University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Summer News Article
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
In her book Trowel and Error, author Sharon Lovejoy covers over 700 gardening shortcuts, tips, and home remedies for plant problems.  These often involve saving and reusing (“repurposing”) old items from home and garden, or clever non-chemical means to get rid of pests.  If you garden, you’re bound to find a new use for an item or different technique to 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 residue from pot rims.
--Old kitchenware can be reused, such as kitchen tongs for picking up prickly plants or stinging nettles, grapefruit knives for weeding containers, and apple corers for “dibbling” in small bulbs and plants.
--Heavy-duty paper clips (the kind that hold stacks of paper together) have many uses, such as holding shade cloth to frames, or 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 a scouring 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 melons, squash 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 for 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 marker.
Under 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 under the 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 bait.
--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 melon rinds, bran sprinkled on cabbage leaves, or simply a slightly elevated board 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 small, lidded
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 them elsewhere. (Hopefully the sound doesn’t do the same for the gardener!)
These are merely a sampling of the ideas from author Sharon Lovejoy, with other categories on home potions, attracting allies to help with pests, success with seeds, soil-related tips including composts and mulches, and indoor plants.

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