10 Quick Tips for a Successful Vegetable Garden | The Old Farmer's Almanac

10 Quick Tips for a Successful Vegetable Garden


Our Best Gardening Hacks

Our 10 gardening hacks are tips handed down from experienced gardeners—to save time and increase success in the vegetable garden.

Gardening is always a learning process! There are always new things to try to improve our harvest. These simple tips can help provide shortcuts to save time, increase your growing space, and reduce costs for a more successful vegetable garden.

Hack #1 – Use a Garden Tool as a Ruler

Turn a long-handled tool, such as a hoe or a garden fork, into a measuring stick. Lay the tool on the ground and place a tape measure next to it. Using a permanent marker, write measurement marks on the handle. Then, when you need to space plants a certain distance apart, you’ll already have a measuring device in your hand.

Hack #2 – Long-Life Plant Labels

Rejuvenate old plastic labels by rubbing them with sandpaper. Permanent marker will be rubbed away quite easily, and you’ll get several years use out of them. Or, why not make your own labels. Used, clean yogurt pots can be cut into strips to make several labels from one pot; old broken roof tiles make attractive markers labeled with white paint; or, for a more natural look, smooth flat stones of various sizes can be written on with paint or permanent marker, and can be placed unobtrusively at the base of your plants and reused each year.

Hack #3 – Turn Pots Into Temporary Frost Jackets

If you’re all out of cloches and there’s a late frost forecast, use terracotta plant pots instead. Turn them upside-down and pop one over your precious seedlings. It’ll act as a warm jacket against a light frost. Don’t forget to remove it in the morning so your plant can get the light it needs to grow.

Hack #4 – Hands-on Pest Control

If you garden organically, the chances are that come aphid season you’ll have them infest your plants. Many gardeners tackle this by squishing the tiny insects with their fingers, but it’s a messy job. You could try blasting them off with jets of water, but this is time consuming and uses a lot of water. Instead, try using sticky tape. Wrap a wide strip of tape around your hand, sticky side out, and pat the leaves of plants infested with aphids. Concentrate on the undersides of leaves, because that’s where they like to hide.

Alternatively, incorporating plants that aphids love (such as nasturtiums) into your garden will lure them away from your main crops. Include companion planting flowers to attract beneficial insects which will eat aphids and other pests.

Hack #5 – Conserve Water

If you live in a hot area or have a particularly sunny spot in your garden, you might find that thirsty plants like cucumbers and tomatoes dry out quickly without irrigation, reducing the crop or quality. Make water reservoirs out of plastic water bottles to keep your plants hydrated.

Drill a few small holes into the cap to allow water to percolate out, and cut the bottom off the bottle. Sink the up-turned bottle into the pot or ground before planting, leaving about  an inch poking above the layer of soil. Keep the bottle filled and the plant roots will absorb the water as it’s required.

Hack #6 – Reuse Grey Water

Reduce your water bill by reusing water from your kitchen. Save the water from boiled veggies and once it has cooled, use it to water your garden or your pots. If you use a plant-based dish washing detergent, this water too can be used on your garden. Don’t use it if you’ve washed pots with lots of dairy or meat, as you don’t want these products in your soil. You could use bath water too, but it could take a long time!

Hack #7 – Soak Large Seeds for Quicker Germination

Some seeds, like peas and sweet peas, have a hard coating. Once planted out, it takes a while for this coating to break down, and for germination to begin. Get a head start by soaking the seed you’ll use in lukewarm water overnight, then plant out as usual. Make sure the ground is warm enough though, otherwise your seeds will likely rot.

Pea seedlings in cardboard tubes

Hack # 8 – Make Your Own Biodegradable Pots

Some vegetables like beans and peas don’t like to have their roots disturbed, so conventional wisdom is to plant them in situ, and not to transplant out. This has some problems, as seeds can rot in cool soil. Bypass this by making your own pea and bean planters from cardboard tubes.

Take a tube and make three cuts about a third of the way along the tube to make flaps. Push the flaps into the centre, and press to keep in place. Fill with potting soil and sow seeds as usual. Store the tubes in a tray, to prevent the flaps from failing. When ready for planting out, plant the seedling and tube as one – the cardboard will rot, and your seedling’s roots will find their way out.

See how to make biodegradable pots.

Hack #9 – Go Vertical

If you’re running out of space in your garden, go vertical. There are many varieties of vegetables which will climb or trail, and you can make vertical planters for them which can be fixed to walls or fences. One option is to use guttering, cut to length. Drill small holes along the length to allow water to drain out, install the end caps and recommended brackets, and clip the guttering in place. Add a moisture retentive growing medium and plant up with plants such as strawberries or salads that don’t mind the shallow soil. Keep your guttering planters watered, or install drip irrigation.

See how to create a vertical garden.

Hack #10 – Use Garden Planner Software

Use garden planning software to help plan what you’re going to grow, and where. Good planning reduces the risk of losing plants by sowing at the wrong time, spacing them incorrectly or forgetting to rotate crops to reduce the likelihood of soil-borne pests and diseases from one year to the next.  It will also help you to plan succession planting, so you can quickly see where gaps will appear and have plants ready to fill those gaps, making sure you get as much food as possible from your space.

See a free 7-day for the Almanac Garden Planner.

What’s your top gardening hack? Share it with us by leaving a comment below.

About The Author

Jennifer Keating

Jennifer is the Associate Digital Editor at The Old Farmer’s Almanac. She is an active equestrian and spends much of her free time at the barn. When she’s not riding, she loves caring for her collection of house plants, baking, and playing in her gardens. Read More from Jennifer Keating

2023 Gardening Club

Chevette Girl (not verified)

4 years 2 months ago

I garden a half-hour drive away from my house and once everything's planted, I generally only get out there once a week so weeding gets to be a bit much so I like using strips of carpeting to keep the weeds down between my veggie rows and also keep the soil moist, they're like removeable mulch! The only problem I've had so far is with voles using them as a subway and ate the top half of my entire beet crop! I use scrap carpeting, sliced into strips at an appropriate row width, I make 8", 12", 18", 24", 36" strips for various crops. They also make layout and measuring easier too :)

I also dropped citronella tealight candles beside my bean plants (which got eaten to the ground the previous year by the bunnies) and that seemed to work. I also found when I planted beans in between rows of potatoes, the beans didn't get eaten.

Also, with aphids (indoors, I've never had problems with them outdoors), colorado potato bugs, squash bugs and Japanese beetles, I use a spray bottle of soapy water and blast them, it gunks up their breathing holes. I also use a garlic-mint-cayenne-soap bug spray that works to keep the four and six legged critters away, but I'm not out at my garden to spray it often enough for it to work as well as it does on my balcony.

JoAn (not verified)

4 years 2 months ago

One of the best I've seen!
THANKS for sharing.

Carolyn Lafleur (not verified)

9 years 7 months ago


Deon Moodley (not verified)

9 years 9 months ago

Thank you very much for your outstanding useful gardening tips much appreciated. I live in South Africa Kwazulu Natal and will put your gardening tips into use.Please send us more.

Kind Regards