Don Kinzler’s 30 Favorite Gardening Tips – InForum


Do you know one of the best ways to learn gardening? By trowel and error.

Joking aside, gardening is a life of learning, whether it’s houseplants, lawn care or growing vegetables. It always makes it new and exciting as we learn and share with each other.

Here are 30 favorite gardening tips I would love to pass on.

  1. Fill indoor plant pots and outdoor containers with potting soil up to a half inch from the edge. I have noticed a correlation between too deep “headspace” and plant problems.
  2. Lawns are healthier with a mowing height of 3 inches. An easy guide is the human index. Each joint is approximately 1 inch in length, so the grass after mowing should measure three finger joints when the index finger is pressed into the lawn.
  3. Water lawns less frequently but more deeply to promote deep roots. An inch per week in one application is ideal.
  4. How long does a sprinkler have to run to apply 1 inch of water? Sprinkler brands vary in the amounts applied, so place a can of straight-sided soup or tuna under your sprinkler and watch for 1 inch.
    For a healthy lawn, water deeply and less often.

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  5. Fertilize lawns around Memorial Day and Labor Day.
  6. Snow is nature’s winter insulation. Extra shovel on perennials and around roses.
  7. Hoe the garden when the weeds are barely brushing the surface of the soil.
  8. Organic matter is the remedy for too heavy clay soils and too light sandy soil. Work 2 to 3 inches of peat moss, compost or manure into the soil.
  9. Fertilizer is not a medicine for diseased plants. If the plants are sick for other reasons, fertilizers will not help the plants get by.
  10. Have your soil tested by sending a sample to North Dakota State University or the University of Minnesota. Without this reference, adding fertilizer to the soil is like adding more salt to the soup without tasting it first.
  11. More houseplants are killed by overwatering than any other cause, which means the soil is continually too wet.
  12. Buy quality garden tools, even if they seem expensive. They can last a lifetime if you keep the handles oiled and the metal free of dirt and rust.
  13. Nature rarely leaves the ground bare, except in a desert. Mulch the soil of vegetable and perennial gardens with organic products.
  14. Spinosad is one of the most intriguing new insecticides for fruit and vegetable insect control, discovered as a by-product of a tropical rum distillery.
  15. Most fungicides work preventatively, so they should be applied at the first sign of disease to prevent further spread.
  16. The aerial parts of most perennial flowers are best left intact during the winter and removed in the spring. The exceptions are peony, iris, daylily and hosta.
  17. For healthier rhubarb and asparagus plants, stop harvesting on July 4th.
  18. Wrap the trunks of fruit trees each fall and remove them in the spring. Sunstroke from the winter bark is devastating for fruit trees.
  19. More saplings are killed by humans using edgers and lawn mowers than by insects and disease. Surround trees with mulch to avoid the death spiral caused by bark scars.


    Humans damage more trees during mowing and pruning than insects and disease combined.

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  20. The microclimate of a sheltered and well-established yard can successfully grow plants that could perish on a barren, windswept prairie hill.
  21. Cross-pollination affects the seeds inside the fruit, not the actual fruit itself. Planting hot peppers next to sweet peppers won’t affect the flavor this year, either.
  22. Local garden centers are great sources of well-suited plant material and offer an experience that national chains cannot.
  23. Shrubs are best pruned in the spring. There really is no good reason to prune in the fall, and there are plenty of reasons not to.
  24. Divide spring-flowering perennials in the fall and fall-flowering perennials in the spring.
  25. The secret to a successful sod seedling is to keep the seedbed continuously dark and moist from the time of seeding until the sod seedlings are well established.
  26. Roses respond remarkably to fertilizer applied every two weeks from May 1 to July 4.
  27. There is no such thing as a foolproof anti-rabbit elixir. Those with the best chance of success are Liquid Fence, Plantskydd, and Repellex.
  28. To prevent blossom end rot in tomato flowers, keep the soil moisture more constant by mulching around the plants in late June.
  29. Crabgrass and quackgrass are two very different weed grasses with very different controls. Crabgrass is an annual weed, while quackgrass is a perennial.
  30. Experience is the best gardening teacher. Experiment and try new things. Practice what works and learn from what doesn’t.

Don Kinzler, a longtime gardener, is the North Dakota State University Extension Horticulturist for Cass County. Readers can reach him at [email protected]


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