Reader Tips for Simplifying Early Spring Chores


Here’s the scoop on top-dressing

I prefer to top-dress my flower beds while my perennials are napping safely underground, but I often find myself doing this while the plants are up. That chore is made much easier with a 58-ounce cast-aluminum scoop. It’s small enough to maneuver among plants but holds enough compost, mulch, or—as shown here—composted wood chips to cover real estate quickly. Lastly, it leaves a hand free to hold plants aside while I’m applying the product.

—Jim McCaulley, Ringoes, New Jersey

Sunflower trellis for tomatillos

When it came time to install support for the outrageous growth of tomatillos in my greenhouse, I realized that those volunteer sunflowers I didn’t have the heart to pull had grown thick, sturdy stems. I wove quarter-inch rope between them and—voilà!—instant supports. I’ll strategically take advantage of that bonus next year, but I’ll be sure to choose varieties that don’t threaten my greenhouse’s 10-foot ceiling.

—Jenny Noble, Horsefly, British Columbia

Winning Tip: Storing terra-cotta pots for winter

There is limited space in my garage for storing terracotta pots. I’ve had the unfortunate experience of stacking them in the fall and then having to break one to get them apart in the spring. Now I take old bubble-wrap envelopes and place them between pots as padding. The pots are easy to separate, and this gives that bubble wrap a second life.

—Lori Walsh, Rockford, Illinois

Protect plants from an early spring freeze

We are always excited when spring comes around and dormant plants such as peonies and lilies leap from the ground. Then it happens—winter has the last laugh in the form of a below-freezing cold snap. To protect plants already sprouted, I invert a plastic container of the appropriate size over the tender foliage and weigh it down with a rock so that wind or critters can’t displace the container. The pots are easily removed the next morning when the risk of freezing has passed.

—Katherine Coker, McDonough, Georgia

Chicken-wire deer defense

plant covered with chicken wire

The deer start browsing my perennials in the fall, and it gets worse as the winter progresses. My garden is too large to fence in, so I protect the most-abused plants with hoops of chicken wire. I use a 1-footwide roll of wire and cut hoops of different sizes to fit the plants. I anchor the ends of the hoops with 4-inch staples that prevent the hoops from being pushed out of place by passing animals. I remove the hoops in the spring when plant growth is strong and the deer have other things to eat.

—Barbara Burkhart, Apex, North Carolina

A better grip on your rake

Having an easy grip on a garden rake makes raking much easier. When your garden gloves don’t provide enough grip, wrap the handle of the rake with the grip tape used on tennis rackets or a similar kinesiology tape. It makes a huge difference.

—Peg McCann, St. Joseph, Michigan

Photos: courtesy of the contributors


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