From keeping weeds at bay to preventing dirt from getting under your nails, here are two dozen easy gardening tips from Linda Cobb, the Queen of Clean and author of A Queen for All Seasons: A Year of Tips, Tricks, and Picks for a Cleaner House and a More Organized Life!
BEFORE YOU GET STARTED
Get a head start on summer! Plant seeds in an egg carton to which you have added a small amount of soil — don’t pack it too hard, and don’t let it spill out over the sides. Keep the soil moist, taking care not to overwater. When you’ve seen the last frost, it’s time to pop the seedlings out of the egg container and plant them in the ground. Still impatient? Speed up germination by laying a piece of plastic wrap over the seedlings to keep them moist and warm. Leave the plastic in place until the plants start to poke their heads through the soil.
- Try latex gloves in the garden instead of cloth. They’re easier to clean — you can just rinse them under the hose and let them air-dry — and they don’t stiffen up like canvas gloves do.
- Tie a used fabric softener sheet around your belt to keep mosquitoes away while you garden.
- For a moisturizing treat while gardening, rub your hands with cream or petroleum jelly before donning your gloves.
- Don’t like to wear gloves? Scraping your fingernails over a bar of soap before you get started will prevent dirt from penetrating under your nails and will protect them from breaking.
- Use a little wagon to haul your supplies around the garden. Check garage sales for good deals.
- Carry a quart spray bottle filled with water and a squirt of liquid dish soap. If you see bugs attacking your flowers, just give them a squirt and they’ll vamoose!
- Need a kneeling pad? Take a 2- or 3-inch piece of foam, wrap it in plastic or put it in a large re-sealable bag and you’re all ready to go.
- Crushed eggshells worked well into the soil make a wonderful fertilizer. Terrific for gardens and houseplants, they aerate the soil, too.
- Bury some used coffee grounds in your garden to provide much-needed acid to the soil that has a high alkaline content. You’ll notice much greener greens!
- Fish tank water is loaded with nutrients. Use it for gardens and houseplants.
- Plants love starch, so save the water each time you boil noodles or other pasta. Just make sure to let the water cool down first.
- Dampened newspapers placed on the ground around plants will help keep the soil moist and hold weeds at bay. Wet the newspapers well — you need the weight of the water to hold them down — then sprinkle lightly with soil. The papers are biodegradable, so they will eventually dissolve.
- Keep pests such as aphids, mites, and whiteflies off roses, geraniums, hibiscus, and other plants by spraying them with a combination of 1 quart of water and 1/2 teaspoon of liquid dish soap. Reapply the solution every two weeks.
- Planting garlic, parsley, or basil among your flowers will deter bugs. Marigolds also work well. Just plant them as an edging around the garden.
- Dissolve 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda in 1 quart of water to kill bugs on flowering plants. Spray every 7 to 10 days.
- Powdered milk can kill aphids on roses. Mix 1/3 cup of powdered milk in one quart of warm water, and spray. The aphids will get stuck in the milk and die. Hose the roses down occasionally and re-apply as needed.
- Here’s a great natural way to control black spots on roses. Add 1 tablespoon each of baking soda and vegetable oil to 1 gallon of water. Then add 1 drop of liquid detergent and shake well. Spray directly on the foliage, and spray every 5 to 7 days during humid weather. Make sure to wet both sides of the leaves.
- Chase away pests that feed on your tender plants by mixing 1 tablespoon of hot mustard or red pepper with 1 quart of water. Spray directly on foliage. One hot taste and the pests will be gone!
- Old panty hose make great ties for plants and tomatoes. They’re strong and flexible, but soft enough so that they won’t cut into the plant.
- Cutting roses and trimming bushes can be a prickly job, but if you grip thorny stems with barbecue tongs or clothespins… no more pierced fingers!
- Tuck a bar of soap inside a mesh bag and tie it around the outside faucet. After gardening cleanups will be a breeze.
- Hands that are very dirty can be cleaned with a thick paste of oatmeal and water. Rub well into hands before rinsing and washing as usual.
- Kill weeds with a natural toddy of 1 ounce of white vinegar, 1 ounce of inexpensive gin, and 8 ounces of water. Pour on the weeds and say good-bye.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Linda Cobb, author of A Queen for All Seasons: A Year of Tips, Tricks, and Picks for a Cleaner House and a More Organized Life! (Copyright © 2001 by Linda Cobb), first shared her cleaning tips with readers in a weekly newspaper column in Michigan, where she owned a cleaning and disaster-restoration business dealing with the aftermath of fires and floods. After moving to Phoenix, she appeared weekly as a guest on Good Morning Arizona; since then she has shared her housekeeping tips on radio and television shows across the country, and in two New York Times bestsellers, Talking Dirty with the Queen of Clean and Talking Dirty Laundry with the Queen of Clean.
MORE ARTICLES BY THE AUTHOR
- 15 Ways to Save Energy — and Other Tips for Green Living
- End Closet Clutter and Get Organized in 3 Steps
- How to Remove Stains Using Common Household Products
- Make Your Own Laundry Spot and Stain Removers
- Tang in the Toilet and 17 Other Ingenious Bathroom Cleaning Tricks