Tricks and Tips

I love gardening tricks and tips that save me time, money, or effort. I’ve collected 10 of my favorite tips for you.

Hair clips make great plant ties.

1. Use hair clips to attach plants to stalks. This works especially well with tomatoes and dahlias. Just make sure the ends of the clip don’t pinch into the stem.

2. Sprinkle a little baby powder inside gardening gloves to make them easier to get off. This works especially well for tighter fitting gloves like Atlas nitrile, and when it’s really hot out and hands get sweaty.

3. Use crumpled aluminum foil and water to get rust off small tools like scissors or hand-held pruner blades. Yes, it really works. No, I didn’t believe it either before I tried it.

4. Use sealable plastic baggies as containers for starting cuttings. Mix one cup potting mix and one-cup vermiculite into the bag, stick in your cutting (using a rooting hormone if desired), and seal the bag. Keep it in a warm, bright place but not in direct sunlight. The bag keeps in humidity and there’s no need to water. It’s also easy to see when roots sprout at which time the seedlings need to be transplanted.

5. Use a clothespin in one hand to hold a rose branch while pruning with the other hand. I remember struggling to prune them. No matter how sturdy my gloves were, I always got poked. This seems to make a lot of sense.

6. Use metal hangers as single-stem plant stakes. Keep the hook shape to hold the stem and straighten and/or cut the rest to stick in the ground.

Old sleds, whether metal or plastic, make it easy to transport heavy or bulky items.

7. Use an old shower curtain as a tarp. This is extremely useful for lugging heavy things around without needing to first lift them up into and then down out of a wheelbarrow, and it’s great to place underneath shrubs you are pruning and then drag all the clippings away without needing to rake. I’ve always used an actual tarp or an old plastic or metal sled for this, but this is an even cheaper idea!

8. If using leaves as mulch, oak leaves take the longest time to break down, and their bitterness deters slugs and grubs. For composting, maple leaves are the best as they break down the quickest.

9. Add salt to soap to more easily clean dirty hands. This also works to remove dye from hands.

10. Spray paint the handles of wood gardening tools so it’s easy to spot them. I recommend yellow or orange, but any bright color will do. I prefer fluorescent, but that’s because a friend of mine always has some left over for me from his model rocketry hobby, and I just love orange. If you’re spraying a brand new handle, the paint may not adhere easily unless you sand the wood first. This trick was a lifesaver when I was working, using multiple tools at once over a large distance.

    Pop Bottles to Protect Plants

  1. Cut the top 2 to 3 inches off clear 2-liter pop bottles and place over small seedlings when replanting in an outdoor garden. The plastic allows sunlight to reach the plant while protecting it from pests and high winds. The protected plants require less water, as the dome shape retains moisture like a greenhouse. Remove when shoots reach the top of the bottle.

    A New Kind of Scarecrow

  2. Vegetables attract produce-munching pests like squirrels, birds and rabbits. Lay old, unwashed socks around your vegetable garden; the strong human odor scares away rodents. Old CDs, when hung from a shepherd hook with string, sway and glint in the sunlight, frightening squirrels and birds that attack vegetable plants.

    Working with Small Gardens

  3. Maximize space in small garden plots by utilizing upside-down planters for vegetables like tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. These planters are composed of a large bag of soil with a small hole in the bottom that holds the plant, and can be made at home with a few simple supplies from your local home improvement store. Hang upside-down planters from shepherd hooks to maximize your space.

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