10 Old-Time Garden Tips Your Grandparents Swore By

By Shelley Pierce | June 1, 2019
Image by mykeyruna
by Shelley Pierce
June 1, 2019

My grandparents were farmers and knew how to live off the land. They lived during the Great Depression so they had a “waste not, want not” mentality that they abided by their entire lives. They used or recycled what they already had on hand, making them the MacGyvers of their time. Here are 10 old-time garden tips my grandparents swore by.

Take good care of your tools. Keeping your tools rust-free will extend their life, make them easier to use and keep them looking nice. One way to avoid rust is to keep your small tools in a bucket full of sand. When you insert your tools into the sand bucket, the dirt on them will fleck off and the sand will wick the moisture away from your tools, keeping them dry. You can increase the efficacy of your sand bucket even further by mixing some oil into it (motor oil, cooking oil, mineral oil, etc.). The presence of the oil will help prevent the formation of rust on your tools.

Recycle your pantyhose. That’s right”¦pantyhose. It can be used to support plants by tying stems and vines to stakes. It can cover ripening fruit to protect it from being eaten. Use it for storing onions or garlic bulbs. It can also be used to cover drain holes in flower pots.

Take care of your hands. Gardening can take a toll on your body, especially on your hands. To keep your hands soft and clean, add a half teaspoonful of sugar to your soap lathered hands the next time you’re at the sink. And, to keep dirt out of your fingernails, scratch your fingernails over a bar of soap before heading to the garden – the soap will dissolve when you wash your hands.

Deter a hare with hair. Human hair can be used as a pest repellent for rabbits. Pluck some hair from your hairbrush and place it around your plants. Unwashed hair can also be hung in mesh bags from trees to deter deer.

Mason jars aren’t just for canning. Some plants, such as roses, can easily be propagated using a mason jar. Stick a 6-inch (15 cm.) piece of rose stem into the ground a few inches deep and then place a mason jar over the stem to encourage rooting and leafing. You will need to periodically water the soil around the jar so that the stem doesn’t dry out. In a few months you should see evidence of new growth. 

Rusty nails. It was believed that putting rusty nails in the ground around hydrangeas would encourage them to bloom in blue and that adding rusty nails to your potted African violets would help them bloom longer, prettier and more abundantly.  

Moon gardening. Conducting certain gardening activities during appropriate moon phases was believed to result in more abundant and flavorful crops.

DIY pest control. There is no need to buy over the counter solutions when you can make your own insecticide at home to treat pest infestations in your garden. Mix up 1 tablespoon of liquid soap with 1 gallon of water. Wield this mix in a spray bottle and apply it to your plants. Also, there’s nothing like rolling up your sleeves and picking off the bugs manually. I remember my grandmother picking off numerous potato bugs by hand.  

Trench composting. No need to buy an expensive compost bin. You can simply dig a hole in an unused part of your garden and toss scraps, such as eggshells, potato skins, banana peels and coffee grounds right in, then cover it back up with soil. Do this every other day and rotate around the garden.

Take cuttings and make more plants. It’s cheaper to take, root and grow cuttings to make new plants instead of buying from the nursery. Look to your friends, family and neighbors to source and trade plant cuttings. 

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