Thursday, April 13, 2006

Natural Gardening Tips for Spring

1. Coffee grounds have several uses in the garden, not only do they work as good fertilizer, they are a great pest
2. Don’t throw out those nylons! Cut _ “ strips from the legs and use them to ties back you plants. They work quite well on heavily staked plants, as they are stretchy.
3. To help you visualize what a section of a perennial border will look like, take paint stir sticks and pains the end the color of the flower, Plunge the stick into the ground where the flower will grown. Stand back and see if the color will work.
4.Transplants become less stressed when they are set out on a cloudy day.
5. Disassemble old mini blinds and cut the slats to the desired size. Write in permanent marker pen the names of herbs, flowers and vegetable for easy identification.
6. Save those metal frozen juice can lids, punch a hole through and hang from fruit trees or veggie stakes to deter birds.
7. Add banana peels for fertilizer to your roses
8. Placing mothballs in the garden will keep rabbits and unwanted critters away.
9. Sugar water might be more effective bait for slugs than beer.
10. Pinch back petunia’s new growth to encourage bushiness rather than leggy plants.


Deborah said...

Thanks for the tips!

As an avid organic gardener for about 40 years, I am always looking for "new" (or should I say "old") ways to help my plants be happier and healthier.

Plants are much like humans in that if they are healthy, their own natural defenses will help them resist pests and disease. So, just like with humans, preventive measures are the best medicine. Plant organic seeds (available at or oraganic seedlings/plants, use organic soil, compost, do companion planting, and never use chemical fertilizer, pesticides, or herbicides.

For insect predators, some of the best defenses I have found are:
a mixture of 1/2 castile soap and 1/2 water in a spray bottle - spray affected plants (make sure to get under the leaves as well); let sit for about 10 minutes and then wash off with a strong spray from garden hose
ladybugs (my 5-year old daughter's favorite) - every July we head to our local garden center for ladybugs and set them free in the garden; they do a great job of devouring the pests that are devouring our herbs
companion planting - basically involves mixing your garden up a bit (for example, planting your garlic chives amongst your roses). Two of my favorite companion plants have become Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima) and Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus). I originally planted Sweet Alysum because I love the scent (and it is a pretty hardy groundcover considering I have three kids), so I was delighted when I found out that it does attract beneficial insects which prey on the ones that would like to eat my herbs and veggies. Nasturtium is one of my (and my kids') favorite edible flowers, however, at some point every summer, it is covered with black insects; this used to be to my dismay, until I realized that they were going for the Nasturtium and not the other plants. Nasturtium can be rather invasive (harder to get rid of than it is to grow), so we just pull out the affected plants with the insects on trash day, put them in plastic trash bags and send them to the dump. About a week later we find new Nasturtiums growing where we pulled the old ones out. If you have vine-veggies (eg., cucumbers) and the bugs are getting to eat them before you can, plant Nasturtiums around them.

Tip #4 is a good one, however, here in Southern California we don't have too many cloudy days; I have found that transplanting in early morning or late afternoon seems to work best. And if the transplant seems to be struggling, you can give it some of the Bach flower remedy "Crab Apple" - a few drops around the roots daily until you see new growth.

Regarding mothballs in the garden, they are a great rabbit repellant. However, they do contain toxic chemicals which can leach into the soil and be absorbed by the plants. Fences and dogs are the best organic rabbit repellants I've found.

I'm looking forward to trying the sugar water tip for snails/slugs. I have tried beer in a pan, put it out in the evening, and early the next morning was excited to find slugs in the pan! Went inside, made breakfast, came back out to dispose of them, and they were gone! I guess they thought it was Happy Hour, came, got drunk, and left! I have also tried cayenne pepper, but my snails and slugs must have some Latin blood as well. So far the only thing that deters them is a border of eggshells (cage-free:)); they really don't want to crawl across them.

One last suggestion: Native plants. Plants that grow naturally in your area (or areas similar to yours) are generaly going to do better than non-native species. Here in Southern California, the Mediterranean garden is ever-popular, but requires a lot of water. Drought tolerant plants, such as Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) and Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) do extremely well, and have so many wonderful uses. If you live in So. California, you can get ideas on native and drought tolerant plants at Otherwise, you can "google" for native plants for your area, or visit local nurseries and/or botanical gardens for suggestions.
Hybrid plants, while generally beautiful, are very high maintenance. They require more water, and often require pesticides. Hybrids are genetically identical, so if a particular bug likes the taste of one of your plants, he (and his whole family) will like them all! Natural species have genetic variations; the bug may like the first one, but the one next to it won't taste the same, so he and his family will leave it alone. Manmade hybrids are not considered organic, but rather are Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO).

Using organic growing methods has produced a prolific and healthy garden for me; my most lethal pest continues to be the soccer balls that are being kicked into the garden!

I'm looking forward to seeing the photos from the ACHS organic garden photo contest! And to hearing more "tried and true" tips for successful organic gardening.

treehugger said...

I have been an avid organic container gardener for 10 years now, thank you for this valuable information.

I have finally made space in the small yard I have for a real (well small 8x10) garden! I had to move 2 trees and a ton of rocks to do it though. I must say it brings a new meaning to spring for me this year, actually having a plot to work with. I am so exctied to use some of the new ideas you have shared with me.

It all adds up to pure enjoyment in the end.

Hollywood said...

I like the idea of using mini blind slats as markers in the garden. I've got some blinds that need a "haircut". Now I have a use for the remnants.

Try using human hair as a deterrent to deer, rabbits, squirrels. Ask your barber or stylist for floor sweepings on your next visit. Those pesty visitors do not like the scent of human hair.

Robyn said...

We have THOUSANDS of rabbits and use (or rather used to use) marigolds (not the good calendula officinalis, rabbits seem to like them as much as we do) for companion planting and it works well.

The best way to combat those slugs is to take an old container and cut it so that it is about 6in deep dig a hole in the ground so that the container just fits (so that the container top is level with the ground, then pour in your beer, or sugar water. They can get in but they cannot get out! Just be sure to clean it out occasionally!

You can add some Rescue Remedy by Bach for transplants to help ease their transition.