I am a kind of lazy gardener. I am always looking for a simpler way to do things. In this vein, I have, over the years, learned a few things that make my gardening efforts much easier.
I thought to post this because I was going to advise a few on a comment on Dung Hoe's blog concerning THE way to mark your plants, and not have it washed off, faded off, or (possibly) raked up and discarded. But then I thought that maybe more people would see it in a post of it's own, so here I am. Some might not know some of the other tips, too. I hope you can use at least some of these tips.
I took a Plant Propagation Specialist training course a few years ago. The man who taught the class was Mr. Tom LeRoy, the Extension agent for Montgomery County, Texas. Mr. LeRoy does not allow unmarked plants on his place, and any plant that he finds not marked go into the garbage; no exceptions, no retrieving it, regardless of the rarity, value, or the source of the plant. He espouses that a plant that you don't know the name of is of no value.
To this end, we learned to mark our plants! We use mini blinds, cut to convenient lengths, with a slanted cut on one end and a hole punched into the other end.
We use a plain, #2 lead pencil to mark our markers. Nothing fancy, nothing expensive. I don't know how many people have refused to learn this, as it doesn't require any effort, so may not seem to be worth a lot. BUT, the pencil marks the mini blind marker very well, and also marks most other materials we would use in the garden. It will not fade over the years, will not wash off, cannot be rubbed off, but you can erase it and reuse the marker. Attach the marker to the plant, using a small piece of soft pantyhose, or a cable tie, run through the hole punched in the end of the marker.
Cable ties are very valuable in the garden, by the way. They come in many sizes and many colors. Their main drawback is that most cannot be reused. They are so inexpensive, however, that it usually doesn't matter.
If you use a cable tie, attach the label to the plant loosely, to give the plant room to grow. The PVC cable tie isn't going to rot or otherwise deteriorate in the weather, at lease not for a long, long time.
PVC is a real boon to gardeners. Not natural, I know, but the beauty of it in the garden is that it lasts, and it will serve you for many years.
Plastic baby bottles are perfect for measuring 'stuff' in the garden. Dedicate one for herbicide, one for fungicide, one for insecticide, one for fertilizer, and LABEL THEM AS SUCH! Be sure to put a big X on them. The baby bottles are clearly marked in oz. on the side of the bottle. They are cheap, and I find them at yard sales. Very, very cheap. You cannot have too many.
Instead of bending over to plant seeds, use a length of PVC pipe, cut about waist height, as a planting tool. Drop the seeds down the pipe to the ground, to land exactly where you wanted them . No backache with this method!
Use punctured plastic water bottles as water reservoirs for large planters.
Empty detergent bottles make handy watering cans. Wash well, drill small holes in the cap, and a small hole at the top of the handle. Nice to have one for each grand child, or if you have small children, they love to have their own watering can.
Two liter bottles are perfect for propagation, whether winter sowing seeds or taking cuttings. They let you see the root development without guessing. Just cut one in half, leaving the top half the larger of the two. Poke a couple of drainage holes around the bottom (on the sides of the bottle), and plant in the bottom half. Put the top half on like a little greenhouse, and set it in the shade, to allow your cuttings to root, or your seeds to germinate. Works great!
And while I have propagating on my mind, when using ziploc sandwich baggies as tents over 4" pots (when rooting starts or cuts), turn the baggies inside out and the pressed-in seam will keep the tent ballooned open.
And about planting seeds; I use a salt or sugar shaker to plant fine seeds such as poppies. Mix seeds and dry sand, and shake the mixture where you want them. You can use sugar in place of the sand, but you have to plant the seeds right away. No clumps of seedlings with this method. Larger seeds like larkspur can be planted in the same way, using a cheese shaker, like what you see in a pizza restaurant.
I guess this is enough to remember for today, class. Come back to see the next post concerning gardening made easier. I know things about twine and super glue that will just thrill you!
Oh, yes, one last thing. Aspercreme is the first thing that goes into my gardening bucket or bag. It is great for rough dry hands - and tired feet. You will be glad you tried it!