Submitted by Cliff Blackerby, Master Gardener, 2017
Hack 1: Irish Spring to keep pest out of the garden. I am fortunate to live in a subdivision that is not plagued by deer and rabbits, but many of my gardening friends have frequent horror stories about having their prized plants eaten to the ground. Feed stores sell products to deter deer and rabbits, but they are expensive and usually have to be reapplied after a rain.
A garden hack to reduce visits from four-legged visitors uses Irish Spring soap in the garden. Cut a bar of Irish Spring soap into half-inch cubes and staple them to a wooden stake 5 to 10 feet apart using a drawstring pouch or cheesecloth. Georgia Wildlife reports that deer, rabbits, and mice seem to be repelled by the animal fats used in the soap. This would suggest that any soap made with tallow could be substituted if Irish Spring is not available. Rain doesn’t hurt the soap so there is no need to reapply after a shower, simply replace the soap as needed. Avoid any soaps containing coconut milk since that attracts deer. Give your garden a bath and keep the pests away.
Hack 2: Using coffee filters in garden containers. I’ve tried all kinds of ways to prevent soil loss in my container plants. I’ve used pebbles, wire screens — you name it I’ve tried it. The easiest solution is a coffee filter. Before filling the container line it with a coffee filter. Add soil and plant, nothing to it. If the pot is too large, just lay the filter over the drain hole. Now when you water your container plants you won’t have to worry about losing your potting material.
Hack 3: Let coffee filters help control your weeds. In keeping with the coffee filter theme, why not use them to reduce your weeding task? Cut a slit in the filter and slide it like a collar around your plant. It lets water percolate to the plant while keeping weeds from growing around the base. It’s a nice, simple, easy and an economical way to reduce the maintenance requirements in the garden. How good is that?
Hack 4: Swap seasonal plants by planting them in their pots. Sometimes called ‘Pot-in-Pot’ gardening, this is a simple and easy way to swap out plants, especially annuals to keep color in your garden. It’s now October and soon we will be transitioning from fall to winter and then spring gardens. Pot-in-Pot gardening has several advantages. It is useful where there is difficulty digging a bed because of tree roots, something we have plenty of in south Montgomery County. Changing annuals as they die out, loose their color or get leggy is as simple as pulling out the unwanted plant and sticking in another.
Your garden is refreshed and can take on a completely new look. You will always have a place for annual plants without having to do a lot of preparation in the flower beds. I’ve killed a number of plants because I selected plants unsuitable for the amount of sun where I placed them. Using the Pot-in-Pot method is a great way to experiment in landscape design to determine which plants and what colors work best in a specific location. Finally, you can drive your other gardening friends crazy by easy and quickly changing out your garden look while they sleep.
Hack 5: The poor man’s drip irrigation system. A simple and easy way to create a drip irrigation system for your garden is to use plastic bottles. Depending on your need, you can use 12 oz coke bottles up to 2-liter sizes. There are two recommended ways to make plastic bottle irrigation systems. In the first, begin by putting holes in the cap of the bottle — any number from one to five. The more holes the greater the water flow. Use a tack and hammer to start the pilot hole, and then use a small nail or drill to finish. Cut the bottom of the bottle off using a sharp knife so you can easily fill the bottle. Bury the bottle, cap down, near the plant or group of plants you want to irrigate. Place a few stones around the bottle to help prevent soil from getting into your new irrigation system.
Many gardeners will prefer the second method because it is easier to hide the bottle among the plants and easier to keep soil out of the bottle. For this method drill two small holes in the bottom of the bottle, then a few more about half way up. Fill to check the water flow and add additional holes if you think you need more water flow. Once you’re satisfied, bury it near the plants you want watered with the cap end up. If you want to get creative you can occasionally add liquid fertilizer. What could be simpler?
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