(I learned these tips from Paul James, host of Gardening by the Yard and AnnArbor.com Community Contributor Monica Milla)

Those who read my blog know how much I love making lists and I found this one to be quite useful!

1. To remove the salt deposits that form on clay pots, combine equal parts white vinegar, rubbing alcohol and water in a spray bottle. Apply the mixture to the pot and scrub with a plastic brush. Let the pot dry before you plant anything in it.

2. To prevent accumulating dirt under your fingernails while you work in the garden, draw your fingernails across a bar of soap and you’ll effectively seal the undersides of your nails so dirt can’t collect beneath them. Then, after you’ve finished in the garden, use a nailbrush to remove the soap and your nails will be sparkling clean.

3. To prevent the line on your string trimmer from jamming or breaking, treat with a spray vegetable oil before installing it in the trimmer.

4. Turn a long-handled tool into a measuring stick! Lay a long-handled garden tool on the ground, and next to it place a tape measure. Using a permanent marker, write inch and foot marks on the handle. When you need to space plants a certain distance apart (from just an inch to several feet) you’ll already have a measuring device in your hand.

5. To have garden twine handy when you need it, just stick a ball of twine in a small clay pot, pull the end of the twine through the drainage hole, and set the pot upside down in the garden. Do that, and you’ll never go looking for twine again.

6. To turn a clay pot into a hose guide, just stab a roughly one-foot length of steel reinforcing bar into the ground at the corner of a bed and slip two clay pots over it: one facing down, the other facing up. The guides will prevent damage to your plants as you drag the hose along the bed.

7. The next time you boil or steam vegetables, don’t pour the water down the drain, use it to water potted patio plants, and you’ll be amazed at how the plants respond to the “vegetable soup.”

8. Use leftover tea and coffee grounds to acidify the soil of acid-loving plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias, gardenias and even blueberries. A light sprinkling of about one-quarter of an inch applied once a month will keep the pH of the soil on the acidic side.

9. Use chamomile tea to control damping-off fungus, which often attacks young seedlings quite suddenly. Just add a spot of tea to the soil around the base of seedlings once a week or use it as a foliar spray.

10. The quickest way in the world to dry herbs: just lay a sheet of newspaper on the seat of your car, arrange the herbs in a single layer, then roll up the windows and close the doors. Your herbs will be quickly dried to perfection. What’s more, your car will smell great.

11. 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.

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

13. Use crumpled aluminum foil and water to get rust off small tools like scissors or hand-held pruner blades. Yes, it really works.

14. 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.

15. Use a clothespin in one hand to hold a rose branch while pruning with the other hand.

16. 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.

17. 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.

18. 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.

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

20. Spray paint the handles of wood gardening tools so it’s easy to spot them.

I hope you will be able to utilize some or all of these tricks like I have!



8 responses

  1. slowborg says:

    Makes me want an outside garden even more!

  2. I will definitely be using some of these tips. I especially like the one about the soap before you start gardening to make it easier to clean the soil from under your fingernails! I am forever going out with dirty underneath mine. Re the coffee grinds, I’ve been putting mine in the compost but as the soil is actually quite alkaline, I think I will start doing what you suggest so that those acid loving plants get a better chance 🙂

    • I like the soap one too. I’m not crazy about how it feels, but it’s better than dirt! Yes, my blueberries are loving the coffee. Thanks for the comment and glad you found a couple of these helpful!

  3. I love the bar of soap idea to keep dirt out from under the nails. I wear gloves but the dirt still comes through. Also, about the aluminum foil to handle rust – it’s even more effective if you dip the foil into cola! Thanks for these!

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  5. Thanks for the tip in dipping the foil in cola first! I appreciate your comment!

  6. I just love watching Paul James shows but haven’t caught him lately. I’ll have to check out his schedule on the internet. Thanks for the tips!

  7. Terrific garden tips! Thank you!