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Posted on Wed, Sep 29, 2010 : 8:28 a.m.

Ten garden tricks to save time, money and effort

By Monica Milla

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.

Monica Milla | Contributor

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.

The remaining tips are gleaned from Jerry Baker's book, 101 Great Garden Tips, Vol. II. I'll italicize his tips and add my own comments in plain text.

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 don't grow roses myself, but remember struggling to prune them for gardening clients. 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.


Monica Milla | Contributor

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. He recommends yellow, but any bright color will do. I prefer fluorescent orange, 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 life saver when I was working for clients, using multiple tools at once over a large distance.

If you have a favorite gardening trick, let us know under Comments.

Monica Milla, the Garden Faerie, is a master gardener volunteer, garden speaker, garden coach and author of "Fun with Winter Seed Sowing."


Monica Milla

Wed, Sep 29, 2010 : 3:13 p.m.

Barb, LOL, "awesome" is kind of an in joke around here--love your word choice. And thanks! LA, My sil used an old sheet for that, but the shower curtain seems easier to clean off. I'll tell her. J&J, I actually got that tip from a dahlia grower. :) James, ha ha ha, it's true, but if you ever, say, raised a child or had a pet, then you'll know we do things for other payoffs. :) MBT, But you *know* someone who has hair clips (and hair, HA!). BTW, they are cheap at dollar stores or really cheap at yard sales.


Wed, Sep 29, 2010 : 3 p.m.

Good tips. Too bad I don't have any hair clips. BWAHAHAHA!


Wed, Sep 29, 2010 : 1:18 p.m.

If your goal is to save time and money buy your produce next time you are at the suppermarket, but these tips do save effort and make gardening more fun.

Jim and Janice Leach

Wed, Sep 29, 2010 : 8:26 a.m.

Great tips, Monica! I especially like the hair clips as garden ties idea. That's a fantastic solution!


Wed, Sep 29, 2010 : 8:25 a.m.

Great tips! Thanks. An old shower curtain is also good for covering the back seat of my car for bringing home a big wet dog (or 2) from a swim in the lake. Seamless covering from the seat back to the floor. I even use the holes to run a ribbon or mini-bungee cord thru to hold it up across the back headrests. Toss an old towel or two onto the seat and your car stays dry and clean from all those wet paws and wet dog fur/smell.


Wed, Sep 29, 2010 : 8:14 a.m.

These are *awesome*... thanks!!