From ant controls to beet juice fertilizer for lawns to making zucchini smoothies, our Edible Landscaping readers have a wealth of ideas, opinions, and thoughts on how to grow a better edible garden. Try some of these tips out in your garden and let me know how they work!
Fire ants are a big problem in East Texas. We sprinkle cinnamon powder on our okra, squash, and other vegetables and on the ant beds. Within about 30 minutes the ants have moved away. -- B.A., Texas
To keep down weeds around our blueberries, which I am using as an ornamental too, I sow thyme and plant ' Pink Panda ' strawberries. I keep them away from the trunks. They have surrounded the blueberry shrubs, look beautiful, and produce more food to eat. L.T., Michigan
Squash bugs can be avoided by planting 4 or 5 potatoes around each squash hill one foot away from the hills. Do not expect a potato harvest as the plants will be heavily shaded. I use this technique and I've had no squash bugs in my garden for over 20 years. M.M., Mississippi
Plant potatoes around squash to keep squash bugs away.
Here's an easy way to process tomatoes. I cut out the cores and any bad spots. Then I cut the tomatoes into quarters and put them in a food processor. I process them until they're watery, then I put them thru a food mill. The skin and seeds do not go through the mill so all I have left is the tomato juice.
I simmer the juice until I have the consistency that I want. This takes a few hours, but I can do other work while it simmers. When it's done, I put it in plastic containers to freeze. Once frozen, I put the contents into plastic freezer bags. They take up much less space than containers and I can use the containers for the next batch. I add spices when I'm ready to use it. E.C., Illinois
Here's a cute trick to get tomatoes off to a fast start. Plant them about one foot apart so you can use a string of 7-watt outdoor Christmas tree lights to keep them warm at night. If you want to plant them further apart, just use every other bulb. Using one-gallon milk jugs with the bottom cut out, cover each plant and on one side of the jug pound a surveyor stake into the ground. Use duct tape to fasten the tape to the jug. On the opposite side of the jug cut a slit and poke the light fixture through so the slit surrounds the wires. D.W., Utah
I plant yellow squash and zucchini for my winter fruit smoothies. Of course we eat all we want when they are in season, but we all know how these plants produce and produce. I shred the excess and freeze it in 1-cup bags. In the winter I add strawberries or other frozen fruit, honey, and water and puree. The smoothies taste great and are a fun way to get kids eating vegetables when they normally wouldn't. S.R., Michigan
I just read your newsletter on growing pole beans and corn together. We live in very hot and sunny California and shade is very limited for our gardens. I would like to go one step further with your pole bean idea and suggest this tip. We did it and it worked fabulously for us.
Use beet juice to topdress your lawn.
When I drain the cooking water from my vegetables I pour it into a pail and let it cool. Then I add it to my compost pile, lawn, and garden. I've found that beet juice is great for lawns. I cook beets in water and puree them in a blender. I allow it to cool and add the beet puree and water to my organic mix for top-dressing my lawn. The top-dressing includes compost, sheep manure, blood and bone meal, and the beet puree. M.L., Ontario, Canada
I have a comment about cocoa shell mulch. This mulch can be laden with pesticides so if you're an organic gardener, don't use it! Also, this mulch has a tendency to develop a harmless, yet rather unpleasant, coating of fungus when wet. Rake the mulch to help it dry out to prevent this fungus. P.J., Massachusetts