Gardening can be fun and easy with just a few hints.
Here are some of my favorites.
Almost anything can be a plant starter
If you want to start seeds indoors but don't have expensive seed flats or greenhouse-quality pots, just look around your house for other options. Seeds can be started in egg cartons or even egg shells. Many of us remember starting seeds in milk cartons. You can use pie tins, yogurt containers, and lunch meat trays. As long as you provide some holes in the bottom for drainage, there are endless ways to start seeds.
Save your pantyhose
Pantyhose and nylons are great to recycle for garden use. Put young squash and melons in a leg and tie it to a trellis or post; it will help keep the fruit off the ground, free from rot, insects, and mold. Use strips as ties for vines; they won't cut into the plant like string and wire. Hang flower bulbs, onions, and garlic at the end of the season in a leg for storage. Fill a foot with pet and human hair and hang it as a deer repellent. Use the "bottom" panel to cover the bottom of a pot; it keeps soil in and lets water out.
Things you never thought of composting
Every gardener should have a compost bin or compost pile. Think about adding these common waste items: leftover rice or pasta, stale bread, paper towel and toilet paper cardboard rolls, used paper napkins and paper plates, pizza boxes, stale beer, paper grocery bags, dryer lint, hair from a pet brush, shredded bills and office files, used cotton balls and cardboard cotton swabs, old cotton or wool clothing, old potpourri, and all those subscription cards in magazines. To help decompose these things, tear or cut them into small pieces before adding them to the compost pile.
Beer really does work on slugs.
Bury a tuna can or deep container in the ground with the edges level with the soil surface. Fill it with beer to about an inch from the top. It attracts slugs, they go in for a drink, they can't escape, and they drown. It's not pretty, but it eliminates the slimy pests.
Rolled up newspaper can trap earwigs.
Another common pest is the earwig. Take a section of your daily newspaper, wet it so it's damp, roll it into a loose cylinder with the ends open, and place it under a bush in your garden or on the edge of the lawn. Leave it for a day or two and check it in the morning. Errant earwigs should have found the nice, moist interior. You can pick the whole thing up, earwigs and all, and dump it in the trash.
Water is the best control for aphids.
If you have aphids on your plants, you don't need to use pesticides. Aim a strong stream of water at the little critters and knock them off the plant. The ones you knock off won't return. If new ones appear, spray them off too. It may take a few days to rid your plants of aphids in a serious infestation, but the repeated sprays help to water your plants as well.
A pie tin can attract birds.
Place a pie tin in a corner of your garden and fill it half full with water during your normal watering activities. Birds will come, take a drink, and maybe wet their feathers. If you're lucky they'll feast on a few harmful insects while they're there.
You can recycle household waste water.
If you have a small aquarium or goldfish bowl, pour the dirty water on your compost pile when you clean the tank; it's like adding little pieces of manure to the pile. If you steam vegetables for dinner, cool the steaming water and use it to water your house plants; the nutrients that leach from the vegetables while cooking are added back to your plants. Keep a gallon jug under your sink to collect the water that would normally go down the drain while you're waiting for hot water; use it to water plants or for mixing with powder fertilizer.
Pesticides may do more harm than good in your garden.
The large majority of insects in your garden are beneficial ones. Spiders, wasps, and praying mantises all feed on harmful insects. Ladybugs, lacewings, and hoverflies eat aphids. Many ground beetles eat aphids, mealybugs, and slugs. Bees, butterflies, and moths pollinate your flowers. Earthworms and beetles help decompose organic matter in the soil and improve its structure. When you target a garden pest with insecticide you may inadvertently harm many helpful creatures.
Deer will eat just about anything, but they have favorites.
Many plants are marketed as deer-resistant or even deer-proof. The truth is that deer will eat just about any plant if they are hungry enough. There are plants that deer prefer and when you plant them they are like magnets to the big animals. Daylilies, Hosta, Hydrangea, Mums, Rhododendrons, and Tulips are some of their favorites. When you plant delicious flowers in deer country you should anticipate the consequences. On the plus side some of your less delectable plants may be spared.
Eggshells may not really add much calcium to your soil.
Burying crushed eggshells or adding them to your compost pile is not a bad idea, but don't expect quick results. Eggshells are very slow to break down in soil and when they do only a small amount of calcium is released. They do have an effect in raising the pH of acidic soils and since acidic soils are often low in natural calcium, adding finely-crushed eggshells can modify both pH and calcium levels slightly. The best benefit may be that the sharp edges can deter slugs when sprinkled on the surface.