National Garden Month


Ten Hot Tips
from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Excerpted from their newest All-Region Guide, 100 Garden Tips and Timesavers, available at

1. Make Your Cut Flowers Last

One of the nicest ways to enhance a room is with a vaseful of cut flowers. Here are ways to keep them going for as long as possible:

  • Gather flowers in early morning.
  • Immediately place the stems in a bucket of room-temperature water. Before arranging, remove all leaves that would end up below the water line. Make sure your vase is sparkling clean and free of any soapy residue. Cut all stems on a diagonal, and gently crush the tips of woody ones to facilitate water absorption.
  • Add a commercial preservative to the water or make your own, following this simple recipe: To one quart of lukewarm water, add one teaspoon sugar, one teaspoon household bleach, and two teaspoons lemon juice.
  • Keep your flower arrangement in a cool room.

2. How to Water While You're on Vacation

Here are some ideas for keeping houseplants moist for a week or longer.

  • Saturate the soil of potted plants. Place each plant in a plastic bag punctured with a few holes and seal it with a twist tie. Put them all in the bathtub or in a large plastic tub.
  • Ball up sheets of newspaper, soak them in water, and stuff them around watered plants clustered in the sink or bathtub, out of the sun and away from heat. The wet paper keeps the air around the plant humid.

3. An Easy Way to Start Seeds

With a few supplies and a sunny windowsill, it's easy to start annuals or vegetables from seed, and seeds cost less and offer you many more choices than buying nursery-propagated stock. Redeploy pressed-paper egg cartons as seed-starting trays. Their little cups are just the right size for tiny seedlings, and since the pressed paper will soon break down in the soil, you can transplant the seedlings, cup and all, without disturbing delicate root systems.

4. Deadheading Annuals for Repeat Blooms

To keep annuals blooming prolifically, remove their flowers immediately after they have peaked. Known as deadheading, this practice stops the flowers from forming seeds, spurring the plant to form more flower buds to take their place.

5. Grow Drought-Tolerant Plants

Growing drought-tolerant plants in your garden increases your chances of a vibrant display even during dry periods. It also conserves freshwater supplies and saves on the water bill. How to do it? Think desert: Many cacti, succulents, and yuccas naturally adapted to arid conditions will also grow-and even survive winter-in temperate zones, including prickly pears, hens and chicks, sedums, and Adam's needle.

6. Safe, Easy, Insecticidal Soaps

Make your own insecticidal soap by adding two tablespoons of a vegetable-oil-based liquid soap such as castile soap to a gallon of water. Don't use laundry detergent or liquid dish soap, which may contain dyes and chemicals harmful to your plants. To maximize the effectiveness of insecticidal soap outdoors, spray early in the morning when the plants are still dew covered, late in the afternoon, or after sunset. Avoid spraying at midday in the hot sun-the soap will dry before it can work. Whether you are using the spray outdoors or indoors, be sure to douse both sides of the leaves.

7. Easy Monochromatic Gardens

Combining shades and tones of the same color or using a related group of colors is a fun way to create an exciting yet harmonious garden design. Create a blazing-hot effect by bringing together fiery reds, blinding yellows, and tropical oranges-coleus, crotons, and cannas are colorful plants for a hot palette. The flip side of the hot monochromatic border is the cool-toned garden-think plinks, blues, and purples, which are subtler and have a calming effect. Many plants that have hot-colored cultivars also come in varieties with cool-colored flowers, such as zinnias, impatiens, pinks, geraniums, and the stars of the fall garden, chrysanthemums.

8. Mini-Vegetables for Containers

What could be better than to step outside your back door and gather your dinner fresh from a handy pot or hanging basket? An ever-growing variety of miniature vegetables suited for growing in containers makes it easy. First select a site that gets six to eight hours of full sunlight daily. To preserve moisture, pot plants in fiberglass or plastic containers instead of terra-cotta or wooden ones. Plant mini-veggies in squat pots that are wider than high to help keep them from blowing over in summer storms. Look for some of the new miniature cultivars just right container culture:

  • Tomatoes: 'Tiny Tim', 'Patio', 'Tumbler'
  • Peppers: 'Sweet Pickle' (sweet pepper) and most chiles.
  • Carrots: 'Parmex', 'Thumbelina'
  • Eggplants: 'Bambino'

9. Garden Storage

Gardeners can waste a lot of time looking for misplaced hand tools-trowels, pruners, weeders, and the like. A handy place to stash them is a watertight, metal rural-style mailbox somewhere in the garden. Use it to store small tools, wire, seed packets, spare eyeglasses, gloves, and of course, a hat. No more running back to the house or garage to fetch a trowel or some string-it's all right there in the garden mailbox.

10. What to Do With Autumn Leaves

If you garden in the vicinity of deciduous trees, you can create your own supply of nutritious leaf mold-great for mulching around acid lovers like blueberries and azaleas or blending with sand, coconut fiber, and a little lime to make potting mix. First, rake the leaves into piles. Good tools for picking up piled leaves are two garbage-can lids. Holding one in each hand, spread your arms apart over the leaf pile, bury the lids in the pile vertically, then bring them together and lift the load of leaves into a cart. To speed up the process, use a leaf shredder or lawn mower to chop up the leaves, and keep them moist to help them break down.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden announces the release of the newest All-Region Guide, 100 Garden Tips and Timesavers. BBG has compiled 100 fully illustrated tips to help minimize maintenance, maximize enjoyment, save time and money, and conserve water and other resources. Garden Tips and Timesavers (ISBN 1-889538-69-8) is available at a discount direct from Brooklyn Botanic Garden's online store at, or by calling 718-623-7286.

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When You Garden, You Grow!

Every April communities, organizations, and individuals nationwide celebrate gardening during National Garden Month. Gardeners know, and research confirms, that nurturing plants is good for us: attitudes toward health and nutrition improve, kids perform better at school, and community spirit grows. Join the celebration and help to make America a greener, healthier, more livable place!

About National Garden Month

Why Garden?

"Gardening is about creating one’s own paradise and living in it. Whether one’s garden is as tiny as a patio or porch or wide as the sky, designing and tending it can be an ecstatic addiction, a passionate love affair with a dream that never quite comes true, but perhaps eventually it will. In winter we gardeners pore over seed catalogues with joyful hearts. Next year, we think, the garden will be better than ever. Let those who consider gardening a chore, go find something else to do and leave this joyful task to gardeners like me!"

-- Pat Welsh, Author/public speaker,

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