I store three small hand-pruning shears and an old butter knife in this little red mail box.
One of the best ways I learn is by trial and error or through making mistakes. Some of the following “tips” come from learning things the hard way.
There are days, especially in early spring, when I can’t wait to get outside. Sometimes that means before eating breakfast or brushing my teeth. Hopefully, you aren’t such a fanatic.
I’ve not seen these tips in print, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t out there somewhere or perhaps they’re just supposed to be “no brainers,” which means I must not have one.—Ha! (I realize the first two tips are absolutely obvious, but sometimes I forget them and maybe you do too?)
- Before heading outside, put a tissue or a handkerchief in your pocket. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to run back into the house, sometimes with dirt covering hands, knees, and shoes to get a tissue. Many of us suffer from spring and fall allergies, but don’t think about our drippy nose until we’re already out working in the garden. Even if you take allergy medications, you may still need a tissue. If nothing else, you can use it to wipe sweat off your forehead and neck.
- Again, before going outside to work, “liquidate your assets.” It’s annoying (or it is to me) when you’re at the far end of your property and nature calls. Loudly like your mother. Who wants to stop playing in the garden to run in and use the bathroom? I don’t.
- Keep a bottle of cheap dish-washing liquid or hand soap outside by the faucet. I learned this from a friend, and her trick has helped me take care of dirty hands, flower pots, etc. countless times.
- Keep a rag or old wash cloth handy someplace outdoors in an inconspicuous place to wipe off dirty pots or your hands. Again, I find keeping one near the faucet works well.
- Don’t throw away small pieces of brick, flat pieces of iron, large broken pieces of ceramic tile, or flat rocks. Find a place (an old plastic pot?) to store these items for later use. Why? Because they come in handy when you’re trying to level a large pot or piece of statuary on uneven ground. Yes, you can use a wooden shim or dirt to level a small area, but wood rots over time and dirt sometimes washes away. If you use a flat rock or slices of brick (which for me were left by my mason), they work well for this kind of job.
- This tip is useful more for women than for men. When you need to move something—a large pot or heavy statuary—by yourself, use a large piece of cardboard or an old rubber mat like this one. (Thicker cardboard is better.)
Large ugly piece of cardboard I’m using to paint stuff. It would work well to move a heavy pot.
Lay the cardboard or mat on the ground beside the item you want to move. Walk or slide the pot or statue onto the cardboard/mat. If the item is tall, you may need to lay it onto its side on top of the cardboard to prevent it from falling over when you move it. You then pull the cardboard or mat slowly over the ground to the area where you want that item. I don’t know how many times I’ve used this trick to move super heavy pots long distances.
- If you don’t have a shed or a storage box to house your plant blankets and other supplies, consider buying an inexpensive garbage can with a lid. (The garbage can may be hidden beside your house or behind a tree to keep your garden pre.) I own two garbage cans for this purpose.
- Need a watering can, but don’t want to buy one? Empty liquid laundry detergent bottles like this one work great as watering cans. I use two of these constantly, even though I own five other “real” watering cans. (I feel like I can be rough with these plastic bottles and not worry if they get damaged.)
- Your hand pruner is your friend. To save time, keep it on you whenever you go into the garden. Sometimes when I’m digging a hole to place a new plant, I need pruners either to cut a root I find growing in the hole I’m digging or to trim the roots of a root-bound plant as I slip it from its pot, or because a limb on the new plant has broken off and I need to trim it properly. Wandering around my garden, I often see a dead branch or foliage that needs to be lopped off. It’s far easier if you carry your pruners with you from the start.
- Think hard before throwing out your organic matter—leaves, branches, kitchen scraps. A successful nurseryman told me, “You should keep all of the organic matter you generate on your property.” Think of it this way, you throw your leaves and grass away only to turn around and buy compost. Leaves and grass are just compost waiting to happen. You waste money by tossing this stuff. Use it to make compost. (Even if you never turn the pile, you will still get compost at the bottom of the pile. It just takes longer). Wouldn’t you rather use the money you didn’t spend on buying soil additives to purchase more plants or a flower pot you’ve been coveting? If nothing else, this a way to recycle and save energy.
- When covering your outside plants to protect them in the winter, if you use plastic, make certain the plastic does NOT touch the plant. I rarely hear anyone mention this. If the plastic touches your plant, it can transmit the cold temperature to the plant and could kill it. (I personally never use plastic. I use frost cloth or old blankets housed in garbage cans when not in use.)
Got tips of your own? I’d love to hear them. Leave a comment.