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Gardening Tips to Make Life Easier

By Toni Leland (tonilelandJuly 28, 2008

Nothing is better than finding an easier way to do something...especially if it saves time, energy, and money! Caring for almost 2 acres of yard and garden, I've utilized every quick tip I could find, and come up with a couple of my own.

Gardening picture
Save Your Back!

poolHauling debris is a real chore and, for me, a wheelbarrow is too heavy and my garden cart is too small. While crawling around under the deck looking for a hose leak, I spied an old plastic kiddie pool--the molded plastic type. The heck with the leak--I'd just found the answer to my garden cleanup woes. I poked a hole just below the rim, and threaded a 6-foot length of sturdy rope through, tying it securely with 3 knots. I then made a loop handle on the loose end.

What sounds like a ridiculous idea is fabulous! The pool weighs nothing empty and, even filled with clippings or branches, it slides over the grass like a dream. When you get to the compost area or burn pile, just pull straight up on the rope and the pool tips everything out. But the best part of this lazy gardener's invention is this: when I'm crawling along the ground, weeding and digging, I don't have to get up to move the wheelbarrow or garden cart closer--I just pull the rope to move the container up to my work area.

Deadheading Dilemma

My gardens are filled with lilies, gladioli, corepsis, and other flowering plants that thrive if the old blossoms are removed regularly. Again, I despise leaning over to pick up a pail as I move through the flower bed, and the kiddie pool is too big for this daily chore.
Being a packrat, I have virtually hundreds of plastic grocery bags. Talk about recycling! I hang one on my pocket using an old diaper pin (a REALLY old diaper pin!), then move through my flowers with both hands free. The spent blossoms go into the bag and, when I'm finished, I empty the debris into the compost pile.

Snip, Snip...

While we're discussing dead-heading, while the chore is not a hard one, I always see something that needs to be clipped and--you guessed it--the clippers are in the garden shed. Sewing basket to the rescue! I carry a pair of "snips" in my pocket whenever I'm headed out to the garden. They are light-weight, easy to use, portable, AND usable either right- or left-handed. Inexpensive ones are available in most dollar stores.

Staking Tomatoes with Naturestaking

Rather than use commercial tomato cages, I found a way to use the remnants of Nature's housekeeping: tree branches! With over 50 mature trees on the property, we have abundant limbs and branches every time the wind blows. These have to be picked up before mowing, so I do double duty with the chore. Early spring cleanup always yields dozens of suitable branches, so I store them behind the garden shed for tomato-planting day.
Once my young tomato plants are established, I insert four branches about 10-12 inches from the base of the plant; I use 2-3 foot branches that have many smaller branches. As the tomato grows, I use long craft pipe-cleaners to secure the larger stems to the branch-stakes. When fruit sets and becomes heavy, all I have to do is drape the stem over a branch and it will stay up where it belongs--in the sun.

The nice thing about this staking system is the natural look it lends to the garden--no bright green wire or unfinished wooden stakes. When the tomato plant is fully mature, you almost can't see the branches. This idea will work for any tall, leafy, branching plant that needs support.

Bird Netting for Rodents

One of my biggest headaches is keeping the squirrels and chipmunks from digging in my flower pots. After seeing an article about laying down that plastic bird netting to discourage cats from digging in the flower beds, I decided to try the concept over my planters and seed-starter pots. It worked great. After putting in small plants or seeds, lay a square of bird netting over the pot and secure it with a piece of twine or wire. The plants will grow up through it, it's virtually invisible, and the squirrels can't hide their stashes in your planters.

nettingAnother use for this versatile product--aside from keeping the birds from eating your berries and cherries--is as a climbing support for vining plants. Secure the top and bottom of a piece of netting to the structure where you want the plants to grow. As they reach out the first tendrils, keep guiding them into the netting. In no time, they'll be crawling up and all over the stuff. Fantastic way to train Morning Glories up a solid wall! Don't use this method for plants such as Clematis, as the stems will be so entwined you'll damage the plant when pruning time comes in the spring. For Morning Glories and other annual climbers--when fall comes and you're ready to clean up, just pull the whole thing up and off the wall and put it in the burn pile. The plastic will be reduced to practically nothing.

These tricks save time and energy, and allow me to enjoy my garden more. Do YOU have a trick you use to make life easier?

  About Toni Leland  
Toni LelandToni Leland has been writing for over 20 years. As a spokesman for the Ohio State University Master Gardener program, she has written a biweekly newspaper column and is the editor of the Muskingum County MG newsletter, Connections; she currently writes for GRIT, Over the Back Fence, and Country Living magazines. She has been a gardener all her life, working soil all over the world. In her day job, she scripts and produces educational DVDs about caring for Miniature Horses, writes and edits books about them, and has published five novels.

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