Organic Consumers Association

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Innovative Ways to Create the Perfect Vegetable Garden

Growing your own vegetables and fruits is one of the best ways to ensure ready access to fresh, nutrient-dense and chemical-free food. The pastime is catching on, with 74 percent of U.S. households taking part in lawn and garden activities in 2016 — a 4 percent rise from just a year before.1

The 2015 National Gardening Survey revealed that food gardening and flower gardening top the list of most popular forms of gardening, with 36 percent of U.S. households growing their own food.2 The National Gardening Association’s 2014 special report “Garden to Table” also highlighted the “food revolution” taking place in the U.S. as more Americans recognize and enjoy the benefits of homegrown food3:

“Countless communities, schools and families are growing more of their own food! Today, food gardening is at the highest level in more than a decade. In the past five years alone, spending on food gardening has increased 43 percent; urban gardeners have increased by 29 percent.

And, most encouragingly, young people — the millennials — have become the fastest growing segment of the population to start a food garden. Young people have begun to champion the connection between growing food, eating well and healthy living.”

Ten DIY Gardening Hacks That Really Work

There are many misconceptions surrounding home gardening, including that you need a large space to grow a meaningful amount of food. In reality, Rodale's “The Backyard Homestead” suggests you can grow enough organic food to feed a family of four on only a quarter-acre of land — year-round4. There are certainly many tips and tricks you can use to reap a bountiful harvest even if your garden is confined to containers on a balcony or a small plot of land in a community garden.

The key is jumping in and getting your feet wet (or in this case your hands dirty). It often takes a process of trial-and-error to figure out the best growing methods for your needs, but you can use the gardening hacks that follow, compiled by Rodale’s Organic Life from Instagram’s #GardeningHacks, to get a head start on your green thumb5:

Coffee filters for transplanting: If you know you’ll be transplanting your plant, place a coffee filter into the first pot before you plant it. This will keep the soil together when it’s time to transplant.

Reuse glass bottles for self-watering: Fill empty glass wine or olive oil bottles with water, then place them upside down into terra cotta irrigation spikes that are placed in your containers.

The water will leak through the terra cotta and keep your plant watered for days.

Tiny plastic containers make good seed storage: While I don’t recommend eating Tic Tacs, if you have these or similar-sized plastic or metal containers, they make great storage for partially used seed packets.

Be sure to label each one so you’ll remember what’s inside — and rinse it before adding the seeds.

Grow melons on a trellis using pantyhose: If you’re tight on space, growing melons on a trellis is a perfect solution that also prevents some plant diseases.

Because the melons are heavy, make “slings” out of pantyhose to support the melons as they grow larger (otherwise they’ll break off the vine prematurely).

Herb garden made from milk jugs: If you cut the tops off half-gallon milk jugs, they make excellent planters for herbs (poke a few holes in the bottom for draining).

You can also make slits on the top and hang them from a thin piece of wood to make use of vertical space.

DIY watering can: Poke holes in the cap of a gallon jug, fill it with water and you’ll have a ready-made watering can.

Wine corks for planting seeds: Screw old wine bottle corks to a small board to create a perfect seed spacing tool. Push the board into the dirt to create perfectly sized and spaced holes for planting seeds.

Green tea fertilizer: A green tea bag steeped in 1 quart of water is all you need to create a simple fertilizer that can be applied once every four weeks (let it cool off first). You can also make compost tea.

Make trellises out of old umbrellas. Remove the fabric from your broken umbrella and use its “bones” to create a trellis.

Simply attach string to the arms and then stake them to the ground.

Beer moats keep pests away: Pour a small amount of beer into a cup and place the foot of your plant stand into the bowl.

Caterpillars, snails and other pests will be attracted to the yeast, falling into the moat before reaching your plant.

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