Gardening Ideas

I’m Magali, a writer and content editor with a green thumb. From scallions on the windowsill to ten-foot sunflowers, I love to experiment and to learn from things that grow!

Your Garden is Tougher Than You Think!

     I learned this when I knocked down a six-foot-tall sunflower, and the cracked stem still managed to shoot up a perfect, sunny little bloom. When you’re new to gardening and things start going wrong, it’s easy to get discouraged. But if you’re trying something new for the first time this summer and it’s not working out as planned, don’t despair–there’s lots you can do to fix common problems! 

Here are a few simple fixes that friends and family have shared with me, which I use in my own gardens.

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If your plants have pale, drooping leaves… When your plants look less than happy, you can dissolve epsom salts in water and pour the mixture over the roots to give them an extra mineral boost and restore their perk. This article is full of great information on specific measurements and best practices. This is also a good remedy for blossom end rot; check out our last Gardening Ideas post to see other ways to deal with and recover from this condition in your garden.

If bunnies are beating you to the punch… If you can’t build a fence around your lettuce, you can still prevent the local wildlife from feasting on it. Rabbits are easily spooked, so if you leave some empty cans, jugs or other common objects around your greens and move them around whenever you’re in the garden, the rabbits will feel like something is off, and they should stop coming around.

If your transplants are shrivelling up…We solved this issue at Oriole Park Community Garden a few weeks ago. Some of the thyme we’d transplanted to the herb bed was starting to turn brown and die, and when we investigated, we discovered that it was so rootbound it couldn’t establish itself. We dug up the plant, gently loosened its roots, and put it back in the soil with lots of water. As long as you’re careful when handling the root system, this fix can very well do the trick.

If you’re watering lots, but your garden is still too dry…If your soil isn’t very dry and sandy to begin with, the issue may be the way you’re watering. Everyone has their own schedules and commitments, but to be effective, watering has to happen when the sun is not hot enough to evaporate the water before it’s absorbed. Avoid watering at midday, and instead opt for either early in the morning or in the evening, especially in the high summer. Just avoid watering too late in the evening, as this can cause problems of its own. You can check this chart for specifics on gauging how much water different crops need. If you’re sharing a garden, it’s best to coordinate watering to ensure that all members of the garden follow a consistent schedule. This is what we do at OPCG, and it works like a charm.

      Hopefully you found some of these tips useful! Just remember that if your plants aren’t doing exactly what you expected, don’t panic. There are solutions to almost any garden problem you encounter, as long as you catch it in time. So pay attention to the way your plants look, the way they’re growing, and the way your dirt feels: your garden may be trying to tell you something. As long as you listen, you’ll be well on your way to a fruitful harvest. Happy gardening! 


Check the underside of your green tomatoes.

  It’s the best advice I can give based on my own experience. I had twelve beefsteak tomato plants in my first garden, but I watered them infrequently. As the first fruits started coming in, I decided to give fried green tomatoes a try.

     The first one I picked was round and firm on top, but flat and completely black on the bottom. I tossed it in the compost heap.

     The second I picked was the same, and the third, and the fourth. Horrified, I continued picking half-rotten tomatoes off the plants until they were mostly bare. I rushed inside to look up the symptoms online; it was blossom end rot, a kind of calcium deficiency that can affect several common garden fruits. 

     Luckily, this Farmer’s Almanac article gave me some solutions. Many circumstances can cause this condition, but in my case it was underwatering plants that were growing in dry, sandy soil. It was too late for my first crop, but with some course correcting, the next one still stood a chance.

     If you planted your tomatoes in dry soil too, you might water as often as you can and still find that the plants grow slowly and droop. This was also happening to my friend a few weeks ago, and she shared a solution with me. In a few simple steps, you can get ahead of the curve and help your tomatoes grow healthy. 

Step 1: Dig a narrow trench in the soil all the way around the plant, as close as possible without disturbing the roots.

Step 2: Fill the trench with a garden soil that will retain water. You can also mix in some compost or fertilizer; just be sure not to add too much. You can learn more about fertilizing here.

Step 3: When the trench is filled, spread mulch around the base of the plant to help the soil retain moisture.

     My friend’s plants grew dramatically after this fix, and only a week after we applied it they were unrecognizable. The first fruits are starting to grow, and so far, so good! So when you’re in your garden, check the underside of your green tomatoes, and happy gardening!


Getting Back to the Earth: Gardening Without a Yard

Last June, I lived in a house with a large garden that I weeded every day, hovering over my hot pepper seedlings, pinching the suckers off my tomato plants, and watching my sunflowers unfurl. 

This year, it’s a different story. Like many people, I’ve been weathering self-isolation in an apartment building with no access to a yard of my own. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have space in which to garden. In this post, I want to share three ways I’ve found to keep on growing.

Experiment with what you have. No matter how limited your space, you probably have room for a flower pot. You may already keep potted plants around your home, but if you want to do something new, there are countless experiments you can try, from rooting ginger and sweet potato slips to growing herbs, seedlings and even vegetables indoors. From your windowsill to your counter and out to your balcony, there’s no end to what you can create with a bit of soil and some imagination.

Buddy up! Do you have a friend, family member or neighbor with a garden? Don’t be shy to ask if they would like some help–just be sure that you maintain appropriate social distance, and always stay safe. I’ve found that a neighbor on my street has large, sprawling gardens, and she has welcomed help with everything from pulling weeds to deciding what to plant. Don’t know someone with a yard of their own? You could sign up to be a Grower with Sundance Harvest’s Liberating Lawns program. Find out more here.

Community gardens. A bit of research on local websites and directories can help you find community gardens in your area. This is a great way to make friends in your neighborhood and learn from new people and their experiences. Municipalities currently have guidelines in place to ensure that gardeners stay safe, so make sure you keep up to date on any regulations that apply. You’ll emerge a better and wiser gardener! You can find some inspiration on the City of Toronto’s Community Gardens webpage.

Even if you don’t have your own yard, you can enjoy fresh produce and the joy of getting back to the earth. All it takes is a little creativity, research, and some dedication. Happy gardening!


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