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February 2018
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Truly…and I Mean Truly Hacking a Garden

I cruise Facebook in the evenings sometimes during my downtime.  There’s a ton of good information there and I get to interact with people from the comfort of my own home like a true introvert should.

I often see a post there that really catches my attention and gets me excited.  So when several of you posted a link to an article called 10 DIY Garden Hacks (linked here) I clicked on it excitedly – hoping to learn something new.  While I found the article to be a neat collection of garden building projects I found it lacking.  When I read about a “hack” I want to know some real secret sauce stuff.  I mean I want to know something that’s going to make heads spin – something that makes my life (and garden) better by letting me take some shortcuts or make the system work to my advantage.

I realize my expectations are high but do I know any hacks?  Am I malevolent enough to buck the system, throw caution to the wind and really, I mean really hack the garden?  Well I’m gonna try.  Here are my 4 Top Garden Hacks:

1.  The Auto Fertilizing Garden –  What if you could fertilize your garden weekly or even daily (well anytime it rains) without doing anything you wouldn’t normally do?  What if said fertilizer was organic and sustainable? 

There are two ways to do this and it certainly won’t work for everyone and every situation.  Your garden should either be on a slope or have some drainage feature nearby. 

Option 1 is that you build a  chicken, duck, quail or other animal run and house directly upslope.  The manure during a rain runs right into the garden, pretty much diluted already. 

Option 2 is that you build animal housing above an existing drainage feature and connect it to your garden via swale.  The plan at my property is to fence in an area for pigs that is directly above the drainage ditch for my drive.  The theory is that the manure runs into the ditch and the water carries it over to my swale in the orchard and garden area.

2. Magic Mushrooms – At the Mother Earth News Fair last year I saw several people packing around preinnoculated shiitake logs.  They were 20 bucks or so and they made me think back to Pet Rocks.  Not that I’m old enough to remember pet rocks but rather the concept of selling something ubiquitous and ordinary but repackaging it, calling it something fantastic and taking a profit. 

For those of you who think a little 1 foot, 5″ diameter stump is amazing you really should check out King Stropharia or Winecap Mushrooms.  You essentially innoculate your garden mulch (wood chips or straw) and these little babies grow in the shade of your tomatoes, potatoes or whatever.  Not only are they edible (be careful and positively identify!) but they also break down the mulch faster and more effectively. 

3.  Making Your Garden a Kill Zone (not for the faint of heart) – Block two sides of your garden.  Maybe with a trellis, maybe with the animal housing mentioned in #1.  It really could be anything.  Make sure you have easy access to one side, allow unfettered access to the other.  Your garden will draw in rabbits, squirrels and deer.  They enter on one side, you shoot on the other.  Varmints check in but they don’t check out if you know what I’m saying.  Actually most things of reasonable intelligence will not check in because they will easily see this for what it is.  So the repellant effect is greater than the threat actually.

4.  Dibbler / Planting Bar – I am hesitant to call this one a hack anymore because I use it so regularly but I’m still very surprised that it has not been adopted beyond my little corner of the world.  Its really simple.  You take a piece of wood.  You attach wooden dowels at equal spacing.  You push it into the ground so the dowels puncture the soil and you plant seeds into the holes.  How simple is that?

So what did I miss?  Does anyone want to share their personal garden “hacks”?

1 comment to Truly…and I Mean Truly Hacking a Garden

  • Jim

    I take old wine corks and stick them on the end of my trusty old garden rake, then use the rake to create furrows for carrots, scallions, corn etc.  If its just a couple furrows, just put one or two on, or I have even used my 36″ wide landscaper rake to create a lot of them very quickly in loose soil.  You can space them further based on every other one as well. I sometimes shape plastic corks with a knife to create more of narrow points if needed. 

    I use it in raised beds and in-ground grow beds.