Home & Garden

4 little garden tips that can make a big difference

New tips for dealing with weeds and wildlife

(File photo) Creeping charlie and clover fill the green strip of a driveway in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, April 27, 2016. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
(File photo) Creeping charlie and clover fill the green strip of a driveway in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, April 27, 2016. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

By Veronica Lorson Fowler, The Iowa Gardener

Sometimes it’s the little things. Here are a few of my favorite garden tips and tricks, all of which you can use now to make your gardening a little bit easier and rewarding.

Listen to Your Weeds

It can be hard to figure out how much sun a spot in your garden is getting. I’ve found that one of the best ways is to pay attention to the weeds. Purslane and spurge, for example, thrive only in spots with full sun. Wild violets and creeping charlie do well in a variety of conditions, but go crazy only in light to deep shade.

Black Wildlife Netting

It seems that I have a little bit of everything in my garden — rabbits, deer, voles, and even groundhogs have developed a fondness for the verbena in my large flower pots. Traditionally, gardeners have used chicken wire to protect plants, but I find it hard to work with and not very attractive. Enter chicken wire’s 21st century replacement: Wildlife netting. It cuts with scissors, is moderately inconspicuous, and stores easily and compactly in a roll. It’s sometimes called bat or bird netting. I found mine at a large box store garden center, but it’s widely available, including online.

Soft Twist-ties

You love them in your kitchen and you’ll love them just as much in the yard. For the garden, though, they’re bigger and wrapped in foam or plastic so they don’t cut into plants. I use them for everything from staking tomatoes to using a long length to loop around and hold up flopping peonies and other tall perennials. But I also use them to do things like hold a sprinkler in place against a rod or even to bundle together plant stakes. Widely available, and sold under other names also, like soft ties and soft plant wire.

Spot Recycle Your Weeds

When you’re out in the lush summer garden and bending down to yank just a handful or two of weeds, no need to take additional steps to toss them in a compost heap or trash. Just wad them up tightly (so they don’t re-root) and tuck them under the leaves of a plant where they can’t be seen. Bonus: They’ll serve as a mulch to prevent future weeds and break down to feed soil.

l Veronica Lorson Fowler is co-publisher of The Iowa Gardener website at theiowagardener.com.

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