Lining a small pot with a coffee filter makes transplanting a smooth process. Photo by Luigi Flori.
Instead of shredding my used coffee ground filters and throwing them in with the rest of my kitchen compost, I use them to line the bottoms of smaller starter pots. Coffee filters make for perfect transportable and decomposable seedling starters.
After dumping the coffee grounds into your compost, clean up the filter a bit, flatten it out, and lay it in the sun to dry out. Once the filter is dry, match it with a small seedling pot. Take the center of the filter and align it to the center of the pot along the inner bottom. Use your index finger to push the filter all the way down to the bottom of the pot, keeping it centered as much as possible. Then, flatten the center of the filter to the bottom of the pot, pushing the filter sides up against the inner sides of the pot.
Don’t worry if the filter hangs over the edges of the pot; you can cut away the edge if you’d like, but I leave the extra material and fold it back once the soil is in place. This way, the extra material can help me pull the little plant from the pot when it’s ready to move to the garden.
After the filter is nice and snug in the pot, you can plant your seedlings. Fill the coffee filter partway with your soil mix. Place your seedlings into the soil, and then fill the rest of the pot with more soil.
Now, all you have to do is wait until your seedlings are ready to move outdoors, and then plop them right into the ground, filter and all. One of the best parts about this gardening hack is that the filter will naturally decompose after it’s transplanted into the garden, so once you transplant it, your work will be done!
Prairie View, Illinois
Few would doubt the health benefits of warm water or green tea paired with fresh-squeezed lemon juice. It’s something I drink every morning for a little boost. But this daily habit can be a time-consuming hassle, and some days it doesn’t seem worth it. Having to cut up the lemon, remove the seeds, and then sit there and squeeze the juice out while I’m still groggy and sleepy can easily get tiresome. And then there’s the cleanup.
Luckily, I’ve found a way out of this morning mess. Instead of doing each of these steps early every morning, I do a month’s worth all at once. I squeeze as many lemons as I can manage in one sitting, filling a small pitcher or bowl. As I go, I add equal parts water, so the lemon juice won’t be too overpowering when I later add it to a glass of water or tea. When I think I have a sufficient amount, I carefully pour all that great juice into an ice-cube tray and freeze those little gems.
Drinking water with lemon improves skin, helps fight common colds, and aids in digestion. Photo by EBlokhina.
Now, every morning, instead of doing all that work for a few drops of lemon juice, I just plop a few “lemon cubes” into my cup. No fuss! As an added bonus, it helps cool down a hot drink quickly. In addition to adding frozen juice to water or tea, I also like to drop one or two lemon cubes into a glass of low-sodium V8 juice.
All Hands on Deck
To keep track of our garden and work gloves, my husband used a few materials he found lying around our home to build a neat little glove holder that hangs in our workshop. It helps keep us organized, and prevents crawly critters from finding their way into our gloves overnight. Here’s how you can build this glove holder too.
To keep track of their garden and work gloves, Brenda Bonczar and her husband came up with this neat glove holder. Photo by Brenda Bonczar.
- Old wooden board
- Super glue
- Spring clothespins
- Screws or nails
Directions: Clean the wooden board you intend to use. I recommend lightly sanding it, so the gloves you store on it won’t catch on any splinters.
Glue the spring clothespins 3 to 5 inches apart on the board. Let the glue dry for 15 to 20 minutes to ensure the pins are firmly attached.
Using screws or nails, mount the board to the inside wall of your garden shed or garage with the clothespins facing upward.
Now you can attach your gloves right-side up, making sure that no bugs slip inside your gloves when you’re not looking. You’ll always know where to find every glove!
Hanging On to Hangers
I’ve previously had issues in my garden with my black plastic mulch flapping in the wind and flying away. It can be a tricky thing to tame, but most people have the perfect tool sitting in their home and haven’t even realized it!
When I started having trouble keeping my black plastic mulch in place, I finally found the perfect use for my growing collection of old, worn, bent, and damaged wire hangers piling up in the back of my closet. I use wire hangers to hold down the black plastic mulch that surrounds the short-season cantaloupes and watermelons in our garden.
When I need an anchor or a landscape pin, I use my wire cutters to cut off the ends of the hangers. I then bend them to the shape I need and pin them into the ground. When not in use, I collect the homemade pins and hang them from the garden fence until the next growing season. I try to recycle them as much as possible, but after a while, they get worn and too bent to use. It’s a good thing I have so many available! This is a good way to repurpose hangers and keep landscape cloth or plastic in place.
Port Orchard, Washington
Although most gardeners in the United States aren’t worrying about mosquitoes right now, I live in Arizona, where it’s hot year-round and these nuisances thrive all winter long. While I haven’t found any dependable remedies to keep them at bay, I have discovered a solution that relieves the itching caused by their bites.
Almost 60 years ago, a pharmacist explained to me that proteins in mosquitoes’ saliva cause their bites to itch. This helped me approach mosquito bites from a different direction. I went on the hunt to find something that could dissolve proteins, instead of just treating the surface of the bite.
I’ve found that meat tenderizer powder can break down protein in mosquito saliva the same way it breaks apart proteins when used on steaks. If I find myself covered in mosquito bites, I quickly make a paste from meat tenderizer and rub it on the bitten areas. Nowadays, you’ll never catch me walking around without a bottle or two with me, whether I’m on a camping trip, working in the woods, or just walking around and enjoying the outdoors.
I keep my medicine cabinet stocked with bottles of my favorite meat tenderizer. I’ve also begun testing it on other types of insect bites, and found that it works on ant bites as well. The tenderizer paste also brought instant relief to a friend who was stung by a bee, but I would still recommend exercising caution when dealing with a bee sting, as they can be fatal to some.
Two Resolutions with One Stone
My husband and I have two raised beds that we set up a couple of years ago. As a rule, we plant our vegetables toward the end of April, weather permitting.
This past year, we had a curious stray cat who absolutely relished digging up our garden beds. It took us a little while to come up with a solution to this problem. We finally settled on placing large, flat stones over the open areas in the beds. The stones blocked enough of the soil surface to dissuade the cat from digging, and it eventually moved on to pester someone else.
These large stones also helped our garden in another way. In our growing zone, we had 10 days of unusually cool weather right after planting. Thankfully, our plants came through perfectly because the stones absorbed and then radiated warmth from the spring sun into the garden, keeping our plants warm during unexpectedly cool conditions. The stones are also easy enough to move around when we want to add other plants, or give a certain plant extra growing room. I plan to put these stones out again this year!
Keeping a Balanced Diet
The secret to a fat broiler chicken is all in the feed, in my experience. Whether you order chicks from a hatchery or hatch your own, diet is key. Over the years, I’ve perfected my method to feeding and raising fat broiler chickens, just by honing in on a carefully precise diet plan.
I keep my new chicks in a brood box, providing plenty of food and clean water. Right from the beginning, I add powdered kelp to their drinking water, mixing 1⁄4 teaspoon in 1 quart of water for the first four weeks. After the first month, I begin adding 1⁄8 cup of granulated kelp twice a day to their feed.
I continue to add the powdered kelp to their water for another two weeks after starting them on the granulated kelp, and then stop.
The size of a broiler chicken depends heavily on their diet plan. Photo by Linda Brody.
Kelp is a wonderful natural additive that provides essential vitamins and minerals to my chickens. It’s packed with calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin K, which all help with strong bone development and general growth in the birds. It’s so beneficial to my birds that I continue to add granulated kelp to their feed until it’s time to butcher them.
Once my chicks have feathered, I move them to a larger running area, and begin adding protein to their feed. For three weeks after they’ve feathered, I feed my chicks 21 to 22 percent protein feed. Not all feed stores carry 22 percent protein feed, but it’s easy to make your own mix. If I can’t find a 22 percent protein feed, I buy one bag of 24 percent and one bag of 18 percent. When feeding my chicks, I give them a half-and-half mixture of the two feeds; this averages out to about 21 percent protein.
After the third week, I drop the percentage of protein to about 18 or 19 percent. I give this new feed to my chicks for the next four weeks. After these four weeks, I drop the percentage again to 16 to 17 percent, and feed this to my chicks for another five weeks.
Throughout this feeding schedule, I still provide treats to my chicks, such as black oil sunflower seeds, cracked corn, cracked peas, mealworms, milo, oats, and whole wheat. I like to sprinkle the kelp, treats, and grit onto the tray of their feeder in between meals, or sprinkle the treats on the ground for scratch.
This diet has helped me raise some fat and healthy birds. My average Red Ranger rooster’s dressed weight is about 5 to 6 pounds after only 11 weeks!
Punta Gorda, Florida
Sour Grapes for Wasps
This past year, I saw a complete invasion of yellow jacket wasps in my garden in California. I found that as my fruit ripened, the yellow jackets would destroy my harvest. This was especially true of my grapes; they’d eat the inside out of each grape as it ripened, leaving me with nothing but a pile of grape skins at the end of summer. I tried covering my grapes with bird netting, but the openings in the netting were too large to block the wasps. I was desperate to find something that could properly protect my grapes, while still giving them access to the sunlight they needed.
Yellow jackets are found worldwide, but are most common in North America. Photo by eclipse_images.
I stumbled upon inexpensive nylon tights one day at the dollar store, and decided to give them a shot. I bought a few pairs, and used them to cover each bunch of grapes. I slipped each bunch into its own nylon, and then tied the nylon at the top with an elastic cord or rubber band. This simple fix worked perfectly, allowing sun and air to reach the grapes while keeping out yellow jackets and other pests. This trick even kept the birds away from the grapes — a pleasant but unexpected bonus. Harvesting was easy, since all I had to do was snip off the bunch of grapes right above the elastic cord. I ended up with the best harvest of grapes I’ve ever had!
A Spark of Innovation
Using a spaghtti noodle can help you prevent burning yourself whne lighting old candles. Photo by Serena Spedicato "Artemides".
Reading Country Lore tips in Mother Earth News has inspired me to send in my own little hack. When the wax level in my candles gets too low, it’s easy to burn myself when I stick in my hand to light them, especially if I’m trying to light a candle that has multiple wicks. Instead of taking that chance, I routinely use a long spaghetti noodle to reach the wicks. Spaghetti noodles can hold a flame without burning too quickly, so they help me safely light older candles around my home. They work like a charm for me, and are a more environmentally friendly option than a fluid lighter, since it typically takes multiple tries to light a low candle with one of those.
Keeping Caterpillars at Bay
I don’t think there’s a gardener out there who hasn’t had to deal with unwanted insects crawling on and eating up their precious crops. I particularly had an issue with various caterpillars wiggling their way onto my broccoli. While I appreciate the benefits of having them living around my garden, I’d prefer that they didn’t go near the plants themselves.
Caterpillars enjoying burrowing into produce, so always check your veggies before you eat them. Photo by Jordan Moslowski.
Every morning, I’d go into my garden to find a caterpillar or two hanging out on my broccoli. Finally, a friend passed along an easy and helpful tip to deter them from crawling on my veggies. All I have to do is sprinkle a little table salt directly onto the plants every now and then, after the head starts to form. I don’t have to use any chemicals, and it keeps the little caterpillars off my plants! Because the salt is only on the plant itself, it doesn’t kill the caterpillars, which I like having in the general area, since it means I’ll have abundant butterflies in my garden later in the season.
I use table salt on all plants in the cabbage or broccoli families. Just a little handful or two of salt has given me the most beautiful and critter-free vegetables I’ve ever grown!
Shimmy Up the Beanpole
I’d like to share my secret to growing black-eyed peas that I’ve discovered over the past years; this tip has helped me tremendously, and allows me to continue working safely and easily in my garden well into my 80s.
I always grew black-eyed peas as I was taught: allowing them to run free. Unfortunately, these past few years, picking them has become a hazard. Trying to walk through all the vines without stepping or tripping over them has been a real danger and challenge.
Realizing how black-eyed peas grew out at such length, I decided to train a row of them to grow up to a wire at one end of my garden. And, by golly, they ran right up those wires; you’d think I was growing pole beans! They grew to almost 7 feet by the end of the gardening season.
Talk about easy pickings! What a joy it was to just walk along the row and pick peas. Not only did it make harvesting easier, but this one row also produced more crops than any other area of the little garden.
My garden is only 12 by 35 feet, but we grew enough to put up 75 cups of shelled beans; that’s more than enough to last us until we begin planting next year.
These beans are the most delicious that I’ve ever eaten. I was raised in the South, so I’ve eaten my fair share of beans in every variety; these beat them all! We’ve simply stopped eating any other bean.
We’ve also begun freezing our beans, rather than go through the canning process. My wife has learned that she can cook the beans straight out of their frozen plastic containers. Thawed and warmed for the table, they taste just the same as if they were picked that day.
There’s no better way to grow, cook, or preserve black-eyed peas. I just hope I’m able to grow more of them next year.