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Posted on Tue, Apr 3, 2012 : 4:58 p.m.

Eight great garden tips and tricks

By Monica Milla

I've always gardened in a way that saves time, money, and resources, and I'm eager to share my tips and tricks with you.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!
  5. 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.
  6. Add salt to soap to more easily clean dirty hands. This also works to remove dye from hands and tea stains from ceramic mugs.
  7. MillaTomatoClip.jpg

    Old hair clips make great plant ties.

    Monica Milla | Contributor

  8. 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.
  9. 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, the Garden Faerie, is a master gardener volunteer, instructor, speaker, garden coach and author of "Fun with Winter Seed Sowing."



Mon, Apr 9, 2012 : 3:48 a.m.

All good tips! I especially like the one about painting tool handles. I'm forever setting something down and forgetting where I left it. Love the hair clips one too, except I've misplaced all of those! ;O


Wed, Apr 4, 2012 : 3:23 a.m.

#9 Take an old gardening book out of the library and write a know-nothing article on gardening that makes it seem like a cross-between junk collecting and recycling.


Wed, Apr 4, 2012 : 2:23 a.m.

Another way to remove tea stains from ceramic cups is by using baking soda. The old shower curtain as tarp for dragging things can be extended to a large, old sheet or blanket and whichever item is the base to pull can also be used in fall to pull leaves from back yards to the curb.


Wed, Apr 4, 2012 : 2:26 a.m.

I want to mention that it's a great store, on Ashley near Liberty, specifically at the northwest corner of Ashley and Liberty. They have off street parking.

Monica Milla

Wed, Apr 4, 2012 : 1:37 a.m.

There was accidental duplication of the URL. The story you commented on is from 2010 and is now at


Wed, Apr 4, 2012 : 12:25 a.m.

Oh, no, this is a different list of tips than the one I commented on earlier. That list seems to have disappeared. Strange.


Wed, Apr 4, 2012 : 12:21 a.m.

what happened to the comments? There were a bunch of them, including one by me that is still in my list of posts and comments.