Journey 125: Garden Tricks

garden tricks trowel and error

I am so enjoying the backyard garden this year, as evidenced by my many blog posts about these most soulful of journeys. Last year so much time and energy was spent creating the infrastructure, breaking ground, defining the space and then planting…planting…and more planting. What a joy, this spring, watching as the garden awoke from a long winter’s sleep. It was like greeting old friends, as the plants pushed up through the ground.

Which means, this spring, instead of all the prep work and planting, I am maintaining and adding to and experiencing new things. This evening, my journey involved trying out some tricks and hacks and propagation. My guides included a list of garden hacks that my grandson Dayan sent me, the book Trowel & Error: Over 700 Shortcuts, Tips & Remedies for the Gardener, and my own imagination.

garden tricks calendula

One area I’m exploring is growing plants from seeds. I have always preferred buying plants to plop into the ground. It’s quicker than staring plants from seed and they are more likely to thrive. I haven’t had the best luck with starting seeds and transplanting the seedlings. However, I have had a difficult time locating a couple of flowers that I desired for my garden: Calendula and the Gomphrena Fireworks flowers. I purchased the seeds for both and using an idea from the garden hacks list, soaked the seeds in water overnight before planting in containers in the garden. I just received the Gomphrena seeds however the Calendula seeds have sprouted and are doing well in their black cauldron. I am quite pleased! I am excited about the idea of saving seeds from various annual flowers and herbs and using them in my garden next spring. I’ll be learning more about this method of propagation.

garden tricks rosemary starts and Rilynn

Starting rosemary cuttings and Rilynn, one of my garden cats.

While I was creating new starts, I used a tip from the book to cut sprigs of rosemary and root them. Famed horticulturist Gertrude Foster’s unique method for getting finicky rosemary cuttings to root was to start them in green glass bottles filled with water. I haven’t typically done well with rosemary in the house, however, the rosemary that I have in the garden survived for three years in a terra cotta pot indoors before I transplanted it into the garden last summer. It is putting out fresh green shoots. Thinking I had a small green glass vase, I cut a couple of shoots to start. Turns out my small vase was light yellow. I wanted to use green, which the author of the book swears has worked for her every time. Not to worry. I used an etched green wine bottle that my daughter Adriel gave me. Perfect! My cat Rilynn approved.

garden tricks ivy

I also divided an English Ivy that has flourished indoors, potting it in a small painted terra cotta pot and tucking it inside a small black birdcage. I know it will do great outdoors and this fall, I can bring the arrangement indoors. Dayan and I learned years ago to never plant ivy in the ground, unless we wanted it to take over the whole area! Potted, it can remained contained while adding its beautiful greenery to the garden.

garden tricks spider house

Vacancy….only spiders need apply.

Reading about controlling pests naturally, I discovered that spiders are one of the best allies for maintaining a healthy garden. The Chinese learned long ago that spiders are responsible for about 80% of the biological control in the garden, consuming a variety of pests and larvae that can cause damage to plants. I already use a heavy layer of mulch in the garden, which spiders apparently love. And I have rocks stacked decoratively throughout the garden, which serve as sheltering places for these arachnids. I learned tonight that terra cotta pots turned upside down, drainage holes up, make great spider houses. I added them, to invite more of these little helpers to settle in. I have never had a fear of spiders, so I am quite comfortable sharing space with them, and now, I have a new appreciation for them.

garden tricks momba


The books also suggested having garden ducks, as they are great at eating weeds, bugs and slugs. I don’t have garden ducks. I have garden cats. They join me every time I am working in the garden and while they don’t eat bugs, they most likely are responsible for keeping rabbits and other small varmints from snacking among my plants. Tonight all five sauntered around or found a cozy spot to nap, while I worked.

garden tricks shy boy

Shy Boy

John Ruskin says, “The highest reward for a man’s toil is not what he gets for it, but what he becomes by it.” As I am working in my garden, creating, learning, playing, getting my hands dirty, I am the one who is enriched the most by my labor. The garden is an extension of me. I am creating my world, my reality, with my imagination and my hands. I can breathe deeply as I work, meditate, pray, connect with the earth, feel my heart and soul expand. This is my happy place, my center. It is the center of me. Like my plants and flowers, I am growing, thriving, blooming into who I am meant to be.

garden tricks angel and marco

Marco and Angel