These gardening ideas titled "Sharing Secrets" are provided by the San Diego Horticultural Society, whose members share their experiences on a different gardening topic every month. You can see the complete archive at www.sandiegohorticulturalsociety.org.
Marsha Bode tells us, "Being a single woman of a certain age, I have many friends who are in the same position. What sets me apart is that I have a pick-up truck. This leads to the acquisition of many items when friends clean out their garages or gardens. I have used the staves from fallen-apart whiskey barrels as boards for staghorn ferns and tillandsias, for instance. For some reason a lot of people have bells of all kinds which end up in my truck: cow bells, musical bells, metal wind chimes and etc. These I have hung randomly in the branches of my lime grove, where they make sound from different spots according to the way the wind is blowing, they are not so close together that they compete with one another or drive me crazy with their constant noise. By far my favorite repurposing is the use of an old carving knife for an all-purpose weeding and digging tool. I have purchased many different tools over the years, but none of them are so handy in certain circumstances as a good long-bladed carving knife for getting the deep roots of tough grasses and for slicing through a whole area of weeds. An old paring knife is also better than clippers for cutting off the tired or snail-chewed leaves of agaves and aloes."
Mary Borevitz re-uses containers: "I cut the bottoms out of large cottage cheese and yogurt containers making a sleeve which I put around garden starts like broccoli or lettuce to keep away rabbits."
Lynn Brown-Reynolds wonders "if anyone has found a use for plastic fast food containers (like roasted chicken, cookie containers, pastry containers, etc.)? May be they can be used for waterproof storage of seed packets, bulbs or as seed starting beds...poke a few holes for drainage?"
Walter Andersen explains why you shouldn't toss yellow containers: "To reduce insects in your yard go to the garage and get a used bright yellow plastic one-gallon jug of Prestone Anti-freeze and a used can/bottle of the motor oil additive STP (I say used STP because you can't get it all to drain out). Wipe out the STP that did not drain out (it is very thick and sticky) and smear the STP on the outside of the Prestone jug. With the cap off of the Prestone jug place the jug upside down on a stake (through the hole) in your vegetable garden. When insects fly by they can't resist and land on the yellow jug and can't get off! It is the same as using sticky yellow boards, which you can also make or buy. After I told a customer this, he said 'thanks,' end of conversation. About three weeks later this same customer comes in with a jug so completely covered with dead bugs, you could hardly see any yellow at all! He was thrilled and I was, too.)"
Diane Burch wrote, "Do you have a small spot of yellow grass, or a hanging basket that just doesn't absorb water as you sprinkle? Empty your refrigeration icemaker on it; it works marvels and is so easy."
Linda Chisari says, "I buy inexpensive packs of chopsticks and use the sticks in several ways: I draw a line in the soil at the proper depth for sowing seeds; I poke holes with the end of the stick to the proper depth for planting peas/sweet peas; I use them as plant labels by writing on the stakes with a Sharpie marker; I use them as temporary stakes when transplanting small plants. The last time I bought these I paid 89 cents for a pack of 24...not a bad deal!"
Barbara Clark cleverly re-uses packing material: "I live in a townhouse and have many plants in containers. Instead of putting broken pottery or rocks in the bottom of the container to keep the drainage holes clear, I break up the white plastic packing that comes with new products such as televisions, computers, and glassware, and put a good layer of it in the bottom of the pot. This works very well for drainage and keeps the container light enough for easy relocation on my decks. Some roots will even go through a piece of packing and right out the other side."
Karylee Feldman puts broken items to good use: "I take broken dishes, etc. and stick them into slope sides so that they appear to be intact (or not). I then plant little plants 'inside' them (a bowl section, mug portion, part of a vase) and no one is the wiser... looks like they're 'buried in' (discovered in?, excavated from?, resting against?) the slope... quite the colorful little bit of whimsy ensues."
Marla Keith re-purposes "a common dinner fork that I buy at thrift stores is good for weeding, separating recent seedlings, and taking propagated cuttings from the pot of planting medium. I have one in various parts of the garden to use whenever I need one. Also, a seam ripper - I keep it close to bags I have to open. It is so easy to use and convenient."
Miriam Kirk says, "Used mini-blinds are easily cut into plant labels and are long lasting. I also thought plastic knives were great plant labels.....until my little grandchildren came running in the house with their hands full of them, having discovered them out in the yard! Old stockings are great for cradling melons. Or cut them into strips to tie up tomato vines."
Susan Morse is good at re-purposing: "The old saying, 'Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery' holds true in my yard. The creative, artistic flair of Buena Creek Gardens has been an inspiration for years. I reuse old tea cups and saucers, tea pots, decorative mugs and chipped bowls, to mention a few items that have turned into small planters. From Susi Torre-Bueno, I have copied her idea of using empty cobalt blue water bottles as color highlights here and there. From Mo Price, I have copied her idea of putting old non prescription sunglasses on a cactus; this great array of staring eyes greet people as they enter our driveway. I use chop sticks as miniature plant stakes or when I am planting seeds, the chopstick makes a great hole to drop the seed into. After seeing the Fouquettes displaying their orchids staked up with hair clips, attaching the stem to the stake, I've retrieved these same type of butterfly shaped hair clips from my dressing table drawer. They are a great asset for vining plants to climb up a trellis. I admit without guilt, that I have picked up items from the side of the road that are being thrown out. These become plant holders or plant hangers. My husband brought home a decorative twin bed frame for my 'bed, flower bed.' He found that on the side of the road on a residential street in Encinitas. So, I have him on the look out, too. I love to reuse things and look forward to reading other comments from SDHS members, and start to flatter those folks with imitation."
Mo Price tells us, "When it's time to buy new dishes, I find the old dishes are useful in the garden. Drill a hole in a cup or bowl and place it on a saucer or plate. They make nice containers for starter plants."
Cindy Sparks uses "things from both the boat and the kitchen in my yard. I have a large staghorn fern mounted in a 3' wire basket. It's quite heavy, and the best way to hang it from an eave is with a little block and tackle which is really the rig for a dinghy sail. That lets me lower it when I need to work on it, or raise it when the gardener needs to service the sprinklers underneath it. You can get it at any marine store. While you're there, pick up some stainless cable in small sizes, say 1/16" diameter, along with the little crimp fittings used to attach it. I use that to hang permanent things in the garden: a rain gage, wind chime, or some of my hanging baskets. It far outlasts any fiber type of string or line, and it's stronger than mono filament fishing line. I plan to use different color mini-blinds cut into labels for my summer-dormant and winter-dormant succulents so I don't forget and water one at the wrong time."
Katrin Utt says, "Please don't laugh - I use aspirin on my roses. One uncoated tablet pushed into the soil of an ailing plant seems to work wonders. It does not work all the time, but it's worth a try." [For an interesting series of articles and comments on aspirin on plants go to www.papillonsartpalace.com/aspirinforplants.htm.]
Ramona Valencia wrote, "I save those expandable net bags that garlic and tomatoes come in and use them to cover my more unique fruits when they are young to protect them from greedy birds. I purchased a pink pearl apple tree quite some time ago and finally had a few small apples appear. Low and behold, the diligent birds got all but two. I put the tomato bags tied with rubber bands top and bottom around those precious apples... it worked!"
Marilyn Wilson has several ideas: "Coffee filters over the drainage holes in a pot before you plant something in it. Chopsticks (tied to shoestrings) to help sweet peas make it to the bottom of the trellis. Kabob skewers with the handle-ends bent, to hold delicate blossoms up out of the mud. OJ plastic bottle carved up to make a soil scoop for potting bench. Pinching clothes pins to attach eye-level plant labels to the honeysuckle vine. One-foot PVC pipe buried vertically along with a lily or dahlia bulb; off-season it almost disappears, and when the lily gets tall, insert a stake inside the pipe to tie up the blooms - never blindly skewer another bulb again."
The San Diego Horticultural Society (SDHS) is a dynamic group that reaches residential and professional gardeners throughout San Diego County. Since our founding in 1994, we have grown to over 1300 members, including passionate backyard gardeners, designers, nursery owners, writers, landscape architects, and other horticultural professionals. Our mission is to promote the enjoyment, art, knowledge and public awareness of horticulture in the San Diego area, while providing the opportunity for education and research.