Month: July 2020

5 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Use as Fertilizer


Loam for cultivation.

No matter how healthy your soil is, chances are your plants can’t get all the nutrients they need without the occasional help of fertilizer. But before you head to the garden store, look around – here are five natural fertilizers that you won’t have to go far to find.

1. Banana Peels

At more than 40 percent potassium, banana peels are one of the best organic sources for this important nutrient which supports the growth of strong roots and stems. Bananas are also rich in other minerals like calcium and manganese, which aid photosynthesis.

You can bury whole banana peels at the bottom of beds when planting, or chop them up and use as a mulch. Some gardeners recommend putting them in the blender to make a puree. If you have overripe bananas but can’t get to the gardening, don’t worry, you can freeze the skins and defrost them when you’re ready to use.

2. Coffee Grounds

After you brew up your morning pot, hang onto those grounds – they’re rich in potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen, the three key ingredients in commercial fertilizer. They also contain calcium, magnesium, and antioxidants and attract earthworms, offering an additional boost for soil health. If your java consumption doesn’t meet your plants’ needs, ask at your local café; many will give coffee grounds to anyone who asks nicely!

You can put coffee grounds directly onto plants, but it’s best to rake them into the soil to avoid forming a crust that could inhibit watering. Some gardeners prefer to let the grounds dry before applying, while others dump them straight out of the press.

3. Eggshells

Eggshells are more than 90 percent calcium carbonate, the same ingredient found in lime, a traditional soil amendment. So it’s easy to see why gardeners love to crush them up and use them in compost. (Oyster shells have a similar nutritional makeup but are much harder to use.)

Calcium works to break down other soil nutrients, particularly nitrogen, and supports minerals in moving through a plant’s system.

To speed up the availability of the calcium, you can pound or grind the eggshells up and soak them in a few tablespoons of vinegar overnight. Eggshells can also be used to keep away slugs since they can’t crawl over the sharp edges.

4. Epsom Salts

While they look like salt crystals, Epsom salts are actually a naturally occurring mineral known as magnesium sulfate, a compound of magnesium, sulfur and oxygen. This makes them valuable to plants like roses, tomatoes and peppers that need a lot of magnesium to thrive.

Magnesium boosts photosynthesis, aiding the production of chlorophyll for green and healthy growth. In addition, magnesium helps plants better absorb nitrogen and phosphorous, boosting flower and fruit production.

Add a tablespoon of Epsom salts to the soil at planting time, scratch the granules into the soil around the roots, or dilute the same amount of magnesium in a gallon of water.

5. Molasses

It’s not just for gingerbread anymore – molasses is the secret weapon of many organic gardeners, who use it as a sugar source to increase the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the soil. When applied with liquid organic nitrogen fertilizer, molasses helps the bacteria break down the nutrients so plants can use them more efficiently. And it doesn’t hurt that molasses is sticky, helping the fertilizer stick around.

To use molasses in gardening, choose an unsulphured variety like blackstrap molasses since sulfur can harm the microbes you’re trying to help. Try adding molasses to the water when starting seeds or transferring seedlings and watch them grow in double time.

10 Things Gardeners Often Neglect

Raised Garden Beds

Raised Garden Beds

Whether your garden is a cluster of pots on a patio or fire escape or a backyard spanning acres, taking care of demanding plants can be a challenge. Here are 10 things gardeners often overlook that can make a big difference in whether your gardening experience is discouraging or delightful.


  1. Nurturing the Soil


Soil is the foundation of every garden, so it’s important to know your soil type, from sandy to clay to loam, and add amendments as necessary. (Take a handful to a local nursery when in doubt.) Container gardening offers more control over the soil, but even the richest potting mix becomes depleted over time, so enrich the soil with each new growing season.


  1. Following the Sun


Sun – some plants can’t get enough of it, others wither in its glare. Before planning your garden, take note of the sun patterns in each planting location, paying attention to morning and evening angles as well as when the sun is overhead. Next, read up on the sun requirements of any plant before you choose its permanent location, and don’t be afraid to shift things around if a plant seems unhappy.


  1. Staking Early and Often 


It’s easy to forget when tucking two-inch seedlings into the ground that many plants grow very quickly, especially in the summer months. Left untended, they’ll sprawl in directions you don’t intend or even break if they get too top-heavy. The solution: set up wire cages, poles, arbors, and trellises soon after planting to give plants a head start on support.


  1. Watering Too Much or Too Little


Believe it or not, both of these are common mistakes – and many of us do both! That’s because plants evolved to draw water from the soil in specific conditions and they need just enough water to thrive. The solution? Install a drip irrigation system that mimics the effects of nature like Orbit’s All-In-One Sprinkler Kit with B-hyve timer. Covering up to 2,500 square feet with a simple hose connection makes setting up a nature-mimicking watering system a snap – and you’ll save water, too.


  1. Thinning Out The Crowd


Overcrowding can result in some plants shading others and root systems competing for space and nutrients. It’s not easy to dig up a plant you’ve nurtured, but remember that when you remove some to give others space, you’re doing them all a favor in the long run.


  1. Setting an Auto-Timer


With our busy lives and unpredictable schedules, a timer is an essential part of any irrigation system. But setting your system to water for 20 minutes every Tuesday doesn’t help if a heatwave or a sudden burst of wet weather hits. Orbit’s B-hyve Smart Hose Watering Timer with WiFi hub solves that problem by regulating itself according to online weather data. And it connects over your smartphone so you can control it anywhere – even from your cabin in the mountains.


  1. Keeping Weeds at Bay


Weeds aren’t just unsightly, they’re also aggressive spreaders, which is how they came to be in your garden in the first place. To prevent weeds from pushing your plants aside, pull them while they’re still young and haven’t done much damage.


  1. Feeding with Fertilizer


Even the best soil gets depleted over time as plants draw nutrients from the soil and water washes them away. Use fertilizer at least once a month and more often for container and house plants.


  1. Pruning and Deadheading 


As flowers fade, plants begin channeling their energy into seed development. To encourage repeat blooming, prune branches or pinch off dead blooms, a process known as deadheading.


  1. Replacing a Non-Starter


Give yourself permission to replace plants that aren’t living up to expectations, offering the discards to friends and neighbors when you can. Real estate is as valuable in the garden as elsewhere and every spot counts.


Here at Orbit, we’ve found that following these tips results in happier plants, lower water use, and a greener garden the neighbors can’t help but notice.