University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension
University of Vermont
book Trowel and Error, author Sharon
Lovejoy covers over 700 gardening shortcuts, tips, and home remedies
problems. These often involve saving and
reusing (“repurposing”) old items from home and garden, or clever
means to get rid of pests. If you
garden, you’re bound to find a new use for an item or different
make your gardening easier and perhaps cheaper.
Under the category of tools, consider these
ideas and items:
--Use a mixture of equal parts white vinegar, rubbing
alcohol, and water to scrub and clean dirty tools and white salts
--Old kitchenware can be reused, such as kitchen tongs
for picking up prickly plants or stinging nettles, grapefruit knives
weeding containers, and apple corers for “dibbling” in small bulbs
--Heavy-duty paper clips (the kind that hold stacks of
paper together) have many uses, such as holding shade cloth to
tightening glove cuffs to keep out unwanted insects and soil.
--Keep a used soap dispenser, filled with mineral oil,
near your tools; after done for the day, wipe dirt from tools using
pad if needed, then wipe with the oil.
--Save those wide-mesh tomato or fruit baskets (as you
often get with strawberries). Line next
spring with paper, then fill with soil, before sowing seeds of
or cucumbers. Then plant the entire
basket, the roots being able to grow through the mesh openings.
--Use old colanders and laundry baskets to harvest
produce, then wash with the hose outdoors to
save a mess and clogging sinks with dirt indoors.
--Use Velcro tape for attaching vines to surfaces.
--To keep garden twine from getting tangled, place in an
old coffee or grated cheese container, then guide the string through
a hole in
the top. An old watering can serves
similarly, the twine coming out through the spout.
--Mark inch and foot marks on handles of tools, such as
hole diggers, shovels, and hoes, to know how deep to dig or spacing
transplants for instance.
--Laminate seed packets, then attach to popsicle sticks
or tongue depressors for garden labels.
Cut strips of old miniblinds for labels to write on with permanent
the category of garden pests and problems, consider these solutions:
--First use a forceful stream of water on aphids, mites
and spittlebugs. Up to 90 percent of
problems can be cured this simply.
--Get rid of many Japanese beetles from roses and other
of their favorite plants simply by holding a pail of soapy water
branch, then tapping the branch so beetles fall off.
--Do you have wireworms on root vegetables such as
carrots and beets? Then put a potato
piece on a stick and plunge into the soil.
Remove the stick every few days and discard the wireworm-infested
--You may have heard of placing saucers of beer (old or
cheap works fine) in the garden to attract, and drown, slugs. A
lure for earwigs consists of equal parts
canola oil and soy sauce. Other slug attractants are grapefruit and
rinds, bran sprinkled on cabbage leaves, or simply a slightly
placed on moist soil. Check all such traps every day or two.
--If you grow fruit trees, particularly apples, place 4-
to 6-inch wide cardboard collars around the trunks. Codling moth
larvae, if present, often take
refuge under these. Check and remove any
larvae weekly, then replace new collars.
--There are many home remedies for ants. An ant hotel, where
they’ll check in but not
out, consists of a mixture of 10 teaspoons corn syrup and 1 teaspoon
borax in a
container (with holes in the lid large enough for ants
to enter). You also can spray ant routes
with apple cider vinegar which confuses them so they can’t find
their way home.
--There are several solutions for moles, including
solutions you can buy or make, and devices you can buy. Some have
success with toy windmills placed
around the garden. Their vibrations disturb
and may drive them away. Or sink a line
of glass bottles in the soil with the necks exposed. Wind blowing
across the tops creates a
whistling sound which disrupts their sensitive hearing and may send
elsewhere. (Hopefully the sound doesn’t do the same for the
are merely a sampling of the ideas from author Sharon Lovejoy, with
categories on home potions, attracting allies to help with pests,
seeds, soil-related tips including composts and mulches, and indoor