Green Thumbs Up!

Summer is in full bloom, so your garden should be too. The Kitchen is here with a few easy tips to keep your garden growing and looking lush. We're coming to you with some "Green Thumbs Up" ideas to set your garden on the path to perfect paradise.


Episode: All Deck'd Out
Wine cork plant labels, as seen on Food Network's The Kitchen.

Wine cork plant labels, as seen on Food Network's The Kitchen.

Photo by: David Katz

David Katz

Herb Markers:

When planting an herb garden, it's useful to differentiate between the various types planted. Of course, you can always use the little plastic markers that come with the seedlings, but why not kick things up by making some adorable DIY herb markers? All you need are a few wine corks (most of us have collected a few over the years). Use a permanent marker to write the name of each herb on them, and use old forks to create the stakes. No forks? Simply write the names vertically and use regular bamboo skewers.

Coffee Grounds Help Soil:

Coffee grounds add nitrogen to the soil, and nitrogen-rich soil is perfect for growing spinach, tomatoes, corn and even flowers like roses and azaleas. Used coffee grounds make an effective soil booster, so after you've made that morning Joe, don't throw the grounds away. We know what you're thinking, "coffee is acidic, which could threaten my plants." But do not fear, coffee might seem acidic, but the used grounds are fairly neutral, making them a good choice for all plants.

Add 1 tablespoon to the soil once a week, lightly working it in with your fingers. See how your plants react and add more each week if necessary. The grounds will aerate the soil, which improves drainage and water retention. Adding the used coffee grounds will also attract earthworms and encourage the growth of healthy microorganisms that live in the soil. Both are beneficial to plant growth.

Egg Shells Also Help Soil:

Plant fertilizer can become quite expensive. Why not try an alternative method to enrich the soil, using natural stuff you would normally throw away? We're talking about egg shells! Egg shells are rich in calcium, and without the proper amount of calcium, plants may produce deformed blooms. So, whenever you're cooking with eggs, save the shells and microwave them for 3 minutes at full power to eliminate odor and kill bacteria. Store them away until you have a substantial amount, then grind the clean shells up in a food processor until powdery. Sprinkle them on top of the soil at the base of the plants. Store this booster in any resealable container such as a mason jar.

Flower Tower:

When sprucing up your yard's landscaping, make a huge impact by creating a statement flower tower. You'll need 3 planters of descending size, the soil to fill each and your 3 favorite flower varieties. We chose purple lobelias, yellow dahlias and tall white lupines.

It's important to assemble the tower in the location where you want to display it, because moving it once it's stacked can present a challenge. Fill each planter with soil and plant your favorite flowers around the perimeter. We used the lupine on top for additional height. Stack the medium one in the center and repeat the process with the smallest one, using the tallest flowers on top. This descending tower idea is also a dramatic way to plant your favorite herbs and veggies, such as cherry tomatoes, peppers and rosemary at the top for height.

Cinnamon Plant Spray:

You may notice little gnats crawling around your soil and flying around your plants. These little buggers, called fungus gnats, are common in moist soil. They can cripple any backyard or indoor garden. The gnats carry a root disease called damping off which can kill your seedlings.

To banish these little invaders, steep cinnamon in warm water to make an all-natural cinnamon spray. Because cinnamon powder is a natural fungicide, it wards off destructive critters and soil fungus, and fights against damping-off. You can use the spray one or twice per week.

Here's how to make it:

  1. Whisk 1 tablespoon cinnamon powder to 8 ounces of warm water--let it sit for a few hours or overnight. 
  2. Strain the solution into a spray bottle using a fine sieve or coffee filter so you don't clog the sprayer.
  3. Spray the stems and leaves of affected plants and mist the potting soil of the affected plants.

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