I’ve owned and managed a community garden for going on 4 years.  Mind you, when I first started on a vacant lot near my home I knew nothing about gardening.  Still, I constructed 45 raised bed plots, when the most experience I had was a 12 x 12 garden plot in my backyard.  I depended a lot on tips from friends and people from the community.

If you are starting your first garden or your 10th garden I wanted to share some of the hacks that I’ve picked up over the years to help you get the best out of your garden.  I’ve spent a while accumulating these into once source.  So enjoy.

1. Killing Grass and weeds before you till

I used cardboard that was broken down and laid over every area of the garden.  It really is best to do this in the fall and give winter a chance to breakdown the cardboard.  This is very eco-friendly and quick.  Not much to look at for a while, but I found my neighbors caught on pretty fast as to what I was doing.

The PROBLEM with laying cardboard is that it must be pure cardboard.  You MUST make sure that all of the plastic is removed, that includes tape, labels, etc.  Don’t use the cardboard that has a vinyl overcoat on it as well.

Carissa from Creative Green Living has a great tutorial on the process of using cardboard.

2. Cinnamon powder on seedlings to prevent diseases.

Cinnamon has some anti-fungal qualities, and it smells great as a bonus. Use it to prevent and stop diseases on seedlings. Find out more on it.

3. Boost Magnesium with Epsom Salt

When it comes to your garden, I couldn’t resist sharing this excellent tip from Grow Food Not Lawns that will result in a bigger bounty of fruit.

Add a Teaspoon of Epsom Salt to 4 cups of warm water. Spray it on your plants and then 10 days later. This will give your plants a magnesium boost and works well for roses, peppers and tomatoes.

4. Dry Banana Peels for Fertilizer

Bananas act as a homemade potassium fertilizer for your plants.  There are a couple of different ways you can use bananas.  Here is one example of drying the peel and grinding it for your garden.  Be careful not to add directly to the roots.

Preparedness Mama has a great tutorial to show you the process.

5.  Eggshells

Tomatoes and peppers can suffer from “blossom end rot” – sounds gross!  Here is a handy trick to recycle those egg shells into your garden.  I have been using this method (along with coffee grounds…we’re getting there!) and it’s been wonderful.

The Farm Chick does a great job explaining the NEED for eggshells in your garden and the process to make them ready for your awesome tomatoes this year!

6. Don’t Throw Away your Coffee Grounds

Coffee grounds have many uses in the garden. They enrich the soil with nitrogen, potassium and other minerals, improve soil quality, and plant growth.

They have several uses:

A barrier of coffee grounds around the plants may protect them from slugs and snails.

Use around plants as a repellent for cats to stop digging up your plants.

Add to compost bin for nitrogen.  (I’ll cover composting later)

Use as fertilizer or as mulch around your plants

TIP: If you personally don’t drink coffee, you can get the grounds for free from Starbucks. You could also ask any coffee shop or restaurant for their grounds. They probably would be very happy to give them to you on a regular basis.

7.  Start Seedlings in a Citrus Peel

A lot better chance of survival for your plants comes if you start planting them in a citrus fruit. That’s bonkers!
Just cut the citrus in half, scoop out the middle of it (then eat it – don’t waste good fruit!), then add a handful of soil and seeds and watch the fast growth of your new plant !