Tips & Tricks Revisited


by Janice F. Booth May 2023


Some years ago I wrote a column on clever, little tricks and ways we can make our work in the garden easier and thus more fun. Since that column, kind readers have shared with me additional tips. My “Tips” file is bursting, notes sliding out a plump folder. So, here I go, with tips and tricks redux.

It’s amazing how many of our kitchen products and tools can also help in the garden. For example:

Unhappy with the rabbits and deer nibbling away at your tender flowers, herbs, and veggies? Gather those plastic forks from take-out (black or clear ones will be unobtrusive) and stick them, tines up, in the ground, forming a short, prickly fence around your young plants. Your fuzzy and furry visitors will look elsewhere for their greens.

Don’t throw away those coffee grounds; sprinkle them under your plants. They help provide nutrients and discourage cats from relieving themselves beneath your zinnia and begonias. Use coffee filters in the bottom of flower pots to catch soil, roots, moisture, and nutrients and keep them in the pots.

Cayenne pepper and cinnamon are gardeners’ friends too. Sprinkle the pepper to deter pesky animals and insects. The cinnamon kills fungus that might form from over-watering.

White vinegar, rubbing alcohol, and water sprayed on salt-stained clay pots will remove the stains with a bit of scrubbing.

After boiling vegetables or eggs, save the cooled water to use on your potted plants. There are helpful nutrients in that water, and your potted plants will appreciate the boost.

Those kitchen sponges can help in the garden too. Cut pieces of sponge to fit in the bottom of flowerpots. The sponge will absorb water and release it gradually into the soil, thus helping you avoid overwatering or arid soil. (Start with a clean sponge to avoid any bacteria that might harm the plant’s roots.)

Mosquitoes too are susceptible to oil, particularly olive oil. Sprinkle olive oil over the surfaces of that fountain, birdbath, or pond. Oil will discourage mosquitoes from laying their eggs there. 



There are some clever ways to maximize other garden and household supplies, making your gardening tasks easier. Try the following:

The thought of hanging pots can cause me to bolt upright in the middle of a summer’s nap; “You haven’t watered me in 24 hours!” Oops. There’s a remedy for that. Cut up bio-degradable disposable diapers. Place a piece of diaper in the bottom of a hanging pot; sprinkle some fertilizer on the diaper, then add soil and the plant. Like the sponge, the diaper will absorb and release moisture evenly over several days, usually. The fertilizer just adds a little boost. Your hanging pots will look lush and happy, with the added bonus of not dripping down onto your patio or porch floor leaving an ugly water mark. 

Save the hair clippings when you cut your children’s hair or trim your mate’s. Sprinkle the hair around the garden. The scent will discourage all the wild critters: deer, rabbits, raccoons from hanging around. (Sadly, squirrels are not intimidated by the scent of humans.) 

And speaking of odors. Hang bars of Irish Spring soap from tree limbs or stake them to fence posts. Deer do not like the scent and will stay away—usually. 



Fleas and ticks hate the smell of cedar chips; you and your pets will love them in your flowerbeds.

Having trouble keeping track of your small garden tools? Find an interesting mailbox—perhaps something dented and rusty or maybe a shiny, red beauty. Use it as your toolbox. It can sit along the garden path or in a flower bed and look pretty, while you can avoid running around looking for that favorite trowel or your gardening gloves. 

Paint the handles of your favorite tools a bright color so you can find them when you drop them in the flowerbeds. The bright handles will help friends or neighbors remember which tools are yours.

Small clay pots can be useful as hose-guides, or to cover fragile seedlings when frosts or windstorms threaten. Put that ball of garden twine in a small pot with the free end running out the drain hole. Easy to keep the twine tidy and measure out the amount you want. 

Speaking of measuring, I’m always running around looking for my tape measure or yardstick. Gather up your long-handled garden tools. Measure off and mark with permanent ink, a foot in inches and a yard in feet. You won’t have to look far to find a reliable measuring tool. 

You may want to see the potential of your hot car in late summer, when you need to dry those lovely garden herbs. Lay out paper towels or newsprint on your car’s seats and floorboards. When you’re leaving the car alone for 5–6 hours, spread your herbs on the paper; close the doors and windows of your car, and leave. When you return the next day, the car will smell divine, and the herbs will be beautifully dried in their natural formations.

Planning a garden party but wondering where you’ll place drinks and plates? Hose off those large flowerpots and unused saucers in the potting shed. Turn them upside down; set a clean pot-saucer on top, and you have a chair side-table that will be just the right height and hold a glass of lemonade and a plate of sandwiches. 

One final tip that doesn’t really involve household material: An easy and budget-friendly way to keep your garden borders bright and beautiful, is to plant self-seeding flowers like Marigolds, Cosmos, Sweet Alyssum, Candytuft, and Larkspur. (Just writing their names brings lovely images of lush, colorful blooms along the walkways of our gardens.) Hopefully, some of these tips will make your work in the garden easier. 


About J. F. Booth

I am a writer and educator.
This entry was posted in Nature, Published articles. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Tips & Tricks Revisited

  1. Barbara says:

    It’s been a while since I’ve had garden opportunities, but this summer I’ll be getting back on the train… so these tips were most appreciated! I learned a lot, thanks !

  2. says:

    Lots of good tips!! Another interesting and helpful article. Love,Nancy


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