DIY Roundup: Garden Hacks
by Lauren Steinhardt on 24 May, 2015
If you’re anything like us, you’ve probably got GARDEN FEVER right about now. Vegetable gardening is a great way to get outside, connect with nature, and remind yourself where food comes from. If, like us, you're into sustainability and DIY, you've probably at least thought about growing your own food. Let these tips and tricks inspire you to get out there and plant some seeds!
It’s just about time to get those summer veggies in the ground. But did you know that, much like people, some veggies get along better than others? For instance, beans and cucumbers get along great. Beans and garlic, not so much. How to know which plants are best fwends, and which ones hate each other’s guts? Well, they’re probably not gonna tell you, but Mother Earth News will. This article in Old Farmer’s Almanac also has some good info, and here’s a guide in handy dandy chart form.
What do corn, beans, and squash have in common? Along with sunflower and nightshades, they’re all native to North America. That’s right, before European colonization of the Americas, the Italians had no polenta and the Thai had no hot peppers! For millennia, corn, beans, and squash have been planted in a beneficial combination known as the Three Sisters. In this traditional planting, the corn stalks act as bean poles for the beans to run up, while the beans fix nitrogen in the soil to fertilize the corn, and the wide leaves of the squash vine shade the roots of the plants, conserving water.
Growing cucumber, squash and melon in the garden is fun and gratifying, but they’re susceptible to diseases like powdery mildew, and the vines can take up a lot of space. You can solve both these problems by training your plants up a trellis, which keeps them away from the moist ground and allows for increased airflow, boosting plant health.
This tutorial shows how to build a lean-to trellis with shaded space for greens underneath. Please note that although the tutorial calls for pressure-treated lumber, we recommend using untreated lumber in the garden. Untreated lumber doesn’t last as long as the pressure-treated stuff, but pressure-treated lumber can sometimes be treated with toxic chemicals. You can also go the simple route and train your squash vines up a tomato cage.
Now that you’ve got your veggies rolling along, time to jazz things up a bit. Veteran gardeners know that marking your plants is important - even if you think you’ll remember what you planted, you probably won’t. Cheap plastic markers are unattractive and can degrade leaving plastic bits in the soil. Sharpie and other markers can wear off, leaving you unable to tell pumpkin from zucchini (use grease pencil to prevent this). Spend enough time in the garden, and you’ll be looking for cute, durable, and reusable plant markers to tell you what’s what.
I love the look of these soda can plant markers, especially because they're made from recycled materials! Note that while aluminum is relatively soft and easy to work with, you will need something to stamp the letters into the metal with. Either a set of metal stamps or a home letterpress will work on soda cans. These fun tags made from juice cans and wire hangers are also a great way to upcycle your trash, and only require a drill and a grease pencil for marking (the tutorial calls for Sharpie, but I don’t recommend that).
If you’re looking for durability, nothing beats rocks! These sweet little guys were made with paint pen and smooth river stones. You can also use acrylic paints for a more colorful design. As the tutorial notes, it’s a good idea to treat your rocks with spray sealant after painting, to preserve them throughout many seasons.
Wood is also a great material to use. Although it’s not as durable as metal or stone, it has advantages in that it’s relatively inexpensive, and it holds paint and permanent marker for easy decoration. I like these craft stick markers. Clothespins are also an easy solution, with the added advantage that they can be placed on trellises and tomato cages. Or you can go rustic with a straight-up twig.
We hope these ideas are inspiring you to get out there in YOUR garden today. It’s a great way to get outside, eat local, and appreciate life at nature’s pace.