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Gardening column: Practical tips to make gardening easier

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Friday, March 10, 2017 03:43 am
I love garden tips — things that make life easier for us and satisfy the old saying “waste not, want not”. For instance, if you bought that box of ice cream cones and only used a few and the rest are setting on the shelf getting stale — those make perfect seed starting containers. Poke a hole the size of a pencil in the bottom for drainage. Set them in an oblong casserole dish or pan, then fill with potting soil, add your seeds, water and cover all of them with plastic wrap and make sure it is snug (that means no air gets in to dry the soil out). Set them on top of the refrigerator which is always warm and the lights in the kitchen are bright — and soon you should see them begin to sprout. If the seed is fresh and viable, this might happen very quickly, so keep an eye on your little greenhouse. As they grow and when they add that second set of leaves, take off the plastic wrap and make sure they get as bright light as possible until it is time for them to go outside (mid-May for annuals). When you are ready to plant them in the garden, pinch off the soggy bottom of the cone and cover them with soil on a cloudy or rainy day, or in the evening. This is a great way to get a head start with many of your tomatoes, peppers, and other warm weather favorites.

Now here are a few more tips — some old and maybe some new to a few of you:

• If you are establishing a raised bed and know you have groundhogs and other varmints around, cover the bottom of the bed with chicken wire before adding the soil. If the raised bed is knee-high or taller, add soil halfway up, then line it with the wire, and then top off with soil. You can also wrap and staple the wire around the outside of the raised bed and bend the top of the wire in toward the soil so they can’t climb over. No guarantees — they are resourceful, but this method has worked for some gardeners.

• This is the time to prune grapevines and shape up non-spring-flowering shrubs and trees while you can still see their skeletons and before they come out of dormancy.

• If you are trying to keep seeds from sprouting such as areas where prairie and native plants have taken over, after you have cleaned off the dead plant debris, you can pour boiling water over the soil which will cook the seed and rid the area of pest eggs at the same time.

• Some of us never get rid of anything and often these things make perfect garden devices. So, if you plan on growing cucumbers this year, for greater yields, plant them vertically.

• Here’s how to do it the easy way. If you have a set of old bedsprings or know where you can get them, and you have a sunny garage wall or privacy fence, you can have the perfect cucumber garden. Prepare the soil for your cucumber hills about 2 or 3 feet away from the fence or wall. Now lean the springs up against the structure. Plant two or three cucumber seeds in each hill according to the width of the springs and do this after all signs of frost have passed. Keep the seeds watered (not in standing water) and soon you will have plants eager to climb into bed.

Jane Ford is an Advanced Master Gardener. Email questions to bloominthing@gmail.com. She also answers gardening questions with horticulture educator Ricky Kemery noon-1 p.m. the second and fourth Thursday of each month on "The Plant Medic," a radio show on 95.7fm. This column is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of The News-Sentinel.



 

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