3 Garden Hacks to Get Your Spring Started

Spring is teasing me, reminding me to step up my stretching routine, trying to trick me into starting seeds too early, maybe even making me feel regret in advance for the garden and landscape projects I think I won’t have time for!  

That last one stings. We all know how daunting it can be to carve out time for gardening. But thanks to some unconventional approaches, gardening can be extremely hands-off. 

To make sure you don’t miss out on planting your much desired garden this year, here’s 3 simple gardening hacks to help you get results without investing a ton of time … 

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Tomatoes and summer squash are two hardy summer-garden favorites that are vigorous enough to withstand the competition of your turf. They won’t be star producers, but that’s not really the point of a home garden. Here’s how: 

  • For maximum ease, plant directly into the grass and throw a cage around them. The easiest way to boost the plant is to apply a soluble fertilizer like this one about three times during the season (don’t just eye it, read the label). 
  • If you can carve out a few minutes, just remove two or three spades worth of soil from an 8” circle in the lawn, and fill it with compost. Then plant directly into that. 
  • Optional step: place a bit of cardboard with a planting hole cut into its center over your compost hole and tack it in place with some twigs or yard staples, then mulch with wood chips, grass clippings or straw. Cage the tomatoes and mow around them.  

With a bit of attention, it’s possible to guide summer squash up a cage. When you get them to grow vertically, they’re easier to pick and mow around. Bush types grow on 3-4’ vine, which can grow vertically with a bit of encouragement.  

P.S. If you’re homeowners association can’t handle your lawn-garden hybrid, tell them to get a life. 

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Ditch the practice of picking worms off of your kale with these two options ...

Use a product like Thuricide. It contains Bacillus thuringiensis bacteria which produces a BT protein that is toxic to moth and butterfly larva. 

Or, just let wolf spiders do the work for you. 

While that may seem strange, stick with me: Wolf spiders are visual hunters and rapacious predators of the green caterpillar that terrorizes kale, cabbage, and those precious Asian greens like bok choy. They spend their nights hunting and doing the hard work off ridding your kale of those pesky caterpillars. 

And the best part is: Instead of weaving webs, Wolf spiders love to take daytime refuge under thick wood chip mulch, especially under shady shrubs where it stays a bit more moist.

Using Harvard-trained Carol Deppe’s “Eat-All Greens” method, you can essentially turn your lawn into a forest of edible greens. 

As the story goes, Deppe once found her concrete driveway covered with about 6” of compost. With no need to move it for a few months (or use the sunny driveway space), rather than clean it up, she decided to sow some Green Wave mustard. In the process, by accident this PhD’er discovered the simplest way to grow greens. 

While we don’t suspect most folks will want to transform their driveway into a garden, we’ve adapted her methodology for your lawn. Here’s how you can do it: 

  • Cover your turf with compost. Or for a more permanent but effortful solution, flip the sod over and then coat with a very thick layer of compost. A medium effort approach is to entomb layers of cardboard or newsprint under the compost layer to battle the grass.
  • Next, choose a cool-hardy upright plant to sow, like Yukina Savoy, Green Wave mustard, Spigariello Liscia (broccoli bred for tender leaves), Usui pea (or just about any garden pea), Shungiku (a tart flavorful Japanese edible chrysanthemum), any of the edible amaranths (good for summer cuttings), and my favorite: Arugula. It takes a lot of seeds, so order online by the ounce rather than hunting for local packets.
  • Quickly sow by scattering the seeds and lightly raking. The plants will then crowd out one another, begin to grow vertically, and in the process, beat out the weeds. 
  • For a simple harvest, grab the tops and cut below with a knife. 

Then eat, laugh, and marvel at how cutting your lawn now means harvesting a salad!