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Gardening With Laurie: Innovative ideas for garden

Sept. 21, 2010 at 4:21 a.m.
Updated Sept. 22, 2010 at 4:22 a.m.

Laurie Garretson

Gardeners can be a very inventive group when required. Take for example, keeping fall tomatoes happy in 90-degree-plus weather. I've had people tell me they open up umbrellas to shade their tender, young plants from the heat. They'll tie them down to keep them from blowing away and pick them up when the temperatures cool off. Some people save old license plates. When needed they stick the license plate in the soil next to a small transplant to provide some shade from the afternoon sun.

Also, many gardeners save old milk jugs. You know those plastic gallon containers that milk and some juices come in. These actually have many great uses in the garden. One use is to punch a few small holes in the bottom of a jug, and then fill the jug with water. Placed next to a plant it will slowly water for you. You can then add your favorite soluble fertilizer to the water when it's time to feed. Putting a few rocks in the jugs can help keep them from blowing away when the water all drips out.

Milk jugs also can be used as little hot houses for small plants. Cut the bottoms out of the jug and place it over the plant. Stick the bottom end into the soil about an inch, then take a dowel stick, a piece of rebar or a sturdy small stick, and stick it in the ground next to the jugs handle. Tie the handle to the stick to prevent the jug from blowing off the plant on breezy nights. Leave the cap on the jug to keep in more heat.

In addition, many gardeners use empty milk jugs to fill with water and place right next to a plant. During the day, the water will retain heat from the sun, and at night, will act as a heat source form the cold weather. On really cold nights, it would also help to cover the plant and jug with freeze cloth.

Another idea: Gardeners have come up with a new use for old newspapers and a great way to recycle them. Several sheets of newspaper can make a good weed barrier for most weeds. Wet the paper as you place it on the ground in your vegetable garden. Wetting it will help to keep it in place and not blow away. Overlap the edges to keep any sunlight from the soil surface. Just cut a slit in the paper when you're ready to plant. Cover the paper with grass clippings, leaves, or whichever type of mulch you prefer to use. At the end of the season you can then work the old paper into the soil and add new sheets of paper.

I think another great idea that someone came up with is to use cattle panels as inexpensive, yet sturdy trellises for different vegetables that vine, like beans. The standard-size cattle panel that has openings 4 inches by 6 inches in size are easy to bend and can also be placed over a walkway to grow ornamental vines on. Most people should be able to walk under the hoop.

I knew one gardener that used his cattle panels as fences around his garden to keep deer out. One day, a section of the fence fell over. The panel stayed down for a few weeks and then he noticed that deer where afraid to walk over it. Since then, he just lays a panel around anything he wants to deer-proof. He suspects that deer find it hard to walk over the panels because of the shape of their hooves. Hey, whatever works.

Another product used in the landscape in a way different from what it was intended is horticultural cornmeal. A professor at the A&M Research Center in Stephenville discovered by accident that whole-ground cornmeal would kill fungal diseases. With all the rain we have had the past couple of weeks, your lawn and plants might be in need of some cornmeal to get rid of or to prevent fungal problems.

If you have any gardening tips that might benefit other gardeners, let me know. I'll pass them on.

Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to laurie@vicad.com or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.

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