Horticultural hacks to get your gardening season off to a great start

We are here. No matter the temperature, this is it, folks. The outdoor gardening season is here. It is time to start employing what I call horticultural hacks.

The first: You have a week to acclimate your plants and harden off anything grown indoors by gradually exposing it to the sun and wind outdoors. Plants will develop the necessary protective cuticle if you just put and leave them in the shade for four days and move them once into dappled or limited sunlight. Don’t move them so much!

Moving lots of plants around can be a hassle. The trick I use is to keep ours in those cardboard boxes the nursery puts them in. Actually, I always ask if I can keep the black, plastic flats. In any case, you must poke a few holes in the cardboard to drain water so they maintain some integrity and hold up.

Next, when you stick your hands in soil, there is a release of bacteria metabolites that actually make you feel good. What often does not feel good is getting the soil out from under your fingernails. The trick here is to scrape your fingernails over a bar of soap. The soap keeps the soil from getting under your nails.

Moose love Memorial Day weekend. Who wouldn’t like to find a nice, fresh buffet of tender, sweet greens? The trick is to get out that Plantskydd now and let the emulsified blood meal fool moose into thinking a wolf is nearby.

By the same token, cabbage moths are Memorial Day celebrants for the same reason: food! They don’t just hit cabbages either, but all brassica, spinach, cannabis, beets and a whole host of other plants. The trick here is to put some sort of protective cloth over seedlings so that water can get through, but adult egg-laying moths cannot. Look for Remay of similar floating cloth and secure it over your plants.

Who doesn’t save those wood chopsticks that come with takeout? These make really good plant labels. You toss them into the compost pile at the end of the season. By the way, they also make good pegs for that Remay.


This is a great weekend to clean up and one tool I use is my battery operated weed eater. A cool trick to first minimize breakage of the “string” it uses and then to make it feed properly is to spray it with vegetable oil. Wow. Who knew?

Here is one making the internet click-bait rounds: No greenhouse, but want tomatoes? Plant one is a five-gallon bucket. Then put a tomato cage over it. The trick is to wrap the cage with plastic wrap. Voila, a greenhouse! Don’t forget to leave a way to water!

Next, accidents happen when you use hoses. You pull one from around a corner and it cuts through your garden bed, for example. The trick here is to place a nice pot where you want a protective guide and place the sake through the drainage hole to keep it in place. Do it before you damage those beds.

Yes, coffee filters will keep soil in pots and still allow drainage. Use several to cover for the whole season.

All hoses and faucets and watering tools should have quick connectors.

Send me your hacks.

Jeff’s Alaska Garden Calendar:

Alaska Botanical Garden: It is open and you should go see it. It is not only for members, but there are so many benefits to enjoy that you really should join, as well as visit!

Dandelions: They are coming. Please don’t spray with poisons. If you have to constantly bomb a plant, you are not winning the war against it. Mow them short if you don’t like them. Pull by hand if you must.

Lawns: I am coming to think there is never a need to feed a lawn. If you think you must, use soybean meal and molasses.

Jeff Lowenfels

Jeff Lowenfels has written a weekly gardening column for the ADN for more than 45 years. His columns won the 2022 gold medal at the Garden Communicators International conference. He is the author of a series of books on organic gardening available at Amazon and elsewhere. He co-hosts the "Teaming With Microbes" podcast.