Eight great garden tips and tricks
To get started, here is one of my tips plus seven from Jerry Baker's book, 101 Great Garden Tips, Vol. II. The last tip is mine, while the rest are Jerry's.
- 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.
- Use a clothespin in one hand to hold a rose branch while pruning with the other hand. I don't grow roses myself, but I 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.
- 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.
- 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 for this, or an old plastic sled, but this is an even cheaper idea!
- Use oak leaves as mulch. Oak leaves take the longest time to break down, and their bitterness deters slugs and grubs. For composting, I've discovered maple leaves are the best, as they break down the quickest.
- Add salt to soap to more easily clean dirty hands. This also works to remove dye from hands and tea stains from ceramic mugs.
- Spray paint wood handles of garden tools to make them easy to find. Baker 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. 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 in large garden spaces.
- Use old hair clips to attach plants to stakes. This works particularly well for tomatoes, dahlias, and even orchids. Just make sure the clip is wide enough for the particular plant stem and that the tines of the clip don't pinch or damage the plant stem.
Monica Milla | Contributor