Thursday, October 22, 2009

Gardening, made easy, or "How to Mark Your Plants".....

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!


Rosey Pollen said...

You covered it well! I like ideas where you get to re-purpose stuff and recylcle, it saves money and the environment with one fell swoop. Thanks for the mention, and thanks for the comments you left on my blog.
Good info!

Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

What great ideas!! I love the baby bottle idea for measuring. Wish I had kept a couple around after my last baby. Also love the sugar/salt dispenser for fine seeds. I'm putting these on my list for next time I'm at the store.

Amy said...

Thanks for the great information! That's a great idea about the pvc piping for seeds. All good ideas...thanks!

Amy said...

Oh, I did my ten things about myself. Have a good day :)

Tom - 7th Street Cottage said...

I use all those methods too. I have a shaker container I used when building models to scatter seeds. I didn't have any sand, so I used grits. They were getting old anyway. Last year I had clumps of poppies. This should help a lot.

And miniblinds, you can find them cheap at most stores now. I use a band saw, wrap the whole thing with tape after removing the top rail, and cut them to length. A #2 pencil is the best writing tool I've found in the garden.

Great advice. Thanks for sharing!

Scott & Liz said...

Mini blinds are indeed an excellent plant label. mine always come from sidewalk shopping on trash day and come with the benefit of a few feet of handy nylon cord.
Thanks Janie

NellJean said...

Great Post! I always have surprises where I failed to label.

Be sure to do a post on your statue from the dump. I love her.

We have to figure out how to change your comment widget so Wordpress folk can comment. It only allows people with Googly Eyes -- or is that people with Google accounts?

ancient one said...

WOW... so much to learn... great ideas... never thought about using the baby bottles..

Autumn Belle said...

Janie, this is an excellent informative post. I have learnt a lot here. Regarding Nell Jean's comment here, this is what you do:

1. Click 'customise' option on the topmost menu bar
2. Click 'settings'
3. Click 'comments'
4. Click i.e. choose the 2nd option i.e. registered users-includes Open ID.

Now people with wordpress and openID accounts can comment on your post but not the anonymous ones.

janie said...

o.k. I did that. I hope this fixes it. I want lots of comments, now!

Yvonne said...

Thank you for visiting my blog. I find yours extremely interesting - and I am just going out right now to label some seedlings. Today is our garden club Plant Sale and I know that I will not be welcome with unlabeled plants! By the way: you recommend Aimee Vibert rose - I find that Noisette roses do well in my garden - how does this rose cope with hot dry weather?

Anonymous said...

Wonderful tips & ideas Janie! Thanks for sharing.


LeSan said...

Excellent post Janie. This one gets printed out and put into the binder. It's a keeper. Thank you!

Wendy said...

What great tips!!! I like the shaker idea. I have heard of the mini blinds trick. You're talking about just the plastic ones, right? Outside, in the flower garden, I have been using plastic knives as markers which works pretty well with a sharpie. I have generally just cut popsicle sticks in half for marking veggie seedlings I start in the early spring, and by the time they're ready to go in the garden, they've practically disintegrated and I can just throw them in their planting hole with the seedling.

Your tips are a print out and keep for me too!

Jack Holloway the Gardener said...

Janie! I have just found a new Blot Fave! Your advice about tags is invaluable. I have just one (BIG) problem: what is a no 2 pencil?? We use HB here: H= hard, B= black, with HB the standard pencil and 5H the hardest and 5B the softest. Where would no 2 fit in? I recall 10 yr old labels from a neighbour in pencil and we wondered at it!

janie said...

WEll, a #2 pencil is a regular old pencil. The kind that you buy a pack of at the beginning of the school year for the kids. The kind you find EVERYWHERE!

Jack Holloway the Gardener said...

Aha! That would be good ol' HB! Many thanks for the quick response, Janie!

kilbournegrove said...

Tons of great ideas, I especially like the idea of turning the bags inside out!

James Missier said...

what an excellent tips. Look forward for more!!!!