When it comes to gardening, everyone has their own little book of secrets for bringing out the best in their plants. When you are first starting out, you have to build your book of green thumb lore by learning from those who have been growing for a long time. From some of the best growers I know, here are 5 simple nutrient tricks for the casual gardener. Add them to you book and feel confident that they will stand you well in your endeavors, quirky as they may seem.
1. Wriggle Tub
“My grandfather has always had a way with growing things. On the back of his farm he has an old porcelain bathtub that he stocks with large worms and nightcrawlers. I grew up thinking he was farming them to use for fishing bait in the pond, but that was only a perk. He took my grandmother’s kitchen scraps: potato peels, coffee grounds, vegetable chunks, and used tea bags out to stir into the tub. Every so often, when he was planting new gardens, he would go out with a sifter and a couple buckets. He would bring new soil in one bucket, and dump the wormy soil into the other. Then he would separate out the worms and put them back in the wriggle tub with more soil to treat. He grew zucchini that were almost 3 feet long, thanks to worm castings.”
2. Pond Dredging
“My grandfather had a fishing pond on the far end of the farm, and it was his haven for spending quiet time when the weather was nice. It grew heavy with cattails every year, and every year we would have to go pond dredging. We would wade into the muck and scoop our all the rotten plant material and the mud that had accumulated, shallowing the pond.
We drug it all out and laid it in the field where the crops were grown. The nutrients got tilled into the soil and the crops were fantastic! Now I go to the public ponds where I live and bring buckets to go pond dredging, and bring all that nutrient rich muck to dry out at home and mix into my potting soil. The park workers even thank me for being so eco-conscious.”
3. Garden Party
“I had a friend who was always throwing ‘garden parties‘. They would barbecue often, sometimes 2 or 3 nights a week in the summer. Everytime they emptied the ash out of the charcoal grill, it went into a large metal barrel out back. Once a month, they would take the ashes and rake them into the garden soil, and their flowers were always pristine.”
4. Plant Buddy System
“A wise friend told me, plants like to look out for eachother. In his wild english garden, he had a few rather nice pot plants. He didn’t do much to them except crop the tops repeatedly so they grew low and wide, and he wired them down so they looked like ornamental bushes. His secret to keeping them healthy was the other plants in the garden, that both nourished and concealed them.
Chamomile and borage pull minerals from deep in the soil up to where pot can reach them. Clover blankets the ground to prevent weeds from getting in, and helps the soil retain moisture. English heather, lemongrass, chrysanthemums, and citronella grass deter many pests, including cats, and masked the smell of the weed. Dill weed repels spider mites.
He also grew plants that had similar leaf structure, so to the untrained eye, even from just over the fence, they couldn’t distinguish the difference. False Aralia, Japanese Maple, Coral Plant, Cranberry Hibiscus, Rose Mallow, Cassava, Kenaf and a couple others can all look kind of like cannabis, but when they bloom, they put the mind to rest, and the real plants get a free pass in the middle. The effect was a multi-level garden of such beauty and natural flow, you never even noticed his bud, even when in bloom. He warned of one look-alike: Kudzu vine. It takes over!”
5. Wee People
“I had a friend who said his neighbor growing up claimed his garden grew so well because of the ‘Wee People’. He had garden gnomes and my friend thought for the longest time he was referring to them. One early morning, he woke up just before dawn and went out to mow the yard for allowance money, and low and behold, the old man was watering his lawn in his bathrobe and slippers, but he was also peeing into the bushes! It turns out that diluted urine gives a great nitrogen boost to plants, and sterile to boot. He saw my friend, and stood there in the dawn light and my friend told me the only thing he said was ‘I hope your mom is sleeping in.’!”
Do you have any green thumb secrets passed down by veteran gardeners? Hearth lore? Let us know! Share your stories on social media or in the comments below.