The folks down south may have put their seedlings in the ground back in April, but up here in Ohio things are just now taking off! In Mississippi, the rule of thumb for transplanting seedlings is to wait until Good Friday. In Ohio, we have to wait until Mothers Day weekend to be safe. Believe it or not, we had snow flurries in mid-May last year! I went back home to the south for Easter weekend and got to get in my parents garden and help plant. This helped ease my gardening itch a bit until my turn came!
I have tested out numerous garden tricks here and there, and have learned many from my parents and grandmother. A lot simply depends on the space you have to work with. For example, I stake my tomato plants in my raised beds, but I just tie my potted ones to the railings on my deck. My dad puts his in wire cages throughout his big garden. All are great methods. Cages can get expensive if you have more than a few plants, unless you are handy enough to make them yourself. I ordered bamboo stakes this year and will be using them for my tomatoes, as well as my cucumbers and lemon squash.
An old trick that I learned growing up is cutting old t-shirts to make ties to secure the plants to the stakes. The soft materiel reduces damage to the plants, and I like to repurpose things where I can. I tie them in slip knots so that I can easily adjust if necessary as the plants grow.
I love using leaves to mulch my garden beds in the fall when prepping for winter, but my sister turned me on to using fresh cut grass in the warmer months. It matts down very nicely and helps retain a ton of moisture in the soil.
Garlic is my go-to garden defense item. Last year while taking my dog out one night, I thought we had a visit from a very short and long cat. I luckily realized that the short long cat was really a skunk! This quickly solved the mystery of the potato bucket scavenger... On the days leading up to the skunk sighting, I woke every morning to find the potato slips I had recently planted strewn in the yard and holes dug into the dirt. Skunks are nocturnal and love to root around for grubs and earthworms. I placed slices of garlic around the inside edges of my potato plant bucket and he never touched it again. I have also made garlic spray for pests to ward off plant munchers of all kinds.
I am still learning every year. Every garden seems to be different and has its own special needs, but learning is a rewarding pastime. Happy Gardening!
"There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments" ~ Janet Kilburn Phillips