I’m a big believer in upfront effort to increase efficiency and ease in the future. Gardening should be rewarding and enjoyable, right? My goal in gardening is make healthy eating more affordable while also finding ways to make gardening require less tedious maintenance. Freeing up my time so that I can spend more time with my family instead of weeding in the garden is very important to me. Spending money accordingly on beneficial products/tools to create a thriving garden with less hassle also makes the gardening experience much more worthwhile. It should be attainable and sustainable without losing your opportunity to be anything but a gardener during those sought after relaxing summer days.
Looking back on my gardening experience, I wish someone would have simplified the plethora of gardening tips out there into a unified step by step list with recommended supplies and reputable sources. The first year I planned my vegetable garden was a bit overwhelming with all the research involved, the questions I had about the information and ideas I found and whether it was going to actually work. Some ideas worked and some didn’t. But I was prepared for the following year after learning from a few mistakes. Nobody’s perfect, but I’m all about perfecting just about anything. There’s no harm in discovering ways to make things easier and better.
When I first started my own vegetable garden, I researched all the tips and tricks to grow a high-yield garden. That included how to keep your plants from being consumed by weeds. The first year, I spent an obscene amount of time weeding because I tried a Pinterest recommendation for spot-treating weeds with a vinegar, salt, dish soap and water solution. By the way, that didn’t work! I don’t think a single weed got a touch ill from the spritz of homemade weed killer. Oh, and I was pregnant, so I will never forget how little it worked as my back spasmed every night from dealing with the never-ending occurrence of sprouting weeds. Needless to say, I iced my back every night during gardening season (I was due in November, so I was fairly uncomfortable in late August). Trust me, you don’t forget those details when your body pays for it.
What did I learn from that experience? To listen to my mom, who originally told me to use Preen and grass clippings as weed prevention. Preen is organic—at that time, someone (I won’t point any fingers) had a notion that Preen was not “organic”—FYI Preen prevents germination of new plants or new weeds, but DOES NOT kill preexisting plants/weeds. After my inexperience and failure to take advice from someone with tried and true methods, while taking advice from someone who’d never gardened, I realized:
- You should always give others the benefit of the doubt that their experience might conquer a Pinterest recommendation.
- You should never be in such a hurry that you become a result of “the blind leading the blind.” Even if you’re in a time-crunch, always do your own research—you’re better off taking a moment to learn more about it than taking someone’s opinion at face value.
I understand those two insights contradict each other, but I guess what I’m trying to get across is to take advice from experienced gardeners, but simultaneously double check that advice with your own research.
On the bright side, learning the hard way through your mistakes keeps you from repeating your failures. Now that I’ve told you my biggest failure in vegetable gardening, I’ll move onto the planting and weed prevention supply list . . .
- Fireplace or fire pit ashes, optional (to till into your soil prior to planting)
- Companion Planting Guide
- Osmocote Flower Vegetable Smart-Release Plant Food
- Crushed Eggshells
- Miracle-Gro® Quick Start® Planting & Transplant Starting Solution + 1-gallon bucket
- Bonnie Biodegradable Pots
- Watering Can
- Garden Trowel
- Ice cream buckets or any type of bucket (In case the forecast predicts a frost, you can cover the plants with the buckets—this allows for early planting in April and, of course, an earlier harvest)
- Cages or trellises for indeterminate plants. Note: Indeterminate tomatoes can grow up to 12 feet and will produce fruit until killed by frost.
- Sturdy/heavy plant markers/labels for plants such as watermelon or pumpkins with vines spreading outward; markers for determinate plants such as bush green beans are also handy in keeping track of everything in your garden. For example, old bricks or large rocks are always great for marking a plant’s territory. Note: Determinate tomatoes grow in a more compact structure and are most productive for a single large harvest.
- Preen Vegetable Garden Organic Weed Preventer
- Newspaper and grass clippings (they create a bed on top of the Preen for weed prevention)
- Optional, but very recommended: Marigold plants in pots (pre-planted or using seeds)—they deter pests, see Companion Planting Guide.
Ready for the step by step planting directions? Grab your garden helpers! Whether it’s your friend, significant other or kiddos, a helping hand is always appreciated when you’re in a hurry to get everything planted before that upcoming rain in the forecast.
Drum roll please . . . Kids can be so resourceful in making toys or instruments out of gardening supplies—boredom is scarce around here. The outdoors are great for creative problem solvers!
Okay, onto the planting picture tutorial . . .
STEP 1: Map out your garden according to the spacing instructions on the label/plant marker on your Bonnie Biodegradable Pots. For example, tomatoes usually need to be spaced about 36 inches apart.
Note: My mom has made her garden hoe multi-purposed; she makes marks on the handle with the exact spacing for different types of plants and will use that as a pre-measured quick reference when mapping out her garden.
DON’T FORGET TO READ THE COMPANION PLANTING GUIDE: Keep in mind that plants will thrive with certain “allies” near by, and vice versa will be inhibited in growth if planted near “enemies.” For instance, pole green beans and beets are enemies (they stunt each other’s growth), while garlic and beets are allies (garlic actually improves the growth and flavor of beets). Plants can be companions, as well; meaning they neither inhibit or improve each other’s growth—they simply get along. Once you’ve decided what you’re interested in planting, take a few notes from a Companion Planting Guide before mapping out and planting your garden.
STEP 2: Using a one-gallon ice cream bucket or any one-gallon container available, and add one-half cap full of the Miracle-Gro® Quick Start® Planting & Transplant Starting Solution and dilute with one gallon of water.
STEP 3: Using a garden trowel or a shovel, dig a hole about two inches deeper than the root ball of the plant. Lay the tomato plant (or whatever plant you’re planting) on its side in the trench to make sure it fits.
Note: A lazy tomato plant lying on its side seems counterintuitive for upward growth, but it will correct the direction of its vine and grow upright. Even if you place the tomato cage over it without it being perfectly centered, you will be able to train the vine to climb the cage. Laying the plant on its side for planting helps develop a strong root system. This strong foundation is especially important in plants like indeterminate tomatoes that produce until a frost.
STEP 4: GENTLY squeeze apart the bottom of the biodegradable pot to loosen the roots slightly—this prevents root bound plants.
STEP 5: Mix in about five good sprinkles of Osmocote Flower Vegetable Smart-Release Plant Food.
Note: You can get more specifics on the exact amount of plant food by checking out Osmocote’s label, but I’ve found that I’m always rushed when planting my garden. A few sprinkles is easier for me to generally measure than pouring the exact amount into the cap each time.
STEP 6: Mix in eggshells (about two eggshells in each hole) with the Osmocote granules.
Note: Why eggshells? They’re stinky but they sure work! They provide plants with calcium that helps build their cell walls, thus, creating a lush leafy plant.
STEP 7: Lay the tomato plant on its side in the trench, and pour about one cup of the diluted combination of water and Miracle-Gro® Quick Start® Planting & Transplant Starting Solution in the gallon bucket onto the plant’s roots in the hole. Then cover the plant (to the top of its root ball) with soil.
Note: Miracle-Gro® Quick Start® Planting & Transplant Starting Solution is not needed when planting seeds. It is only beneficial to prevent shock to roots when transplanting.
STEP 8: Water your plant! Watering is a simple chore, and little hands are always (well, usually) willing to help out—especially, if they’re excited about salsa and marinara!
Note: The biodegradable pot’s directions state to soak the pots in water before planting, however I prefer to soak it after it has been planted in the ground. It makes for a quicker and less messy/muddy process, and I’ve never had any misfortunes doing it in this reverse order.
STEP 9: Gather all the gallon buckets you can find (we save all our ice cream buckets for this very purpose). Cover your plants with buckets and put a heavy object (bricks or rocks) on top of the bucket to keep them from blowing away. The buckets will protect your plants from frost; they are also handy to cover your plants while you sprinkle Preen on the ground and spread grass clippings around them (see STEP 10).
STEP 10: Sprinkle Preen Vegetable Garden Organic Weed Preventer evenly on the ground around your plants.
Note: If you plan to plant any seeds for other plants, DO NOT sprinkle Preen in those areas where you plan to plant seeds. Preen does not allow for germination of new plants; but if germination has already occurred, Preen will not affect them. Preen is meant to prevent the germination of weeds, but does not kill anything already germinated. For example, I always wait to plant green beans, cucumbers, watermelons and squash until early May, so I leave a portion of my garden without any Preen application.
STEP 11: Activate the Preen by watering where you applied the granules on the soil.
STEP 12: Install tall cages around indeterminate tomato plants, or install short cages (using 4-foot instead of 6-ft tree stakes; see cages DIY tutorial on my blog) around determinate tomato plants or peppers, etc.
Note: You can wait a day or so on this step. I usually plant everything one day and then will install the cages the following day or even in the next couple days.
STEP 13: Spread grass clippings over the top of your Preen application to the soil. When it comes to the layer of grass clippings, the thicker the layer the better the results will be in weed prevention. Give the layer of grass clippings a little shower of water to help pack them down and prevent them from blowing away.
Note: The grass clippings create a soft bed over the top of your soil, which allows you to walk in your garden after a rain without disrupting the Preen application and will also grant you a mud-free experience. Furthermore, the clippings keep out sunlight and further prevent the possibility of weeds overtaking your garden.
STEP 14 (Last step—Hooray!): Arrange your marigold pots in each corner of your garden to deter pests.
Note: You could just as easily plant the marigold directly into the soil of your garden’s corners, but I like to plant them in pots and set them in each corner of my vegetable garden; that way, when fall season comes, I can easily move them to the front of my house for a bright orange burst of color. They even sell a white “vanilla” marigold version if you’re looking for a neutral tone.
Note: Depending on what you plan to grow, other plants may serve to protect from a variety of pests. Chives and garlic deter aphids. Oregano also offers general pest protection, but marigold specifically protects squash and cucumbers from pests. See Companion Planting Guide.
I hope this step by step tutorial helps you simplify and clear up any confusion in planting a high-yield garden. Please comment if you have any questions about the supply list or directions. Or if you have any tips you’d like to share, please feel free to leave feedback. I’m always up for new ideas and suggestions.