35 Best Gardening Tips to Help You Work Smarter, Not Harder

Want to make your gardening life easier? Then you’re in the right place.

We’re sharing some of our favorite gardening tips that will help you spend less time working in your garden and more time enjoying it.

Whether you’re growing your greenery indoors or are looking to upgrade your lawn, we’ve rounded up lots of easy tricks to help your garden grow.

Table of Contents

  1. Designing your garden
  2. Cut down on weeds before planting
  3. Planting and maintenance gardening tips
  4. Keep pests and weeds out of your garden
  5. Houseplant and container gardening tips
  6. Indoor garden maintenance tips
  7. Gardening tool hacks

Gardening Hacks to Get You Started: Designing Your Garden

1. Determine your sunlight level

Choosing the right plant for your garden goes beyond what you think is pretty. Your garden’s soil type is important but the amount of sun it gets (and when) is integral to a successful, low-maintenance garden. There are lots of plant options—from greenery to florals—for each spot in your garden. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Low Light Plants: Caladium, coleus, hydrangeas, lady ferns, Dutchman’s pipe.
  • Part Shade Plants: Golden columbine, Siskiyou Blue Festuca grass, big leaf periwinkle, partridge feather.
  • Full Shade Plants: Petunia, sunflower, geranium, marigold, zinnia.Not sure where your garden falls? Try an online tool like SunCalc to determine how much sun your space gets to decide what plants will work best.

Not sure where your garden falls? Try an online tool like SunCalc to determine how much sun your space gets to decide what plants will work best.

2. Decide on a garden bed style 

If your soil is healthy and ready to go, planting right into the earth is totally fine. However, if the soil is poor or compacted and you don’t want to do the work to revive it, a raised garden bed is a great solution.

A raised bed will allow you to create your own garden from scratch, just above the surface of your existing soil.

You can make a DIY raised garden bed from wood, stone, brick, cinderblocks – or any other material you have lying around to build a bed that’s 6 to 12 inches deep. The best part of the DIY option is that you can make this bed whatever shape you’d like to fit your space—be it a square, circle, or something more custom to fit a particular area.

If you’re not the crafty type, you can buy a raised garden bed kit at your local hardware store online and expedite your gardening process.

3. Save time when you’re making dinner with smart planting

Plant your herbs near your back door so you can make a quick trip out to the garden when the need for basil suddenly strikes. That way, you won’t have to go all the way out into the backyard when you’re cooking. You’ll have fresh herbs any time you need it.

4. Stones make beautiful, natural garden markers

To make natural markers for your garden, write the names of plants on the flat faces of stones of various sizes and place them near the base of your plants. Stones can be aesthetically pleasing ways to protect the plants in your garden. They can also discourage weed growth around your plants.

5. A garden sprinkler system will make watering easy

If you want your garden to flourish, you know it needs water – and a lot of it – but how are you supposed to find the time? A garden irrigation system will save you time and make your garden look beautiful.

A sprinkler system is one of the most efficient ways to ensure your garden gets the hydration it needs to look its best, without over-watering it and driving up your water bill.

But what type of irrigation system is right for you?

Soak: Most gardeners are familiar with the soaker hose, which will “sweat” water along their entire length. They are used to thoroughly water dense areas in your garden or individual plants. They aren’t as efficient as drip sprinklers, but you can customize a soak system by attaching soaker hoses to solid hoses to avoid wasting water in areas that don’t need it. A soak sprinkler system is probably most common in home gardens.

Drip: Drip irrigation is the most water-efficient way to irrigate multiple plants. The water is applied slowly, which allows the soil to absorb the water and avoid runoff. Drip sprinklers use a fraction of the water that overhead spray devices use. If you have a lot of plants close together, a drip irrigation system is an easy way to water a lot of plants at once.

Spray: An automatic spray system is the traditional sprinkler model: pop-up spray heads that can spray a full circle, half circle, or a quarter circle. They’re less efficient than drip systems and they put water down on the ground faster than it can absorb it. A spray sprinkler system is typically used on large fields and lawns, rather than backyard gardens. But if you have a large garden, a spray system might work for you.

Cut down on weeds before you plant your seeds

1. Mulch in the spring will save you time weeding in the summer

Mulch your garden in the spring so that by the time summer rolls around, you won’t have to weed all day in the hot sun. Mulch will keep most weeds from growing in your garden if you mulch early enough – in mid- to late spring, when the soil is moist and warm.

If you are planning a vegetable garden, then a wood chip mulch is recommended above other mulches, but don’t mix it into the soil (mulch is defined as anything that covers the soil). Make sure your mulch sits atop your soil.

For perennial flower beds, rock mulch is sometimes used because rocks absorb more heat from the sun, which can create a “micro-climate” area for your plants.

You can use a pebble mulch to create pathways through your garden for an extra bit of style and to cut down on a garden mudslide! 

2. Newspaper can help you cut back on weeds

It can be tough to combat weeds when you’re growing an organic garden because you want to remove them without using chemicals.

A weed wacker is the simplest way to remove the weeds that have grown. Then, once you’ve cleared them, lay down some newspaper. This DIY newspaper cover will block the beginning weeds from growing and new seeds from forming. Top it off with mulch, and you won’t have to worry. 

3. Optimize your soil before planting

You’ll be wasting money and effort if you just go straight to planting without considering the soil. Take the time to make sure your soil is at its optimum condition for growing before planting.

To get your garden ready for growing you’ll need to:

I. Clear the area: Remove twigs, rocks, or other debris to ensure that your soil is free of anything that may inhibit healthy growth.

II. Aerate the soil: Break up your soil so that it has lots of space for water and roots to work their way through. You can use your hands, a tiller, or even a small shovel to shake things up.

III. Add fertilizer or mineral supplements: Make sure certain types of plants (like tropicals) are they’re getting the right nutrients that may not be naturally found in your climate.

4. Companion planting can improve your garden

Companion gardening is a great way to enhance the health and vitality of your garden by placing neighborly plants next to each other. Each plant pairing replenishes nutrients or benefits the other plant for a symbiotic relationship. Some combinations plants can even keep pests away from a variety of potential companions, like marigolds. Their strong smell can drive away pests to help any plant pal thrive.

Marigolds are good companions for asparagus, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, celery, chives, cucumber, lettuce, potato, pumpkin, squash, tomatoes, and zucchini.

Plus, if you mix different plants together, it’ll keep pests from zeroing in on one crop of their target plant. So, make your plants be friends with each other!

Some other plants that make symbiotic partnerships:

  • Turnip & peas
  • Strawberries & onions
  • Sage & beans
  • Radish & spinach
  • Potato & corn
  • Onion & beets
  • Eggplant & marjoram
  • Cauliflower & tomato

Planting and Maintenance Gardening Tips

Water Smarter, Not Harder

The number one rule of gardening is that your plants need water.

But what’s the best way to make sure your plants are hydrated? It often depends on the type of garden you have and the size of it. Whether you have an irrigation system or you manually water every plant with a watering can, there are a lot of choices. 

1. A rain gauge will tell you when you need to water your garden

Mount a rain gauge on a post near the garden to keep track of precipitation so you can know when to water. Most gardens need about 1 inch of rain per week between April and September.

The rain gauge will let you know how much to water, if at all. You don’t want to over- or underwater your garden, so a rain gauge is a foolproof way to know for sure. 

2. Water your garden in the morning to prevent mildew

Always water your garden in the morning. You’ll get the most out of the water because it won’t evaporate in the hot sun, and it prevents mildew. If you water at night, the water won’t be able to dry out in the sun. 

3. Water your plants gently

The way you water your garden matters as much as the quantity. If the water stream is too harsh, it can crush your plants before they even have a chance to grow. Drip irrigation systems tend to be the best solution for garden irrigation because of their gentle consistency. Plus, there’s little to no wasted water. 

4. Water directly to the ground for deeper roots

When you’re watering, apply water directly to the ground rather than getting a plant’s foliage wet. Water sitting on the leaves can lead to disease. It’s best to give them one deep watering at a time, rather than several lighter waterings, to help their roots grow deeper. 

5. A two-liter bottle will help you with deeper watering

If you don’t have an irrigation system, it can be challenging to keep your garden watered during the summer. For those hot days that seem to suck the moisture out of the air, take a two-liter bottle and poke holes up and down the sides. Bury the bottle in your garden with the opening above ground and fill it with water. It’ll help you achieve deeper watering. 

6. Collect runoff to water your plants

Install a water barrel to collect water to use for plants. You’ll be saving water and watering your plants at the same time. It’s a win-win!

You can easily buy a water barrel from a hardware and garden store and install it under your gutters. The next time it rains, water will fill the barrel and you’ll have a stash of rainwater for your plants. 

7. Water your houseplants with tepid water

Cold water may shock your plants, especially if the plants originate from a warm climate. You may have heard that watering your plants slowly with ice cubes is a gardening hack, but in reality, it might damage the roots of your plants. It’s best to use lukewarm or room temperature water.

Keep Pests and Weeds Out of Your Garden

Once your garden starts growing, it becomes a target for weeds and insect pests. Some insects are good for your plants, but others will wreak havoc, so here are some natural ways to keep insect pests out of your garden. 

1. Attract birds to your garden and naturally get rid of insects

Birds eat many insect pests that could harm your garden. Attract the right birds to your area by providing suitable nesting habitats like bird houses. They’ll be free exterminators for you. Plus, you’ll get to use those bird-watching binoculars! 

2. Lemon juice is a natural weed killer

Fill a spray bottle with lemon juice and saturate any weeds. Lemon juice acts as a natural acid to kill weeds and it will work in just a few days. For an extra-strong, organic weed killer, mix the lemon juice with acidic vinegar. 

3. Get rid of slugs easily by placing a wooden board in your garden

Slugs will hide beneath a board placed on damp ground during the day. Check under the board every morning and remove any slugs that have gathered on the underside of the board, so they don’t bother your garden. 

4. Don’t be afraid to cut away dead leaves and stems

Pruning your garden is like getting an oil change for your car – it’s kind of a pain, but it’s a necessary maintenance step to promote your garden’s longevity. All of your plants will require the removal of their dead leaves and stems, which can take nutrients away from the healthy parts of the plant. Don’t be afraid to cut of these parts of your plant off to keep it thriving. 

5. Reduce next season’s pests by tilling your garden this fall

Tilling your garden in the fall – around November – will expose many insect pests to the winter cold, which will reduce their numbers in next year’s garden. Future you will be grateful past you when you have a pest-free garden in the spring.

Houseplant and container gardening tips

Indoor garden tips before you plant

1. Save space with a ladder

Finding enough space for all of the pots in your container garden can be difficult, especially if you don’t have much space to begin with. A ladder plant stand will do everything: save space, look pretty, and give your plants a better chance at getting some sunlight. 

2. Soilless potting mix is the way to go for container gardens

When you’re growing your container garden from seeds, soilless potting mix is the best choice. It’s lightweight, drains water quickly, and allows for rapid root growth.

You could always use soil from an outside garden, but you don’t know what’s coming in with it like disease spores and bacteria. Garden soil is often heavier than soilless potting mix and it’s difficult for plants to drain.

Soilless potting mix will give you more control and you can rest easy knowing it’s free of disease and other contaminates. 

3. A coffee filter can pull double duty in your container

Place a coffee filter or piece of paper towel at the bottom of a pot before you add soil. It’ll hold the soil in the pot and allow for water drainage. As an added plus, it’ll compost itself eventually, unlike plastic. 

4. Make your large container easier to move around with packing peanuts

If you have a huge container that might be really heavy, fill a grocery bag with foam packing peanuts or Styrofoam to take up space beneath the soil. It’ll lessen the amount of soil you have to use and keep the pot more transportable. 

5. Always always always plant mint in a container

If you are growing anything in the mint plant family, plant it in a container. If not, it will spread everywhere and take over your garden. If you want it in the ground, then make sure it is still in a pot, and the pot’s lip is above the ground. 

6. How to Choose the Right Containers for Your Garden

Choosing the right kind of container for your garden means considering the types of plants you want to grow, the garden site, and the design of your home.

Every pot needs drainage holes so water doesn’t rot the roots. An inch or two of crushed gravel, Styrofoam pellets, or broken shards of terra cotta will provide extra drainage in large pots.

A rooftop garden needs heavy, wind-resistant pots
If your garden is on a rooftop, then you’re going to need extra heavy, large pots to avoid being blown over in high winds. You can further anchor them with cables attached to the rooftop. Terracotta or limestone pots are your best bet for wind-resistant pots since they tend to be heavier.

Terracotta pots are a favorite for a reason
Terracotta is a popular choice because it’s relatively affordable, easy to find, and available in many pot sizes. Terracotta absorbs water faster than plastic, which is great for the plants, but could be extra maintenance for you. They’re very easy to find in any garden or home improvement store.

Plastic is a lightweight and affordable choice
Plastic is lightweight, nonporous, affordable, and suitable for hanging baskets or for plants that are then slipped into a larger, more decorative container. Plastic trays are ideal as window box liners.

Molded plastic can simulate other looks
Molded plastic pots are another option if you’re looking for a pot that is lightweight and modestly price. They imitate terra cotta, limestone, metal, and other natural materials at a fraction of the cost.

Indoor garden maintenance tips

1. Use empty wine bottles for easy watering

Fill an empty wine bottle with water and put it in your pots upside down. The water will slowly trickle out and water your plants for you. The bottle is perfect for keeping the soil moist in the heat or if you go away for a few days. 

2. Move your houseplants away from windows on cold nights

Have you ever put your hand on the window during the winter? It’s cold! And maybe there’s a draft. You wouldn’t want to sleep next to that window, and neither do your plants. Make sure to move them back from the icy windows to prevent chilling damage.

Gardening tool hacks

A gardener is only as good as their tools, right? From nifty tool storage hacks to apps that’ll help you garden more effectively, there are many gardening tool tricks that’ll make gardening easier for you. 

1. Apps can make your gardening life a little easier

Apps on your phone aren’t just for playing addicting games – they can be some of the most helpful tools in your garden. From planning your garden to showing off how beautiful it is, gardening apps are useful for every gardener at every level. 

2. Smart sprinkler systems let you water your garden at the push of a button

Imagine that you could water your garden whenever you needed to without leaving your house. You could schedule waterings whenever you’re on vacation so you don’t come home to a wilted brown patch where your garden used to be. 

3. Wait for a sunny day to roll up your hoses

If you don’t have a garden irrigation system, then you probably have hoses all over your yard. Roll up your garden hoses on a warm, sunny day in the fall. It’ll be harder to get a cold hose to coil into a tight loop, so wait for a warm day. 

4. A mailbox in your garden is an easy way to store small tools you always use

A mailbox mounted on a nearby post makes a handy place to store and keep dry and small tools, seeds, labels, etc. frequently used in your garden. And, if the tools are metal, then they won’t get hot sitting in the sun. 

5. The old golf bag in your garage can be reused as a tool caddy

If storing your tools or lugging them around the yard are issues you struggle with on a daily basis, you can use an old golf bag as a caddy for your gardening tools. That way, they’re neatly tucked away when you don’t need them, and you can easily carry multiple tools around the yard without a problem. 

6. Turn a long-handled tool into a measuring stick

Lay a long-handled garden tool on the ground and place a tape measure next to it. Using a permanent marker, write inch and foot marks on the handle. When you need to space plants a certain distance apart, you’ll already have a measuring stick in your hand without having to pull out an extra tool.

What’s your favorite gardening tip?

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