Old-timer gardening secrets

How to be more successful with your vegetable garden.

We’ve all met those long-time home vegetable gardeners that seem to grow a bountiful harvest with less stress and strain than the rest of us. So what are the secrets that they hold so closely? Here are some of their short-cuts they were willing to part with. Let’s see what you can use from the “Old-Timer File.”

Handling tiny seeds

When planting tiny seeds like carrots, it is very hard to distribute them evenly. It’s difficult to tell where you dropped them because they are almost invisible. Mix your dry seeds with an equal amount of corn meal. This will allow you to distribute your seeds more evenly and also see where you have placed them. The corn meal shows up very clearly on the soil.

Speed up germination

To speed germination time with larger seeds like peas, beans and cucurbits, hydrate the seeds before planting. Empty the seeds into a shallow container and soak them in room temperature to mildly warm water for several hours. The seeds will absorb water and be able to germinate more quickly as long as the soil is at the correct temperature for seed germination. Be sure to water the planted seeds so the soil is moist around them.

Want to grow a giant pumpkin?

When growing giant pumpkins, it is often difficult to get the seeds to germinate. Use sand paper or an emery board and sand the edges of the seeds to thin the seed coat. When the seeds are soaked in water, it is easier for the water to get past the woody exterior to the inside of the seed.

Stop birds from feeding on seeds

Seed planting is often done under the observation of hungry birds. As soon as the gardener leaves, the birds swoop down and harvest the newly planting goodies. If this is a problem, purchase a roll of aluminum gutter screening at a hardware or home improvement store. Gently shape the strip of screen into an arch. Place over the row of seeds and pin down with thin sticks, big nails or wire bent like bobby pins. The seeds will get light and can germinate without avian interference. Once your seedlings are up, you can remove the screening, flatten and roll it to save for the next bird-blocker event.

Better than wooden stakes

Wooden stakes are often used in gardens to mark rows or support plants. The problem is that after a short life, they rot and break. Replace those wooden losers with stakes that will last a lifetime. Use metal fence posts that are used for temporary electric fencing on farms. The posts are four feet long and are about the diameter of a piece of rebar. They have a triangular piece of metal towards one end that is called an anchor plate that is pushed into the soil and stabilizes the post. You put the posts in by stepping on the top of the anchor plate. These posts usually cost under $1.50 apiece at a farm and garden store.

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