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Kitchen Gardening

5 Easy Vegetable Garden Hacks

Vegetable gardeners are known for their clever work arounds to take some of the work out of growing their gardens.

The vegetable garden looks tidy momentarily after many days of weeding and mulching. Click on other pix to enlarge and read captions.
Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger

Just about every vegetable gardener I know has figured a smarter, faster, easier way to solve a challenging problem in the garden. One of the best examples is the lettuce screen that allows gardeners to keep their lettuce growing, even in hot weather.

Here are five easy vegetable gardening hacks that can save some aggravation in the garden:

1. Reduce transplant shock with 1-gallon plastic milk jugs. Tender transplants, like tomatoes, need time to get acclimated to their new garden location. To prevent transplant shock, cover each tomato plant with a plastic milk jug with the bottom cut off. The jug acts like a miniature greenhouse to get plants conditioned to the environment. Leave the lid off for air flow and place a stick through the hole into the soil to keep jugs from blowing away. Three days in place and plants are ready to grow.

2. Avoid cutworm damage to seedlings. Cutworms are those little critters that can cause seedlings to disappear overnight. Simple cutworm collars made out of paper towel rolls, concentrated juice containers and other round cardboard containers can prevent cutworms from getting to seedlings. Stick the container around the stem and in the ground several inches to keep cutworms away.

3. Prevent birds from damaging seedlings. In addition to the cutworm collars, the clear plastic strawberry containers work to keep birds away from small plants. Place the clear containers over plants and leave them in place until plants are tall enough to survive on their own. The holes in containers allow water and air to get to plants.

4. Keep insects away with water from a hose. Aphids and spider mite infestations can show up before you know it. Keep checking the undersides of leaves for these insect pests; spider mites show up as small specks on leaves before leaves turn yellow and drop. Use high-pressure water from the garden hose to knock them off. Reapply for several days in a row to make sure pests are gone.

5. Use more row cover cloth. Row cover cloth is for more than extending the growing season. Use this light-weight cloth to protect plants from the first wave of insects that show up early in the season. Row cover cloth can protect plants, like squashes and pumpkins, from vine borers by keeping the adult moths from laying eggs that attack plant stems. Be sure the edges are sealed so bugs can’t find their way in.

If you have any favorite vegetable garden hacks to share, please post them here!

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