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Garden Hacks That Work – Easy Tips & Tricks

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If you’re interested in or passionate about growing your own food, this post is for you! Garden hacks that work are vital to a successful garden season. Whether you’re a novice gardener or planning to start your own homestead, you’ve come to the right place.

In this post, we’re excited to share some easy, economical, and sustainable garden hacks that have proven to be highly effective. These tips and tricks not only help save money but also promote a healthier, more eco-friendly way to approach gardening. So grab your gardening gloves and let’s dive into some practical, eco-friendly sustainable gardening hacks that will have your garden thriving in no time!

Garden Hacks that Work #1: Be Practical

Think outside the box to find clever ways of transforming your outdoor space into a productive garden! One of the first things I did when we made the decision to start a homesteading was to spend time outside in my yard.  As I got to know the layout of my land a bit better, I debated between a few spots as I considered the perfect location.  

Having your garden in close proximity to your house makes it easy to care for.

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Location Matters

If this is your first garden, consider your location carefully. For me, out of sight often means out of mind.  If I don’t have an easy view of the garden from my house, I’m not as likely to think about it or remember to check on it.  Without regularly checking on your garden, you’re likely to have a lot more food waste. 

An important consideration for our garden was close proximity to the house.  Given our past experience having a garden further away from the house, I knew that I wanted my homestead garden to be different. It was important to me for the vegetable and herb garden to feel like an extension of the house.  We opted to set up our garden right outside of our screened in porch.  The ease of walking through my screened in porch and directly into my garden helps it feel incredibly convenient.  It’s easy to go out to the garden to grab an extra tomato or pepper in the middle of dinner prep.   

How Close is Your Water Source?

Gardens need a lot of water.  Having a garden right off the back of the house means it’s very easy to water the garden.  We have a spigot inside the fenced in area of our garden.  This meant that instead of buying multiple hoses just to get water out to our garden, we had more money available for things like a wider variety of seeds, a garden irrigation system, and flowering plants. Small details like this can go a long way in making the most of your garden.

Whether you have a small garden idea in mind, or have dreams of establishing a large homestead garden, practicality is key.  Get to know the space available for your garden and think through the logistics like ease of access, fencing, and watering.  

Light Matters

Pay attention to the light – how much sun or shade does your space get?  Select plants that are suitable to the light conditions in your space.  The light in your yard may not always be suitable for all the plants you hoped to grow.  That’s ok!  You can always use your local farmers market to affordably source crops that may not grow well in your yard.

Garden Hack That Works #2: Ask Around

Whether you’re working with a tight budget, have a passion for reducing waste, or just love the prospect of helping others reduce garage clutter, don’t hesitate to ask if anyone you know has gardening supplies they don’t want or need.    

A Word About Fencing 

Fencing is one of the most important parts of successful gardening.  It can also be the most expensive part of gardening.  Depending on your area, keeping wildlife from enjoying your very edible garden may be one of the biggest challenges in having a successful garden. 

We live on a few acres in a tucked away bit of country right along the city-county line.  Local wildlife is abundant on our property.  While I love doing what I can to support the local ecosystem, letting the deer use my garden as an all you can eat buffet was not an option.  

Deer Are Beautiful – But Will Destroy Your Garden

We knew keeping the deer out of the garden bed would be an uphill battle, but we simply didn’t have much money to invest in fencing.  So, we decided to look around to see what we already had.  We found a limited amount of fence posts and some old fencing from a previous garden.  It was a start, but we needed a lot more in order to effectively keep pests out.  So, we asked around and were given quite a bit of extra fencing that people didn’t need.  It wasn’t a pretty fence by any means.  But, with a few exceptions, it more or less did the job.

Deer can jump shockingly high, which means if you have deer in your area, you need a very tall fence in order to keep them out. Ideally, you need a fence at least 8ft tall to keep the deer out. Yarn strung between garden fence posts is a great way to raise the visual height of your fence and can be a deterrent for ambitious deer that might consider trying to jump over. 100% cotton yarn is an amazing thing for garden use.  It’s inexpensive and biodegradable and won’t have a negative environmental impact.   Cotton yarn can be used not just to raise the height of garden fencing, but can also be used for securing plants to stakes.  

Smaller Pests

Groundhogs are probably the second most destructive garden pest in our area. Another cheap garden idea is to use cinder blocks around the base of your fence and yarn around the top of your fence.  Cinder blocks are very inexpensive and do an excellent job reinforcing the lower edge of your garden fence.  Having a cinder block barrier around the base of your garden will help deter ground hogs or other smaller pests from squeezing under your fence.  

Garden Hacks that work #3: Start From Seed

Starting your garden plants by seed*** is another excellent way to reduce gardening costs.    You can purchase a wide variety of non-GMO, heirloom, or organic seeds for a fraction of the cost of purchasing pre-started plants.  Buying heirloom seeds means that you can save seeds from this year’s crops to use for starting next year’s garden.  This means that a single investment in heirloom seeds has the potential to reduce garden expenses for years!

For some crops like sweet potatoes, you can use organic produce purchased directly from your local supermarket as seeds!  

***When starting your garden from seed, it’s important to know your local climate and to identify your planting zone.  Many of your seedlings need to be started indoors.  Many warm-weather crops need to be started indoors 6-8 weeks prior to the last frost date in your zone.  However, some crops do best when sewn directly into the garden.  

Growing Your Food From Seed Gives You More Control

gardening hacks that work - starting your seeds in recycled cardboard boxes and toilet paper rolls

Growing your own food from seed means you have more control over environmental exposures that may be detrimental to produce quality and in turn, human health. When you walk into the garden department at your local hardware store, you’re likely to find piles of plastic seedling pots or seedling starting kits.  These plastic seed trays are an unnecessary expense and will eventually contribute to microplastic pollution. 

Garden Hacks that Work #4: Use What You Already Have

Using what you already have is one of the most resourceful ways to save time, energy, and money when first starting your seedlings.  This, paired with Tip #3, is probably my favorite economical garden hack. We’ve chosen to use organic materials like cardboard boxes, old newspapers, paper egg cartons, and toilet paper rolls in place of seed trays. 

The negative impact of microplastics on both the environment and human health is rather alarming. So, our family has chosen to use plastic-free, biodegradable alternatives wherever reasonably possible, especially when growing our food. This is why I absolutely love cardboard for gardening. Because it’s biodegradable, we’ve used flattened large cardboard boxes as weed barriers in the garden.

gardening hacks that work - using cardboard as an alternative to plastic seed trays

Plastic-Free Options

Like many, we almost always have empty Amazon boxes lying around. These are great for housing new seedlings.  I usually cut toilet paper rolls in half and fill a cardboard box with them.  Alternately, you could use eggshells in place of the toilet paper rolls.  Then, fill the eggshells or toilet paper rolls with dirt, and plant your seeds. Once your seeds have been established, transplant each pod – cardboard roll and all! – into a larger pot or directly in the ground.

Recycling cardboard boxes and toilet paper rolls is a great garden hack that works.

These readily available, eco-friendly solutions not only reduce plastic use, but are often items you already have on hand.  Using what you already have on hand not only saves money but reduces unnecessary garden waste.  

Recycle the Plastic You Already Have

If reducing plastic use isn’t a priority for your garden, that’s ok! It’s easy upcycle plastic you already have on hand for garden use.   Empty yogurt cups can work well for housing young seedlings during their short indoor garden season. Be sure to poke small holes in the bottom first. This helps prevent over watering.  Plastic pots or even a muffin tin can be good alternatives to purchasing seed starting trays.   

Be Sure to Label Your Seed Trays!

Using cardboard is one of my favorite garden hacks that work.  Cardboard is biodegradable and doesn't have to be removed prior to planting your seedlings.

It can be tempting to think you’ll remember what seeds you planted in what box. Chances are high you won’t. Ask me how I know… You can get inexpensive plant labels online. This year, I invested in some nice bamboo plant labels. You could also use these craft sticks as plant labels.

Garden Hacks that Work #5: Compost

Starting your own compost is probably one of the easiest gardening hacks. Compost is a great way to give organic matter back to your garden soil and to improve your soil structure.  Coffee grounds, grass clippings, or veggie skins are all great natural resources for compost. 

Don’t Toss Your Banana Peels

Banana peels are a great source of potassium.  Depending on the nature of the soil in your area and the nutrient needs of your garden’s plants, they may benefit from a potassium boost. Tomatoes plants often do best in potassium rich soil.  

Another of my favorite garden hacks that work is to make what I think of as “potassium water” for my plants. To do this, soak banana peels in a quart or half gallon mason jar filled with water.  I stuff as many peels as I can fit into a jar and then top it off with water. Then I cover and let it sit for a few days.  

Once your potassium water has had a few days to infuse, strain the water and feed to your most needy looking plants.  I usually place the potassium water in a watering can and then top off the watering can before using on my plants.  You can freeze your banana peels until you’re ready to use them.  Compost your banana peels when you’re done. 

Tools you may need

Grow Lights

Seedling Heat Mat

5 easy, economical, & Sustainable Gardening Hacks that work

Starting your plants from seed is one of my favorite garden hacks that work.

To recap: These 5 easy gardening hacks really do work.

Tip #1: Be Practical

Tip #2: Ask Around

Tip #3: Start From Seed

Tip #4: Use What You Already Have

Tip #5: Compost

They’re easy, economical, and sustainable. So why not give them a shot? If you try these, or have other ideas, let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear what you think or to know what hacks you use and love!

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