25 tips that could save your season

MULCH WITH STONES. Spread dark stones around the bases of plants. Stones absorb heat from the Sun and transmit it to the ground.

SALT TOMATO ROOTS. For maximum yield, water with 1 tablespoon Epsom salts to 1 gallon water once per week after tomato flowers appear.

BLOT OUT BLACK SPOTS. To prevent black spot disease, mix 3 tablespoons baking soda with 1 gallon water and spray on roses. Remove and discard black-spotted leaves.

BUTTER UP SPIDER MITES. Mix 1/2 cup buttermilk, 4 cups wheat flour, and 5 gallons water. Strain through cheesecloth. Discard the solids. Spray the liquid on mite-affected plants.

TRICK THRIPS. Mix 1 tablespoon Lysol household cleaner with 1 gallon water. Soak gladiolus corms in the liquid and plant while still wet to prevent thrips.

FEED ROSES. Bury one old, brown, mushy banana at the base of each rosebush or apply the peels only, laying them flat under the soil at the base of the plant. Repeat every few weeks.

PINK OR BLUE? Some Hydrangea macrophylla and H. serrata cultivars can change color. To have blue hydrangea flowers, increase the acidity of the soil by adding a solution of 1/4 ounce aluminum sulfate per gallon of water three times per growing season. To have pink hydrangea flowers, increase the soil’s alkalinity by spreading ground limestone, 4 pounds per 100 square feet, in spring or fall.

COLLAR CUTWORMS. Ring tomato, cabbage, kale, and other seedlings with collars cut from milk or juice cartons, toilet or wrapping paper rolls, coffee or tuna cans (with both ends removed)–even small lamp shades–to prevent cutworms from slicing the stems.

PRESPROUT POTATOES. Lay cut-up pieces of seed potatoes in a single layer on a tray near a sunny window. Three to 10 days later, when the sprouts are 1 inch long, plant them outdoors.

GROUND WHITEFLIES. Coat yellow index cards liberally with petroleum jelly and place near affected plants. To whiteflies, aphids, and other insects, the yellow looks like new foliage. The bugs are lured to it, get stuck, and die.

SPREAD ASHES. Save ashes from wood-burning stoves. Sprinkle the ashes around fruit trees and bulbs in spring. Also, tomatoes benefit from ashes mixed into the soil.

BLEACH OKRA. To hasten germination, soak okra seeds in 1 cup chlorine bleach for exactly 5 minutes, then rinse with water and plant.

SAVE SEEDS. Store unused seeds for 2 to 3 years in a cool, dry place in tightly sealed jars. For safety, add one part powdered milk to one part seeds to absorb any moisture.

EGG DEER. Mix 12 rotten eggs in 5 gallons water. Spray around the perimeter of the garden to repel deer.
MEASURE MANURE. A bushel of aged cow or horse manure is plenty for 50 square feet. One bushel of more potent poultry, sheep, pig, or goat manure is plenty for 100 square feet.

SMOTHER APPLES AND PEARS. These and other fruits “breathe.” Wrap them in paper or store in sand or sawdust to prevent moisture loss and retard the release of ethylene gas.

ATTRACT (AND FEED) BIRDS. In late spring and fall, the time of the grub stage of the Japanese beetle, spray every 1,000 square feet of lawn with a solution of 2 tablespoons liquid dishwashing detergent in 1 gallon of water. The grubs will surface and birds will devour them. Spray once per week until no more grubs surface.

SWEETEN LETTUCE. Mix 1 cup rabbit food into every 10 square feet of lettuce bed before planting. If lettuce is bitter after picking, store the leaves in the refrigerator for a few days or soak the leaves in milk for 1 to 2 hours. Discard the milk and rinse with water.

CLIP CARROT TOPS. To discourage beets, carrots, parsnips, and turnips from drying out and developing leafy growth in storage, clip their green tops.

STICK IT TO BUGS. Attach a no-pest strip or fly paper to an old hat and wear it when you garden. Mosquitoes, no-see-ems, gnats, and other flying pests will get stuck on your hat and not on you.

PICKLE SLUGS. Mix a solution of half water and half vinegar (any kind) and spray it on slugs.

CUT FLOWERS CAREFULLY. Avoid scissors, which pinch the channels of flower stalks. Instead, always use a sharp knife, cutting at an angle if you’re inserting the stem into floral foam.

SEAR MILKY STEMS. Hold the cut stems of poppies, lobelia, and other flowers with milky stems in a candle flame for about 15 seconds after cutting. This seals the latex sap in the stem but keeps water-conducting vessels open and extends the life of the arrangement.

WASH OUT CRABGRASS. To eliminate this plague, put 1 pint hydrogen peroxide (3 percent) into a hose sprayer and soak the weed-infested area. Then water lightly.

PLUG A HOSE HOLE. If you get a pinhole leak in your garden hose, insert a pointed round toothpick into the hole, just penetrating the hose wall. Snip off the extra toothpick. Wrap the area with duct tape. Water flowing through the hose will cause the toothpick to swell and fill the hole.