We receive lots of emails and phone calls, asking how we do this, where do we get that, etc. Since many of you ask the same questions, we thought it would be a good idea to start a Garden Tips page. Some tips will be ones you know and some will be new. Either way, it’s great information… and we like to share.
Tip #1 – Knee Pads – If you garden for any length of time, you will need some sort of knee protection. I literally crawl between the beds, either picking veggies, pulling weeds or planting seeds. And these little knee pads garden
centers sell just are not enough. Last year Eric thought those child floor mat pads that lock together, puzzle-like, would be much better for our use. So we bought a package that contains 4 pieces. These work great for us. They are much larger, so I can sit or lean on one side, plus I can crawl between the beds.
While I am on one, I can place the next one in front, and continue to move forward, down the isle. Eric and I each use 2, because most often, we are in different areas of the garden. If we happen to be in the same place, we’ll lay out all 4, in a row. That way, we can move up and down the isle without having to reposition often.
You can buy these new in stores, which is what we did, but I bet you can find them in the hospice or thrift stores, or maybe even the gently used children’s stores.
After one year of being constantly in the outside elements, they are holding up super well.
Tip #2 – Tomato Cages – OK, I have to say it, you know those tomato cages you buy at the garden centers, the ones that look like a cone with 3 stakes that go into the ground and are about 2 1/2 feet tall….Really?? I mean, come on. Those work for about 1 week and then what? Most tomatoes are vines and vines like to climb. (We had a tomato plant climb our 8 foot fence last year, and yes, it reached the top.)
What I am saying is, don’t spend your money on these types of cages, you will be unhappy. The tomato will soon grow out of it and probably tip over and then grow on the ground, which takes up valuable space in your garden, especially when you can be growing up, instead of out.
We did a few experiments early on and decided the best method for us is to make our own cages. Yes, it’s more expensive, but you’ll have cages for many years. We used field fencing, which you can purchase by the roll at home improvement or feed stores. Depending how wide you want your cages is determined by how many feet you cut off the roll. We used 6 foot sections. then we rolled that into a circle and attached the ends to itself. (You could also use wire to attach the end pieces to each other to create a circle.)
We plant the tomatoes, then put the cages over them. We make sure to get the bottom part of the cage down into the ground. Sometimes, at the end of the summer, the tomatoes are heavy and we may need to stake some. But last year we tied the cages together with twine so they used each other for stability; no need for stakes.
This picture isn’t the best, I admit, but you get the idea. If you look back in the blog, you can see these in use.
Another tip regarding tomatoes: you know the little plastic identifiers you get when you buy tomatoes? Typically you stick them in the ground so you can identify which tomato is which. But by the time you actually have tomatoes, the plant has grown so large, you can’t find the tag, plus it’s a hassle to crawl on the ground to read it, if you can even find it. (Birds around here like to pull them out of the soil for some reason. I find them in the oddest of places.)
After 4 years of doing the “typical”, I had the bright idea of tying the plastic thingys to the cage with those plastic-wire, produce closure things you get at the grocery store. (Remember, recycle, reuse, reduce.)
I punch a small hole or cut a small slit into the plastic and then tie it onto the cage. I make sure to put them on the higher wires, facing out, so I can see them. Sure, they break off sometimes, hey, nothing’s perfect. I’ve found this to be a time saver and a quick reference guide when I want to know who is who in the garden.
(And yes, that’s a hybrid tomato. We plant some each year. I consider them my insurance in case the heirlooms don’t work. Hey, that’s another tip… aren’t you glad you read this far?) 😉
Tip #3 – Seed Catalogs – We receive many seed catalogs and I love them all. Especially the beautiful pictures and descriptions of what I might be able to grow. I pour over them, spending much time choosing the different variety of veggies I’d love to try and taste. In addition to being beautiful, I consider these catalogs reference materials. I keep one or two in the garden at all times. There’s lots of info, about planting, growing, and harvesting.