Becoming a good gardener is a challenging prospect, and it requires dedication and skill. It should also be borne in mind that different plants need varying levels of attention and different conditions for successful growth. For a novice, then, being able to draw on the knowledge of those who are more experienced is invaluable. And, happily, one gardening blog is promoting an intriguing new method for gardeners old and new that might just be a total game changer. So, have you heard the one about the egg and the banana?
With food prices rising in most developed countries, producing your own fruit and vegetables is becoming ever more popular. As a matter of fact, according to broadcaster NBC, sales of seeds, rooted plants and fruit trees in the U.S. are all shooting up fast. Evidently, having the shortest possible produce journey from field to fork is all the rage.
Speaking to NBC News, Janet Bedell, of Venice, Florida, spoke of her new-found fondness for growing her own. She said, “Over the past year or two, when my boyfriend and I went shopping and started seeing how little we got out of the grocery store for how much, we figured we might as well give it a shot trying our own veggies and take some of the weight off our pockets.”
And Bedell is by no means alone in planting her own vegetables. In a report by The National Gardening Association in 2014, the Texas-based body found that more than 42 million U.S. households had come to the same decision. Some people may grow their vegetables at home, while others are sharing community gardens. Either way, though, it means that more than one-third of all American domiciles are grow-your-own enthusiasts. And what’s more, the association has seen a sharp spike in the number of green-fingered wannabes since the worldwide economic crash of 2008.
Mike Metallo, the president and chief executive officer of the National Gardening Association, said, “[It] clearly shows that there truly is a food revolution taking place in America. We are seeing more people, particularly young people, actively engaged in growing their own food.”
Unfortunately for most of the masses, though, gardening is not as straightforward as simply planting seeds in the ground and just waiting for the magic to happen. And although enthusiasm and fertilizer can help, not all types of land can produce the same kinds of vegetables. In fact, each vegetable plant derives differing kinds and quantities of nutrients from the soil in which it grows.
With this in mind, New Jersey gardener Gary Pilarchik came up with a quirky but ingenious technique for growing tomatoes. Now resident in Maryland, Pilarchik has propagated a healthy presence online. As well as boasting various social media profiles, he writes The Rusted Vegetable Garden blog and has his own YouTube channel. And in May 2013, Pilarchik posted a video using a couple of unusual ingredients in his recipe for growing tomatoes. In the vid, he buried an entire banana and an egg underneath a tomato plant – and viewers of his subsequent weekly updates were astonished at the results.
The idea is that the banana and egg begin to rot and degrade in the soil underneath the tomato plant’s rootstock. The roots then reach into the decaying material and allow the plant to benefit from the rich store of nutrients. Getting the right nutrient mix is, then, crucial to the whole operation; and the decomposing banana and egg provide a rich source of potassium, phosphate, calcium, magnesium, sulfur and sodium. This fertile blend gives the tomato plant a huge boost and enables it to grow strong and tall.
Interestingly, Pilarchik took inspiration from Native American tradition for his banana-and-egg trick. In the same fashion, Native Americans would add foreign material when sowing their seeds. Believe it or not, First Nation people would in fact plant fish heads or even whole fish into the ground at the base of their crop. And this in turn would fertilize the soil – the same way the soft fruit and the egg did for Pilarchik.
Native Americans would also use their green-fingered nous when growing crops that they called the Three Sisters. In essence, this would mean planting three different varieties together: corn, squash and beans. Each of this trio of vegetable crops would offer symbiotic benefits to the other two, ensuring that all three thrived.
More specifically, the beans would provide nitrogen to the soil, enriching the corn and squash so that they could grow robustly. The corn provided a trellis on which the beans could climb. The squash, meanwhile, afforded cover for the other two plants as they were growing, and it helped to deter some pests.
It is not just the old ways that can make a difference, though. Indeed, the influx of new gardeners has led to fresh trends making an impact. One such idea is “attentive gardening” – an offshoot of the vogue for mindfulness meditation. Attentive gardening is a way of drawing the grower’s mind away from stress and allowing them to focus on the task in hand instead.
Now, although the banana-and-egg method has been used elsewhere by other gardeners, Pilarchik has a trove of different but similarly useful ideas on his YouTube channel. He has a very helpful video on how to use coffee grounds for growing crops, for instance. Yes, Pilarchik uses the grounds to give his plants a lift in much the same way as do the banana and egg.
In the video, Pilarchik says, “You can use them in compost piles… You can also mix it into your soil. You can go into [a coffee shop] and get it for free… with labels saying, ‘Grounds for your Garden.’ You can go there practically every day. People don’t tend to take them.”
Pilarchik continues, “The potassium and phosphorous are soluble; they are immediately ready to be used up by your plants… So as it rains, this will wash in. The nitrogen is not water-soluble; that is going to have to be broken down by soil life. And that’s okay.
Ultimately, this is another way of using a natural, low-cost substitute for fertilizer. In the main, shop-bought fertilizer is a man-made compound and contains ingredients such as sulfur and nitrogen. And for kitchen gardeners looking to eat their produce, the less spent on chemical additives the better.
A point that is often overlooked, though, is that it’s not man-made fertilizer that causes the most damage; it’s pesticides. Although bugs and insects have the potential to wreck a gardener’s best efforts, the use of pesticides usually does collateral damage. Thankfully, then, Pilarchik has a great natural tip for those trying to combat winged menaces and creepy-crawlies.
Pilarchik suggests using a vegetable product called neem oil to kill pests that destroy crops. Happily, this also allows the garden’s flora and fauna to thrive. The oil itself is derived from the fruits and seeds of the subtropical, evergreen neem tree. And you should make sure you get precisely the right sort of oil. As Pilarchik advises in another of his videos, “You have to be aware of what you’re buying when you buy neem oil. You want 100-per cent cold-pressed neem oil.”
Pilarchik goes on to say, “You want to spray the neem oil on your plants [as part of your gardening] routine. It’s going to vary [from] place to place, but every seven to 14 days, keep your green leafy plants… sprayed, and that will stop the damage from the [pests].”
Ultimately, there are other obstacles to those looking to get into gardening than just lack of know-how. Although there has been an uptick in the numbers of people getting their hands dirty, there is, for example, a sizable group who simply can’t afford to jump on the grow-your-own bandwagon. Members of the “Generation Rent” demographic tend not to own their homes, and research by the Horticultural Trades Association in the U.K. shows that they have little interest in rented plots. So, those lucky people who aren’t constrained by such limitations really should get growing.
And if you’re struggling to get your plants sprouting, then there’s a handy hack you really should know about. Apparently, it turns out that an everyday item – one you may even have in your kitchen right now – is just the ticket when it comes to producing beautifully blooming flowers.
If you’re an avid gardener, making sure that your plants stay healthy is probably one of your main goals. But if you’re tried all the tricks in the book to keep your perennials thriving, then it’s time to turn to cinnamon. That’s right: the spice you sprinkle on oatmeal can be a total savior for your greenery.
After all, there’s nothing more satisfying than watching the flowers in your yard bloom or being able to pick your own veggies fresh from the soil. Still, as anyone with a penchant for gardening will tell you, while getting a plant to grow is one thing, keeping it in good condition is arguably the real challenge.
Indeed, even if you’ve got a perfectly healthy specimen on your hands, you need to be very careful with how you look after it. For instance, if you place a flower in a darkened area, there’s a good chance that it’ll become “spindly” and fragile. You also have to ensure that the surrounding earth is perfectly kept so that your roses or lilies can thrive.
Then there are fungi and insects – both of which are often a bane for gardeners. But don’t be put off entirely from making your back yard look beautiful. You see, a pinch of cinnamon could be just what you need to maintain your flowers.
This may come as a surprise, as the spice is more typically used in the kitchen. Cinnamon’s distinctive taste adds an earthy, sweet flavor to practically anything it’s added to – from breakfast cereal to baked goods and even savory dishes. In fact, you could already be a big fan.
But just why does cinnamon have such a notable aroma? Well, in part it’s because of the way in which the spice is grown. And if you’re a bit of a cinnamon hater, then you may want to reconsider your stance when you hear just how good it’s meant to be for you.
Cinnamon actually comes from the bark of Cinnamomum trees, and it’s this that’s responsible for its singular scent and taste. Cinnamomum trees can be found all over the world, with botanists having discovered more than 300 species to date.
And, today, there are two main types of cinnamon: cassia and ceylon. Thanks to the compound cinnamaldehyde, both varieties possess similar flavors and aromas – although ceylon cinnamon is thought to be a bit punchier than cassia.
But cinnamon isn’t only used for sprucing up desserts. The spice is incredibly healthy, too, and can help the body function in a number of ways. And by adding a small serving of cinnamon to your food on a daily basis, you too may start to feel those benefits.
For example, clinical nutritionist Dr. Josh Axe claims on his website that just “half a teaspoon” of cinnamon can have a major impact on both a person’s immune system and their digestive abilities. According to Axe, the spice may even help keep your blood sugar at optimum levels.
You may also be able to stave off some serious health issues going forward, as it’s said, for example, that cinnamon could help prevent ailments such as cancer and diabetes. If you eat enough of the spice, your chances of developing heart disease may go down, too.
On top of that, cinnamon could very well slow down aging. Antioxidants are key in the battle against illness and cell damage, and fortunately cinnamon has plenty of these compounds in tow. Apparently, in fact, it has the seventh-highest concentration of antioxidants of all foods, including spices and herbs.
According to Axe, then, cinnamon triumphs over the likes of oregano and garlic when it comes to antioxidant levels. But what else do these compounds do to the human body? And are there any other obvious health benefits to be had by consuming the pungent spice?
Well, it turns out that there are. You see, cinnamon contains particular types of antioxidants that are especially advantageous to the body. They’re known as polyphenols, and scientists have discovered that these chemicals play a role in safeguarding us from illness.
Specifically, research has shown that polyphenol antioxidants are able to reduce inflammation. These compounds can also have considerable benefits for your digestive system, helping maintain a balance that ensures it stays healthy.
It’s known that there are spices that work as prebiotics, helping good bacteria grow in the body while at the same time keeping bad bacteria from propagating. Cinnamon is one of these plant derivatives, meaning consuming it regularly may be good for the wellbeing of your gut.
On top of that, you can get some of the element manganese from cinnamon as well as a little fiber and calcium – all of which are essential in keeping the system functioning well. It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that people around the world have long seen cinnamon as somewhat of a superfood.
For instance, Indian ayurvedic medicine uses cinnamon bark oil to treat gas and digestive problems. It’s believed that cinnamon’s warmth both boosts the flow of and increases the level of oxygen in blood, thus making it a handy tool in the fight against illness. And the best way to get cinnamon into the gut, according to this holistic practice, is as a flavoring for a hot beverage.
If you’re still not convinced of cinnamon’s many benefits, however, then you should know that the spice may not only keep more serious ailments at bay. It can also help you with oral health – in particular by warding off the germs that reside in your mouth.
Next time you want to freshen up, then, give cinnamon gum a try, as the antibacterial properties of the spice can leave your mouth free of the bacteria that contribute to bad breath. And this is all without the addition of any extra chemicals, too.
This neat, bacteria-zapping function also explains why cinnamon has a history of use as a powder for cleaning the teeth. Not only that, but the spice has additionally been deployed by natural healers as a way of curing ulcers and any pain in the mouth. So, if you’re at the dentist more often than you’d like, it could be worth adding a little cinnamon to your daily diet.
As we mentioned earlier, though, cinnamon isn’t just a tasty spice that can keep you healthy. Yes, it could be the very thing you’re looking for if you’re struggling to maintain your plants at home. And the pungent aromatic could help you in several different ways on that front.
For instance, did you know that cinnamon can protect your flowers from marauding ants? As plenty of people with green thumbs will know, these little critters will devour plants if you’re not too careful – whether in the house or the backyard. But it turns out that ants are a lot less keen on cinnamon than they are on your flora, as gardening blogger Anne Baley has explained.
On the website Gardening Know How, Baley revealed, “Ants don’t like to walk where cinnamon powder lays, so summer ant problems will be decreased. Use cinnamon for pests inside and outside your house. Find their entryway and sprinkle cinnamon powder in their path. Cinnamon won’t kill the ants in your home, but it will help to keep them from coming inside.”
And writer Angela Brown has made an intriguing point about the effectiveness of this particular hack. In a piece for the website DIYEverywhere, she claimed that cinnamon’s smell is powerful enough to mask any scents given off by your plants. As a result, then, ants won’t be able to seek out any greenery as easily as they’d normally do.
But this tip doesn’t just apply to ants; mosquitoes react in the same manner to the strong-smelling spice. You should know, too, that you don’t have to resort to sprinkling cinnamon around your blooms, as another household item will work just as well.
To ward off pests, you can also push a teabag into the soil. Insects aren’t fond of the scent, you see, and so they will stay away from the area around the bag. This handy hack should also enable you to go into the garden at night without being hassled by bugs.
If you’ve been gardening for a lengthy period, though, it’s possible that a few of your flowers may have suffered some damage. And when that happens, you may not know what to do with the affected plants. Should you just leave them as they are? Or are you best to remove them from the soil?
Well, as it turns out, a small dose of cinnamon could solve this issue by quickening the plant’s recovery. And that’s not all. Incredibly, it’s also been claimed that cinnamon can help ward off different ailments in the future, prolonging a plant’s lifespan in the process.
And there’s yet another tip that you may like to try if you’re a keen gardener. Simply put, cinnamon can act as a very effective “rooting agent.” How does this work? Let’s break it down in a step-by-step guide so that you can carry the process out correctly.
Yes, while some gardeners use hormone rooting powder or willow water for the task at hand, cinnamon actually works just as well. Simply dab a small amount onto the stem when you’re laying out your cuttings, and the growth of the roots will receive a boost. This works for most types of plant.
First, begin by pouring a spoonful of cinnamon powder onto a paper napkin. Then, turn the wet end of each stem through the powder before placing your cuttings in potting soil straight from the bag. The cinnamon will encourage the proliferation of stems while simultaneously discouraging the fungus that is responsible for damping off.
And did you know that cinnamon is the ideal weapon to fight off fungi in your garden? It’s a good thing, too, as such growths can be incredibly troublesome – especially if they start to damage your beloved flowers. Fungi can lead to powdery mildew, for instance, as well as leaf spots.
With cinnamon in your arsenal, though, you have nothing to fear. If you spread the spice on soil, you see, it will kill off any fungi on the surface – including wild mushrooms. You’ll need something else, however, to tackle any organisms deeper underground.
A gardener by the name of Lisa has attested to this hack when writing about the effectiveness of cinnamon on her website Feathers in the Woods. And according to the blogger, the spice has made her life a lot easier while she’s out in the yard.
“[There’s] nothing worse than having to waste a beautiful day pulling mushrooms from the mulch in my flower beds,” Lisa wrote in 2014. “Mushrooms are fungus. And since cinnamon has antifungal properties… dusting cinnamon all over the garden mulch… helps to control mushroom growth.”
On that note, here’s another clever suggestion to make your life easier. If the thought of sprinkling cinnamon powder over your plants sounds like a bit of a chore, then choose another even simpler method. All you need is water and a container with a nozzle – along with some cinnamon, of course.
In this way, you can make your own cinnamon spray. Just beat the spice into the water and then let the mixture infuse while you sleep. After that, strain the resulting liquid using filter paper and pour what results into your bottle.
You can use the spray on the leaves and stems of any plants that are affected by fungi or on your potting soil to ward off any mushrooms. This works, too, if your flowers are growing indoors – and you may just appreciate the resulting spicy smell.
But fungi aren’t the only enemy of house plants; gnats can be a bother as well. Luckily, though, these pests can be deterred, as getting rid of fungi means they have nothing to feast on. So, give cinnamon a try; it may just revolutionize the way you garden.