots of Green Onions

Here’s another tip that even my seasoned gardener friends didn’t know: The white portion and roots of store-bought green onions can be planted in soil and will continue to grow and regenerate green, edible shoots. (When you plant them, be sure to leave a little green above ground for photosynthesis.) I was thrilled to learn about this, as I have a bad habit of buying green onions, using one or two, and letting the rest rot in the fridge. This way, I can just snip a few green shoots with scissors whenever a recipe calls for them. They grow quickly, ensuring a long summer of pasta salad…and onion breath!

Amy Bell
Owner of Red Chair Home Interiors
www.redchairhomeinteriors.com
theredchairblog.blogspot.com

8) For Urban Environments, consider Growing Herbs

Most herbs are easy to grow and are budget-friendly. Growing organic vegetables is a lot cheaper than buying them from a market. It can also be a great project the entire family can work on together, while learning the importance of eating healthy.

Here are some of the easiest herbs to grow, in a limited space:

  1. Chives
  2. Oregano
  3. Parsley
  4. Lemongrass
  5. Basil
  6. Aloe Vera (not an herb, but super easy to grow, and very practical)

Tips on Starting Your Own Herb Garden

  • The bigger and deeper the pot, the better.
  • Try to keep each herb separate. Some plants are invasive and do not grow well with others.
  • If you do not have a green thumb, buy “starter” baby plants from nurseries or local stores. Make sure they have never been grown outdoors because you do not want to drastically change the environment of the herbs.
  • Use all-purpose soil to grow your plants. Do not pack the soil too tightly and aerate slightly. You can grind up eggshells and mix them into the soil as a fertilizer.
  • Use breathable pot, such as a Terra Cotta pot. The most important feature is that they must have drainage holes.
  • Turn your plant once a week so each side gets adequate amounts of sunlight.
  • Herbs are meant to be eaten. They will grow back the more you pluck them. If the stems are growing faster than the leaves, give them more sunlight.
  • If the tips of the plants start yellowing, it could mean that they are being overwatered. Stick your finger into the soil, towards the roots. If the soil is still wet, aerate the soil a bit, and make sure the soil is not packed too tightly.
  • Don’t harvest more than 50% of your herb at a time during winter months.
  • When harvesting, avoid tugging at the leaves. This can strain the entire plant and dislodge its roots.
  • If you can’t keep your plants near a window, try investing in an indoor fluorescent grow light or a happy light.
  • Home starter kits are available for those who do not have a green thumb or easily forget to water their plants.

How to Water Herbs

  • Don’t overwater them. Herbs only require water about once a week. Get on a schedule and try to water your plants on the same day of the week, every week.
  • Make sure that the soil is completely dry before watering them again. If the soil stays too moist, the roots can rot and destroy your plant. Never let water stand in the saucer for a long period of time, as this can also lead to rotten roots.
  • Bring the plant to the sink and run the water until the soil is completely wet. Let the water completely drain. Repeat, let it drain, and bring it back to its saucer to catch any remaining water.
  • If the pot is too heavy to carry back and forth, make sure the saucer is large enough to contain all of the draining water.

How to Grow:

  1. Chives
  • Chives are hardy herbs that last throughout the winter and can be used in any dish. They can withstand cooler temperatures (as low as 55 degrees during the day) and love sunlight.
  • Chives are one of the few herbs that like its stems and soil to be moistened. Once a week sprinkle some water on the stems with a spray bottle.
  • Once your chives grow to at least 6 inches tall, you can give your herb a haircut. Harvest it with a scissor to avoid dislodging the roots. Make sure to leave at least 2 inches for the plant to regrow.
  • Store extra chives in the freezer, in ziplock bags. The entire plant is edible, so enjoy!
  1. Oregano
  • They also last well throughout the winter and can withstand cooler temperatures (as low as 55 degrees during the day).
  • Oregano prefers drier soil and lots of sunlight. Make sure the soil is completely dry between watering. Rotate your pot once a week to ensure adequate sunlight for your entire plant.
  • Do not pluck more than 1/2 the plant at a time. Try to avoid straining the stem while trimming its leaves – this could dislodge its roots.
  • Oregano grows faster the more frequently it gets haircuts. Your herb is ready for harvesting when it is at least 6 inches tall.
  1. Parsley
  • Parsley grows all year long and can withstand cooler temperatures. This herb likes moist areas, so the kitchen is a good place to grow them.
  • Rotate the plant and water once a week. You can start harvesting parsley when it is at least 6 inches. Make sure to leave at least 2 inches for regrowth.
  • You can use both the leaves and stems of the plant in your cooking. Make sure to trim the herb often to avoid toughness.
  • If you prefer parsley dried, then cut off the stems and tie them (pictured above). Hang them upside down in a cool, dark, and dry place.
  1. Lemongrass
  • Lemongrass is an easy herb to grow. You can buy some stalks from your local Asian supermarket. Make sure the stalks are long and the stems look healthy.
  • When you get home, place the stalks into a long glass or jar, filled with a few inches of water. The roots will start to grow on the bottom and green stems will grow from the top.
  • After about a week, you can plant the stalks in some soil–a few inches above the roots. After a few months, you should start to see blades of grass growing.
  • Make sure to rotate your plant once a week so that the entire plant receives sunlight.
  • You can harvest once the blades are at least 12 inches. Store extra lemongrass in ziplock bags, in the freezer.
  1. Basil
  • Basil is a little harder to grow during winter months. This herb likes warm and sunny environments.
  • Don’t forget to water and rotate the pot to ensure adequate sunlight for the entire plant. This herb is easiest to grow from a “starter plant” and transporting it to a larger pot.
  • Basil is ready to be harvested when it is at least 6 inches tall. The more you prune the leaves, the happier your herb will be.
  • If you prefer dried basil, cut off the stems and tie them. Hang them upside down in a cool, dark, and dry place.
  1. Aloe Vera
  • Aloe Vera is not an herb but it is so easy to grow and so useful for “first-aid” emergencies. It also purifies the air and can be used to soothe inflammation and burns.
  • Most aloe plants come potted already, so just make sure to upgrade to a larger pot size if they outgrow their starter ones. Aloe plants like sunlight and can easily be grown indoors.
  • Make sure that the soil is completely dry in between waterings – once a week at most. You can water them even less during the winter months.
  • If you need to use the stems, just break off a piece. Let the end of the stem dry up before cutting off another piece.

Rebecca Lee
Creator of RemediesforMe.com
RemediesForMe.com

9) Fertilize Your Garden with Coffee Grounds

 

Fertilize your garden with coffee grounds to prep your soil is a great way to save a little money and be a bit more ‘green’ in the process. The grounds are filled with nitrogen, a mineral that aids in vegetable and plant growth.

Craig Jenkins-Sutton
President of Topiarius
http://www.topiarius.com

10) Use Cooking Water on Your Plants

Watering your plants using left over cooking water is another great way to add a nutrient boost with the vitamins and minerals left behind after you have boiled some pasta, vegetables, or potatoes.

Craig Jenkins-Sutton
President of Topiarius
http://www.topiarius.com

11) Create a Buried Pot Garden

Not only will your garden be extraordinarily charming and tidy, it’ll consume less water and energy. Sunken planter gardens like this one provide both form and function. The pots prevent your herbs or plants from over-running their designated areas, and the mulch keeps unwanted weeds and pests at bay while consuming no water and energy.

Craig Jenkins-Sutton
President of Topiarius
http://www.topiarius.com

12) Try Companion Planting

Planting certain plants together can benefit your whole garden’s ecosystem. For example, growing beans next to corn stalks provides the corn with needed nitrogen in addition to shade cover for the beans. It also increases your garden’s yield by allowing you to grow more crops in a smaller area.

Jake Frazier
Aquaberry Gardens
www.AquaberryGardens.com

13) Grow Potatoes in Barrels To Save Space

“Put some 6 inches of soil and compost in the barrel and then add another 4 inches of sawdust. Chop the potatoes in slices each of which should contain two eyes and let the chopped spuds dry for about 48 hours. After that you can plant them but mind the soil should only cover them, no need to push them to the bottom. Dampen the sawdust and behold – in just few days you will notice sprouts victoriously making their way through the tree shavings. Always makes me cry.

Keep adding soil

Dump another layer of soil each time you see your young stems and foliage grown more than 6 inches. Soak it and always keep the soil damp, but be cautious not to allow overwatering. Proceed doing so until the sprouts reach the top of the bucket/barrel. This “burying” process creates space for more potatoes to form above the parent eye, each time you perform it. Layer after layer and by the time you manage to fill your barrel with soil you will have around three feet of potatoes ready for harvesting. Quite impressive, right? This gets you pounds upon pounds of potatoes to harvest while saving plenty of storage space.”

Gena Lorainne
http://www.allansgardeners.co.uk
Allans Gardeners

14) Grow Tomatoes Upside Down for Better Results

Why should you grow your tomatoes upside down?

  1. There are no “off seasons”– That’s optional depending if you live in a condo or an apartment. But yes, as long as you provide the plants with the right amount of heat and light you can grow them juicy tomatoes throughout the whole year.
  2. No stakes needed– That’s right! Our beloved planet’s gravity will do the trick for you. The vines of the plant grow freely downwards and staking is unnecessary. Good stuff.
  3. Minimize weeding– Putting a lid on should keep weeds away from your plants, but if for some reason you forget to do that weeding would be minimal and nothing in comparison with what you would get in the classic case. This is also a result of point 5.
  4. Lower chance of soil disease– Since bagged soil is used and you’ll change it every year soil diseases and root rot will most likely be out of the picture.
  5. Air circulation– Perhaps one of the best advantages about hanging plants is that they get better air circulation and thus better pollination. Hooray healthy tomatoes!

Gena Lorainne
Allans Gardeners
http://www.allansgardeners.co.uk

15) Wash Thoroughly After Gardening

One of my soap bars is a Garden Bar made with Poppy Seeds to help wash up after all of your gardening. The poppy seeds help to scrub the hands to help remove dirt and grime after your hands have been in the soil.  Scented with a lovely lemongrass essential oil and colored naturally with turmeric powder.

Phallin Marie
Four Sisters Farm Soap Co.
4sistersfarmsoapco.com

16) Protect Yourself from the Sun

Whether you’re growing flowers or planting seeds, spending time in the garden requires a few hours in the sun. Keep your scalp and skin protected from the harmful rays with a UPF 50+ rated hat.

Stephanie Carter and Lenya Shore
https://www.WallarooHats.com

17) Plant Hardier Vegetables in Cooler Climates

For gardeners living in cooler climes, try planting green vegetables, which tend to be hardier and more resistant to cold weather. Broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, peas, and spinach are all resistant to chilly temperatures and great veggies for your garden.

Jason Aramburu
Ecologist, Environmentalist, Soil Scientist
Founder and CEO of Edyn Smart Garden
https://edyn.com/

18) Supplement Soil with Potassium and other nutrients

Manipulating soil nutrition can have a significant impact on taste of fruits and vegetables. For example, potassium is responsible for moving water into plant cells. By supplementing soil potassium, gardeners can produce juicier tomatoes. Adding sulfur and magnesium (in the form of 1-2 tablespoons of Epsom salt per gallon of soil) can also increase the savory/hot flavor in tomatoes and hot peppers.

Jason Aramburu
Ecologist, Environmentalist, Soil Scientist
Founder and CEO of Edyn Smart Garden
https://edyn.com/

19) Create a Time-lapse Video of your Garden Growth

A GoPro or home security camera (NestCam, Piper) makes a great garden camera. Set one up on time-lapse mode to get a cool animation of your garden growing and then share it with your friends on Instagram.

Jason Aramburu
Ecologist, Environmentalist, Soil Scientist
Founder and CEO of Edyn Smart Garden

20) Try a Seedsheet for Quick Planting

The Seedsheet is the ideal garden… in a sheet. It features a weed-blocking fabric that is embedded with an algorithmically-designed arrangement of dissolvable pods, each pod containing a buffer of soil and organic nonGMO seeds. The Seedsheet is unrolled on top of your garden’s soil, and watered, for the perfectly designed garden that’s “planted” in 30-seconds.

Cam MacKugler
Founder & CEO of Seedsheet
https://www.seedsheets.com/

21)    Use “Irish Spring” soap as a Pest Deterrent

Who would have guessed that “Irish Spring” bars of soap would be the cure for unwanted furry friends who visit your sprouting perennials like hostas? Most deterrents sold at garden centers are expensive and smell way less appealing than Irish Spring. Just grate a bar of the soap and sprinkle around your plants.

Dina Gibbons
Home and Garden design expert at Rubberecycle
http://www.rubberecycle.com

22) Add Calcium to Your Soil with Eggshells

The shell of a chicken egg is comprised of about 96% calcium carbonate. Eggshells are a great way to add calcium to your compost and are fantastic for tomatoes or peppers, as these plants are the most easily affected by calcium-deficiency. If you have a problem with slugs or snails in your garden, just sprinkle lightly crushed eggshells around the plants. The sharp edges of the eggshells deter the pests.

Dina Gibbons
Home and Garden design expert at Rubberecycle
http://www.rubberecycle.com

 23) Stop the Weeds with Cornmeal

Sprinkle corn meal gluten on your yard to stop weed seeds from germinating and growing into plants. But because corn gluten meal will keep any seed from germinating, don’t use it in the veggie garden. A pinch of salt at the base of a weed will also kill weeds naturally.

Dina Gibbons
Home and Garden design expert at Rubberecycle
http://www.rubberecycle.com

We hope you were able to take away a couple of tips that will improve your garden and/or gardening technique.  We were very fortunate that we were able to consolidate the variety of tips we have into one post.  We would like to send a big thank you to our panel of experts for sharing their expertise in gardening and planting.

9 thoughts on “23 Spring Gardening Tips and Tricks from the Experts

  1. Thanks for sharing such a nice ideas for growing tomatoes. This tips are very useful for growing some small plants in our apartment. If we have a garden I would like to add here some point about garden security for our plants, we can consider for fencing. Read this blog to know all about fencing, benefits and etc:http://bit.ly/1UkV2Xp

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  2. I agree with what you’ve said about “Another possible source of contamination is tainted compost. If you use public compost, you may be exposed to dangerous levels of lead and other toxins”. We have to make sure about the compost that we are using in order to have a good result.

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  3. Thank you for the help. My wife and I are about to have some landscaping done in our yard. I had not realized how much mulch we should use in the flower beds. In order to maintain nice flower beds and landscaping, what supplies will we need?

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  4. This is an excellent list newbies like myself can have. Spring is almost there and very soon, I have to get ready with my plantings. I especially thought I could grow my own herbs for the kitchen this season and I didn’t know about using cooking water for watering my plants. Some say it is wise to also use clean rainwater for your plantings to avoid the white buildups on your soil over time. Thanks for the tips and ideas!

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