The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

Solving Garden Dilemmas

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
State Master Gardener Coordinator

If necessity is the mother of invention then gardens are necessity's playground. Gardeners are known for going beyond duct tape for solutions to problems. Here are some creative ideas for solving garden dilemmas.

Tools from Unlikely Places

  • Slice foam pipe insulation and place on the handles of hoes and rakes for a more comfortable grip.
  • Plastic net onion bags make great scrubbers for cleaning tools.
  • Cut slits in garden gloves at the base of thumb and index finger. If delicate handling of plants is needed, just pop thumb and finger out the holes. No need to take gloves off.
  • Old serving spoons make great tools for moving small volunteer plant seedlings early in the season.
  • Old serrated knives easily cut through roots when transplanting houseplants.
  • Use grain shovel to move containers. Just slip shovel under container and drag it to new location.
  • What the best dressed gardeners are wearing - fishing vests to hold labels, pens, gloves, plant ties, and chocolate.
  • Old ironing boards make great portable potting benches. Who wants to use them for ironing anyway?
  • Plastic mini blinds can be cut to any length to use as plant labels.
  • Need quick temporary shade for newly planted plant? Upend a plastic laundry basket.
  • Use a bread bag over your hand to pluck out small poison ivy seedlings. Then pull bag over seedling and toss in garbage.
  • Use colored golf tees to mark locations of spring bulbs.
  • How about a nice berber? Carpet pieces can be used to cover paths in the vegetable garden.
  • Too busy during planting time to write down plant locations? Just file plant tags in photo albums. The plastic pages for 4 x 6 inch photos work well. Place labels in different pockets according to garden location.
  • Small step-on cylinder waste baskets make great temporary containers for vegetable scraps. The interior pail can be easily removed for a trip to the compost pile.

Plant Support Groups

  • Heavy fishing line can be used to help clematis grow up a structure or arbor. String it every 6 inches either horizontally or vertically and the clematis can easily climb without constant attention.
  • Need a quick plant tie? Use Siberian iris leaves.
  • Plastic "pound in" edging pieces that hook together can be used to contain spreading plants such as yarrow. These also work well to hold up short but floppy plants.
  • Baby gates secured to metal stakes can be used in the vegetable garden as a quick trellis for peas.
  • Use dark green spray paint on inexpensive wire tomato cages for use as peony supports.

Plant Protection Possibilities

  • Use dark green spray paint on wire baskets made for closet shelves. Set over plants to protect from rabbits. Baskets can be easily moved as plants mature and are "less tasty".
  • Place 1-2 foot squares of bird netting over plants to prevent rabbit damage. Use "U" shaped landscape stakes to secure netting.

Dizzy over Garden Design?

First take digital photos of area set for redesign. Print photos in black and white (this also reveals a good mix of form and size of plants, and leaf textures). Then use transparent paper on top of the prints. Sketch new design ideas over the present plantings and structures.

Weird but Wonderful

When flowers with sturdy stalks such as yarrow, astilbe or allium have dried, enjoy them longer by spray painting the flower an appropriate color. Protect stalks from spray for a more "realistic" look.

Thanks to Master Gardener Ann Tice and many other imaginative gardeners for passing on their ideas. If you have creatively solved a garden problem, I would love to hear about it.

Garden Day 2007

- March 2 and 3; Urbana Holiday Inn. University of Illinois Extension Champaign County PH: 217.333.7672 orClick here to register online.

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