Garden tricks and tips

Published 5:50 pm Monday, June 27, 2022

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By Mark C. Carroll

We discussed hydrangeas in a previous article, in case you forgot or missed it. Flower color is primarily influenced by a pigment in the plant. This pigment is influenced by soil pH. In a relatively acidic soil, the flower color will be blue. 

At soil pH values higher than 6.0 to 6.5, flower color will be pink. You can even find blue flowers and pink flowers on the same plant due to soil pH differences throughout the root system. While visiting a local supermarket selling the pink and blue hydrangeas shown above, I thought to myself if a home gardener had only a single color, they could simply buy the other color in a pot and place it nearby others to create an illusion of alternating hydrangeas. It is probably a lot easier than changing the pH of the soil around your existing plants. 

Here are some other tips and tricks you might find useful. I can’t take credit for them; from Bob Vila to amateur YouTubers, I can’t really keep track of where I saw them first. But they are, I think, worth additional exploration.  

Similar to garden ollas or hügelkultur beds, you can take a plastic bottle, cut slits or holes in the sides and add cloth to the inside of the bottle. Bury the bottle with the neck up near a plant that needs lots more water. Open the bottle cap and fill it with water. It will continue to absorb water when it rains and release water when it is dry. 

Citrus peels repel many insects including cockroaches, mosquitos and ants. You can simply place peels in the areas where you see them. Orange pesticide made from the oil contains d-Limonene, a nerve toxin that kills aphids and insects within minutes. You could soak peels in water for a couple weeks, strain out the peel, place the fluid in a spray bottle and apply it directly to kill or repel insects. In fact, that may work well as a people-friendly spray for mosquitos. I don’t like chemical sprays on my skin, so I think I am going to need to test how well this works. 

I haven’t tested this one, but a clever tip to prevent deer from eating their way through your garden is to put Irish Spring soap in socks and attach them to sticks or poles around the corners of your garden. In the middle, place a stick or pole with a white sheet of material like a flag. Reportedly, the color white signals danger to deer, and the smell of the soap is not particularly appealing to them. My dogs are in close proximity to my garden; they also help deter deer activity.