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You Can Grow It: Easy do-it-yourself garden hacks - Part 1

Garden master Jim Duthie shares some popular and inexpensive hacks that will save you time and money.

BOISE, Idaho — Gardening is one of America’s most popular pastimes.  It can be relaxing and rewarding, but it can also be a lot of work and expense.  So why not take advantage of some tips to make things easier?

Garden master Jim Duthie revisits a popular feature when he shared some simple and inexpensive garden hacks that other smart gardeners have come up with, that will save you both time and money.

Now that summer is here, the busiest time for us home gardeners is pretty much behind us.  We can sit back a little and enjoy the fruits of our labors while we watch our gardens grow.  But getting our gardens to this point can sometimes a bit costly for soil, plants, seeds, tools and other things.  So I want to share a few easy garden hacks that are sure to save you some time and money.

Watering cans are great for indoors or on the patio, but why pay five, 10, or even 20 dollars or more for a one, when you can make your own for nothing?

Simply take an empty disposable plastic jug, like from milk or juice, and poke holes in the lid with an ice pick or a hot needle, and fill the jug with water. Small-sized jugs work well for indoor plants, while larger ones are better for outside.  Make as many holes as you want, depending on how much water you want to come out. 

Peony blossoms are beautiful when they start to open up, but I’ve found that the flowers get so full and heavy, that the stems can’t hold them up anymore, and they start to bend over onto the ground.  But I found a simple solution -- I use tomato cages.

It’s best to put the tomato cage over the peony plant when it first starts sending up it’s new shoots in the early spring.  Keep the branches tucked up in the cage, and soon the leaves will cover the cage so it won’t be visible.  The cage holds the stems upright as the big flowers develop.

I get impatient waiting for newly planted seeds to sprout up from the ground.   But I can speed up the process by soaking the seeds in water. 

That softens the hard seed covering, and allows them to germinate faster.  It works well for large seeds like peas and beans, and even for some smaller seeds, like these beets.  Simply let them soak overnight in warm water, then plant them as you normally would the next day.   These sweet peas normally take 5-7 days to germinate, but after soaking overnight, they sprouted in just two days. 

Speaking of sweet peas, one problem that I sometimes have in my garden, is that birds, like quail and mourning doves, like to nibble on the leaves of the tender young plants.   And occasionally,  animals like squirrels, neighborhood cats, and even my dog, are tempted to walk through the garden and trample them.  You can use bird netting, like I have here with this newly sprouted lettuce and radishes, but a cheaper way is to stick several plastic forks around the plants with the tines pointed up.  That keeps the birds and animals from snacking on or stepping on the young plants.

You can also use those plastic utensils as plant labels.  Take a permanent marker and write the name of the plant on the fork or knife, and stick it in the ground at the head of the row, or even right next to the plant.  Store-bought plant labels are great, but they’ll cost you several dollars for a package of only 25 labels.

Finally, here’s a way to save money on potting soil, especially with big, deep containers like this one.  The flowering plants that are going in this pot aren’t very deep rooted, so they don’t need soil as deep as the pot.  

Instead, simply fill the bottom of the pot with some light material, like aluminum cans, plastic water bottles, or even discarded plastic plant starting pots.  Then fill up the rest of the container with the potting mix.  You’ll use less soil, and the materials in the bottom of the pot will help improve water drainage and air circulation.  And since they’re lightweight and you’re using less soil, the container won’t be as heavy when you want to move it.

These are just a few simple do-it-yourself ideas for making gardening easier and cheaper.  And if you have some good ideas to save time and money, I’d like to hear about them and share them with our fellow gardeners.  

And we would love to see your gardening pictures as well.  The easiest way is to join the ‘You Can Grow It’ Facebook group.  Text the word ‘grow’ to 208-321-5614 and we’ll send you a link to make it easy to join 4,000 other Idaho gardeners and sharing your love of gardening.

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