Sunday November 30, 2014
Browsing around facebook, I keep coming across these lists of do-it-yourself lifehacks. I’ve seen the top 25 camping hacks, top 25 home and office hacks, even top 25 iPhone hacks. So now that I know the joy of campfire roasted Starburst, I’m using binder clips to organize the wires on my computer desk, and my iPhone automatically toggles its bluetooth when I dock it, I figure it’s time to start hacking in the garden.
Some of these hacks are just simple twists on what you’re already doing using something novel, some are handy home garden remedies, some are really cool ideas you can upcycle from common objects...
1. Use label zip ties w/ pencil to mark plants:
Plant stakes, tape, sharpie markers, even wax pencils - all of them eventually fail when they either pop out of the medium or off the container, or get worn or washed away til they’re illegible. We all hate getting plants confused - all the more so when there’s tracking info on the label.
Use a label zip tie/label cable tie fastened around your stem for a handy label that won’t go anywhere. Mark it in good ol’ graphite pencil so it won’t rub off or wash away with water.
2. Use young coconut paste to heal plant wounds:
Whether a low-stress training mishap, an errant swipe with the cloning razor, or an oppressively heavy cola, plant wounds are a reality for every grower. Open plant wounds not only endanger your crop by weakening its structure, but leave your ladies open to infection by a whole universe of nasty bacterial, fungal, and viral plant diseases.
Grab a young green coconut from the local healthfood store and scoop out the creamy/pasty white flesh. Apply this stuff directly to plant wounds to promote quicker healing and give your injured girl a boost in stress- and disease-resistance. You can wrap the wound in floral tape, or make a DIY plant bandaid out of an alcohol pad and some electrical or duct tape.
3. Use aloe vera gel as cloning gel:
When its time to cut clones and you’re out of supplies, just reach for your handy aloe vera plant! It’s not just great for sunburns - the gel of an aloe vera plant makes a great cloning gel full of nutrients and hormones that will promote quick rooting. Just snap a tip off the plant and dip your cuttings right in like you would with your store-bought gel, then place in your medium, mist, and dome like normal.
4. Use clothes pins for Low Stress Training:
Clamp on clothes pins to weigh down dominant tops during veg for an even canopy. Done correctly, this can help you control your stretch and promote shorter, bushier plants with more bud sites.
5. Use your old takeout containers for EVERYTHING:
No one wants cold, dried out take out food, and packaging engineering is an industry focused in part on making sure your General Tso’s chicken maintains its temperature and humidity on its (sometimes arduous) way from the kitchen to your couch. If it works for chicken, it can work for pot.
Round opaque clear plastic deli containers are a great environment for sprouting seeds in a moist papertowel, while containers with opaque bottoms and transparent tops can be great little hothouses for starting seedlings, or if they’re tall enough, for rooting clones. Big non-biodegradable styrofoam containers are fantastic insulated clone cups. The waxed white chinese food boxes are even pretty good nursery pots!
Whenever you’re upcycling a food container for your garden, be sure to clean it thoroughly with soap and hot water, and consider a mild bleach solution to sterilize it.
6. Protect seeds with baggies, rice, and a report cover spine bar:
Seed storage and transportation can be tricky: you need to keep them sheltered from moisture, light, and crushing pressure. Put your seeds in one small baggie, seal it tightly and roll it up. Put the rolled baggie into another small baggie and add some salt or rice to absorb any moisture that makes it in. Roll up the whole package, slip it into a plastic report cover spine bar, cut it down to size, and secure it with some tape.
7. Make your own Low Stress Training Pots:
Low Stress Training is a great way to control your garden’s height and to maximize your yield by creating an even canopy. If you don’t have a whole table to use a trellis/Screen of Green method, and your plants are too beefy to weigh down with clothespins, you can LST your plant to the container it’s in. Just drill screws into your a rigid container (like a five gallon bucket with drainage holes in the bottom) at 12 o’clock, 2 o’clock, 4 o’clock, 6 o’clock, 8 o’clock and 10 o’clock. Now you can tie branches and shoots down as you need, even adding bends and twists to create your perfect shape.
8. Make your own fabric pots:
Fabric containers have become really popular in the past few years. Whether RootPots, SmartPots, GeoPots, or others, these fabric pots offer the advantages of being almost impossible to overwater, naturally air pruning the roots, providing more oxygen to the root zone than standard containers, and being easy to pack and store. You can easily make your own from cheaply-bought geotextiles, like weed-blocking fabric (also called Landscape fabric). For an even more granola approach, reuse old canvas bags and even old blue jeans to create top notch fabric pots. All you need are scissors, nylon thread and a sewing machine (or some patience and hand-sewing skill).
Check out this full tutorial for step-by-step instructions:
9. Organic Upcycled Joint Tips:
OK, so it’s not technically a garden tip, but if you’re a joint or spliff smoker, keeping a supply of tips (or crutches, as they’re called in some parts) without tearing up all of your friends’ cigarette packs can be a pain. The solution is near at hand! If you’re keeping a garden, odds are you have a TON of stems. Fat stalks are great for biochar, but thin stems never seem to have much use (til now!): stuff a bunch of thin stems into a cigarette roller, load in your paper, skin it up, and cut to your desired tip size. Roll it up into your next fatty and give thanks you’re not shelling out a couple bucks for a book of tiny pieces of cardboard.
10. Self watering insulated mini greenhouse for seedlings/cuttings:
I can’t be the only pot grower who’s ever wished he had a tiny greenhouse for a single cutting. Whether to quarantine a newly received clone, to give a finicky lady special treatment, or even just to give a little one some natural light without laying out a whole tray, there are a ton of situations where a private insulated dome would be great. Well, now it’s as easy as a paper towel, a styrofoam cup, and a plastic water bottle. Just cut the bottle in half, poke the paper towel through the bottom of the cup as a wick, set the bottom of the cup in the bottom of the bottle and place the top of the bottle over the cup. Add soil and a clone and you’re growing in a self-watering mini greenhouse! Check out the instructable here for step by step instructions:
http://www.instructables.com/id/Self-watering-thermal-insulated-greenhouse-for-see/. And get creative - the size of your greenhouse is limited only by the size of plastic bottle and styrofoam cup you can find!