1,001 Ingenious Gardening Ideas: New, Fun and Fabulous That Will Change the Way You Garden - Forever!


How can you keep from dragging your garden hose over newly planted seedling? Where can you find cheap garden stakes? What can you use to keep the family cat out of your freshly tilled flower beds? This book answers these questions and hundreds more with unique new tips. Plentiful illustrations make for great browsing, while subject-area organization leads you to specific problem solutions. This book is sure to spur you on to improve the bloom and beauty of your garden.

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How can you keep from dragging your garden hose over newly planted seedling? Where can you find cheap garden stakes? What can you use to keep the family cat out of your freshly tilled flower beds? This book answers these questions and hundreds more with unique new tips. Plentiful illustrations make for great browsing, while subject-area organization leads you to specific problem solutions. This book is sure to spur you on to improve the bloom and beauty of your garden.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In a true idea book for organic gardeners, more than 1000 gardeners from across the United States and around the world offer tips based on what works in their own gardens. The individual gardener is identified and the tip written in understandable language. There are sections on gardening tools, composting, plant care, seeds, vegetables, herbs, fruit and berries, flowers, landscaping, attracting birds and butterflies, and more. Almost any gardener can pick up some useful hints about organic methods. This book will not stay on gardening shelves for long. It makes for great browsing, and this reviewer wanted to start trying out its suggestions even when it was still late winter in the upper Midwest.--Dale Luchsinger, Milwaukee Area Technical Coll. Lib, Greendale, WI Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780875968094
  • Publisher: Rodale Press, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/28/1999
  • Series: Rodale Garden Book Series
  • Edition description: REV
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 7.80 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Meet the Author

Deborah L. Martin is a garden book editor at Rodale Press. She holds a degree in horticulture from Purdue University.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


Tools & Gadgets

What gardener isn't on the lookout for gizmos and gadgets that can make life in the garden easier? You'll find ideas in this chapter for tools you can make yourself and tools that can be improvised, scrounged, or recycled. You'll also discover new uses for traditional tools. There's no need to ever throw away a plastic soda bottle, bald tire, milk jug, or broken tool again! Breathe new life into these castoffs and others—turn them into handy implements that will make gardening a breeze.

Roll Out the Barrel

Big planters don't have to cost a fortune. "I use the rugged, dense plastic barrels you find at recycling centers," reveals Pennsylvania garden writer Duane Campbell. "They run about $20 and come in blue, black, and dark green."

    Duane says the barrels are about 38 inches high and easy to cut with a jigsaw. "Just drill a small hole in the middle, stick the blade in, and roll the barrel as you cut."

    Duane recommends 12-inch-tall planters, so after he cuts the barrel into two 19-inch-tall halves, he cuts a 7-inch band from the top of each to make his foot-tall planters.

    He then uses the two 7-inch-tall hoops to create small raised beds in his perennial garden. Duane has discovered that if he fills the hoops with very loose soil mix, he can create the perfect drainage conditions that many rock garden and alpine plants require.

    So for $20, Duane creates two handsome, durable plant containers plus theborders for two miniature raised beds. What a bargain!

Plants in Your Drawers

"When we remodeled our kitchen, I saved several of the old wooden drawers that were about 3 x 3 feet," recalls freelance garden writer Veronica Lorson Fowler of Ames, Iowa "I drilled drainage holes in the bottoms and used them to start cuttings of 'Hicksii' Anglo-japanese yew (Taxus x media `Hicksii'), " Veronica adds that you can use drawers for rooting cuttings of just about anything, and she has even used them as indoor planters to grow lettuces in winter.


"I have discovered that the translucent, under-the-bed, plastic storage containers—the kind with snap-on lids—make excellent miniature greenhouses when turned upside down over seedling trays," says horticulturist Paul B. Barden of Corvallis, Oregon "You can easily remove the plastic tray cover to allow air circulation on warm days, or leave it on when you have the seedling tray outdoors and need to keep your plants safe from marauding birds."

problem solver


Use a plastic soda bottle to aid ailing plants. With a sharp knife, cut a 2-liter plastic soda bottle in half horizontally. The top half becomes a movable plant hospital for newly planted seedlings or plants that are suffering a bit. Just put the top over them to create a miniterrarium for them until they recover. As for the bottom half, cut drainage holes in it, then use it to raise seedlings. The bottoms of soda bottles also work well as flowerpots. Young children especially appreciate these, since the containers are clear and they can see the plant roots and can check that the soil is damp.

Anchored Milk Jugs

Covering cold-sensitive transplants with plastic milk jugs is a popular way of encouraging growth and preventing frost damage early in the season. New York home gardener Herb Mason offers this clever method for keeping those jugs in place. "I cut around the bottom of a jug on three sides, leaving a hinged flap. After I put the mini-greenhouse over young plants, I hold it in place by weighing down the flap with a mound of soil or a rock " Herb finds he can use these miniature greenhouses for two years before the plastic breaks down.

    Herb says he sometimes cuts 1 to 11/2 inches off the top of the jugs to make watering easier and allow more light to reach the transplants.

Soda Bottle Seedling Nursery

Plastic 2-liter soda bottles make a good nursery for seedlings and transplants. Cut a 3-inch-wide flap in one side, starting at the bottleneck end and ending about 2 inches from the bottom. The flap gives you access for planting and watering and lets you adjust the humidity as your seedlings grow.

    Then punch some drainage holes in the other side, and lay the bottle on its side with the flap facing up. Fill it about halfway with soil, then sow seeds in it. Try not to bend the flap back too much, so that it will stay closed and hold moisture in while the seeds germinate. When the plants get too big, you can either cut off the flap or move the plants to another container.

Slick Mower Trick I

Moist grass clippings tend to clump and stick to the underside of lawn mowers. To keep them from clogging your mower, try this slick trick.

    "Last fall, I noticed the paint on the underside of the mulching mower deck was peeling, and the roughness was letting the grass clippings build up badly," recalls botanist Kay Lancaster of the Northern Willamette Valley in Oregon.

    "I wire-brushed the bottom of the mower and repainted it with slip plate, a graphite-based paint that farmers use to help grain slide out of a grain wagon easily. The clippings wash off the bottom of the mower easily now, and the buildup during mowing has been minimal."

    According to Kay, slip plate is available at most farm stores and comes either as brush-on or spray paint. "It only comes in an ugly gray color, and it is electrically conductive. It sure seems to work for keeping gunk from building up on the mower deck."

Slick Mower Trick II

Here's another way to prevent grass clipping buildup on the underside of your lawn mower. Karen Bolesta, of Allentown, Pennsylvania, learned this trick from her father.

    Periodically wax the underside of your lawn mower with automotive paste wax. If you begin to notice a bit of clumping or buildup, you'll know it's time to clean under the mower deck and apply a new coating of wax.

Heavy Crop? No Flop!

If you're tired of plant cages that flop under a heavy crop, here's the answer. "Concrete reinforcing wire makes the very best tomato cages," insists garden writer Duane Campbell of Towanda, Pennsylvania. "Those cages also work well for small vining veggies like malabar, spinach, minimelons, and cukes. They're especially nice for container-grown vining crops. And when stretched straight between two poles, a length of concrete reinforcing wire will support a major melon crop."

    Duane adds that the wire cages are also great for tall but floppy flowers like delphiniums and dahlias. Cut a cage in half to make two shorter cages for peonies and other shorter perennials.

    To cut the wire, Duane recommends using light bolt cutters, very heavy wire cutters, or "for the tool-impaired," a hacksaw. Take the same precautions you would when cutting any kind of fencing: Weigh it down so that it doesn't roll back up as you work with it (cinder blocks work well as weights), wear eye protection in case tiny clipped pieces go flying, and wear heavy work gloves so that you don't poke yourself with newly cut ends.

Reinforcing Wire Cages— A Real Plus

Pennsylvania garden writer Duane Campbell has another plant support solution made of concrete reinforcing wire.

    "For totally floppy plants, like euphorbia, you can cut the wire into a fat plus-sign shape, and bend it into a cube with one open side," Duane explains. Set the cage over the plant, poking the open wire ends into the ground, and the cage will support both the sides and top of the plant.

Water New Trees with Ease

Watering new trees can be time-consuming, but with this submerged PVC pipe trick, you can save time and direct the water flow right where you want it—at the roots.

    "Even though we get a fair amount of rain, getting trees established in our clay soil can be a challenge," admits Beverly Earls, Master Gardener from Memphis. "I've had success with using an 18-inch length of PVC pipe, in which we drilled 1/2-inch holes spaced about 1 inch apart. My husband then uses an auger attached to an electric drill to dig holes near the outer edge of the rootball of newly planted trees and shrubs (to avoid damaging the trunk or stem), and I push the pipe down into the soil beside the new tree."

    Beverly notes that the top of the pipe should be level with the ground so you don't hit it with the lawnmower. Also, "If the ground is not level, put the pipe on the higher side so water runs toward the tree as you pour water into the pipe. This watering pipe method gets water to the roots of the tree slowly and works especially well on high ground where water runs off before it soaks into the soil."


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Table of Contents

How to Be an Ingenious Gardener viii
Chapter 1: Terrific Tools & Gadgets 2
Nifty tools you can make, recycle, or reuse, including how to turn a plastic milk jug into
a cultivator, new uses for broken tools, protecting your pants from your pruners,
and three things you can do with an old tire
Chapter 2: Clever Compost Tips 32
What you need to know to make your own black gold—from what to put in your pile and how to keep
and new uses for old newspaper
Chapter 3: Creative Garden Care 52
Ingenious approaches to making mulch and supporting plants, clever atering tricks,
keeping row covers on, winter protection for roses, and three neat ways to make garden
pathways using broken dishes, terra-cotta, or burlap
Chapter 4: Snazzy Season Stretchers 75
Harvest your earliest tomatoes ever, learn bow to get a head start in spring,
turn everyday items into inexpensive cold frames, unlock the secrets of a four-season harvest,
and discover bow to grow a great garden under cover
Chapter 5: Sensational Seed-Starting Secrets 91
Sow like a pro,and learn new ways to make sure every seed sprouts, including presprouting secrets,
transplanting tools, the best seed-starting containers, lessons in lighting,
and how to store all those extra seeds
Chapter 6: Smart Solutions to Garden Problems 109
Strange-but-true organic techniques for confounding critters—from can't-fail companion planting
combos and five ways to protect your bulbs, to new life for old panty hose and creating a hindrance
out of human hair
Chapter 7: Great Vegetable Gardens 144
Unbeatable ideas for super crops and humongous harvests, including weed control,
space savers, heat and humidity helpers, cold care kits, breeze blockers, mud busters,
and 12 tips for terrific tomatoes
Chapter 8: Helpful Herb Gardening Hints 190
Top tips to help you get the most from these multifaceted plants—from herbs that prosper
in hard-to-garden sites and expert advice on drying and freezing, to planting a fragrant
herbal pathway and making your own healthful herbal home remedies
Chapter 9: Fun with Fruits & Berries 216
Fantastic ways to make growing fruit fun and flavorful, including can't-fail ripeness tests,
first-rate bird blockers, fruiting vines that do double duty as privacy screens,
savvy frost-stoppers, and how to make like a bee and get more peaches
Chapter 10: Fabulous Flower Gardens 232
Delightful ideas for bountiful flowers—from outstanding color combinations,
tricks to make a new garden look as pretty as a picture, and plants to carpet your garden with blooms,
to fun with foliage, revolutionary ways with roses, and containers with charisma
Chapter 11: Lively Landscaping Techniques 264
Innovative landscaping how-to that won't let you down, including solutions for slopes and
other tough spots, face-lifts for fencing, quick water garden pick-me-ups,
planting plans that make your yard look bigger, and ways to achieve pathway perfection
Chapter 12: Brilliant Bird & Butterfly Gardens 298
A host of hints to bring more color and life into your garden (and a little company, too!),
including plenty of plants that your flying friends will flock to,
and water sources that work
Resources 317
Recommended Reading 327
Index 330
USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map 342
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