25 Household Essentials for the Budding Gardener

At some point in your gardening career, you’re going to find yourself reaching for a ‘thing’ to prop up a sagging seedling, or a ‘thing’ to stow a broken seed packet, or a ‘thing’ to revive a disinterested parsley clump.

household essentials include a labeling kit

Labeling kit – cat not included

When that happens, the last thing you want to do is stop working, get in the car and drive to the big box garden center for a ‘thing’ — especially when you’ve already got practically everything you need stowed in your handy dandy catch-all box of ‘household essentials.’

  1. dry erase markers
  2. stick-on dry erase sheets
  3. toothpicks for securing potato cuttings and avocado seeds over water
  4. bulldog clips – I use them to clip watering instructions to the sides of pots
  5. zip storage bags – thousands of uses, including organizing your garden household essentials
  6. panty hose for tying stuff up
  7. glass jars for storing, seed soaking
  8. soda bottles make great impromptu watering cans
  9. yarn remnants for tying up stuff
  10. bamboo skewers for holding labels and aerating small soil pots
  11. twist ties for tying up sturdy stuff
  12. old serving spoons work great for stirring small bits of soil
  13. old colanders
  14. sturdy scissors
  15. an old white t-shirt if you don’t happen to have old panty hose laying around
  16. paper towels for cleanup – you’ll need ’em
  17. coffee filters for soaking seeds before planting
  18. coffee cans with plastic lids
  19. aluminum foil remnants can be used to make heat traps
  20. prescription bottles for storing loose seeds
  21. old spice jars with shakers for seed spreading
  22. paper towel cores
  23. painters tape
  24. eggshells – add calcium to water when sterilized and soaked into a tea
  25. Epsom salt – gives a magnesium boost to flagging plants

While Waiting for Sprouts to Sprout, Gather Household Essentials

While you’re waiting for that first seed to turn into a seedling, gather up a few “household essentials” from that list and stow them in a safe place in your garden center (yep, that shelf over there where you’re keeping those pots you’ll need in a few months).

Put a great big label on the side that reads “GARDEN HOUSEHOLD ESSENTIALS – KEEP – DO NOT TOSS!” This will stop some helpful soul from throwing out a box full of what appears to be junk to the untrained gardening eye.

Labeling the box as “household essentials” also keeps the contents from feeling like they’re refugees from an old junk drawer. Stuff loves to be repurposed!

Speaking of Labeling …

Addicted as I am to the painters tape-and-bamboo-skewer label method, there are times that’s not practical – and they don’t stand up well to water splashes – plus they can’t be repurposed. A label that says ‘Parsley’ will always be for parsley. So I’ve changed my approach to labeling.

I’ve recently become a huge fan of Avery Peel and Stick Dry Erase Sheets. I cut them into strips and attach them to the sides of boxes, flats, pots, planters – whatever I need to mark. They stay put, and come off when it’s time to repot (or reuse the label), and the dry-erase marker ink makes it easy to repurpose the label as needed. A full sheet attached to the wall lets me keep quick garden notes and shopping lists – and it removes without grief or damage.

The occasional dribble of water won’t damage the sheet or labels, and won’t make the dry erase ink run.

Of course, you can buy prepackaged fancy schmancy labeling kits that do basically the same thing. But since I only use an inch or so per label, these 8.5″ by 11″ sheets can make a LOT of labels. Use your bamboo skewers as posts.

Then I use neon ‘dots’ (actually I use Avery Round Color Coding Labels) to show which pots get watered daily or every other day. They stick right on the dry erase labels. (I also use these dots to mark the ‘up’ side of USB and micro-USB connectors — otherwise I can NEVER get them to connect without trying each direction multiple times. Dot ‘up’ and the connection is done.)

So, there you have it. A few ‘household essentials’ to gather and save for when you need them the most!

To your garden success! Casey – the Garden Lass

Reuse, Reclaim, Recycle, Reinvent, Rethink, Reimagine

My new mini watering can used to hold powdered garlic

I get a kick out of my new-to-recycling friends, and the grins as they discover uses for stuff they’d otherwise toss in the landfill. I like it especially when kids make the discovery – little Columbus clones finding new functionality for old stuff.

Last century, during the Great Depression and World War II, the message was frugal make-do – material shortages bred creativeness and savvy homemakers who moved from clothesline to assembly line and back because that’s what it took to get on with life.

Toward the end of the 20th Century, with the instant availability of knowledge and news to anyone in any corner of the globe, we have eagle eyes on post-consumer waste percentages, BPA-free, constantly improving recycling processes, conservation issues.

In between was a time of plenty – more than plenty; it was a time of acquisitiveness and lots of stuff. If you kept stuff and found purpose for it, you were “savvy.” If you kept stuff with the intention of finding a purpose for it, you were a “packrat.”  I was a savvy packrat.

I am planting seeds and seedlings in “found” containers, reusing plastic butter dishes (use two – poke holes in the bottom of one; fill with soil, add seed, water in), saving aside plastic juice bottles (cut off bottoms and set aside for water basins; use tops to cover outdoor seedlings), rescuing plastic bags from rice cakes (cut in half – use lower half to grab compostables, use upper half to tie errant vines). Twist-ties are golden, as are lengths of yarn too short to crochet or too ugly to put in a hat.

The plants don’t seem to care what they get planted in, so long as it’s cleaned first and has the nutrient-rich potting soil they crave. Sure makes more sense to me to use what’s at hand rather than running to the store for peat pots every time I get the urge to put some seed into some soil.