Dirt Under Your Nails :: A Few of My Favorite Things….

| gardening | handmade | organic gardening

Hello! How is everyone this week? Have you started your gardens yet? Are you seeing weeds popping up yet? Or are you lucky and only seeing seedlings???

Here at Ladybug HQ we are seeing lots of new growth on our plants...and lots and lots of blooms. I went into the backyard this morning and cut some viburnum branches to make a giant bouquet....I needed to prune those plants back and am so happy I waited (procrastinated) until they were in full bloom!

This week I wanted to share a few of my favorite things with you...


Tracey DiSabato-Aust Her book The Well Tended Perennial Garden is a must have for anyone who gardens with perennials . I have learned more from this book than from any other source about cutting back, pinching, planting and generally caring for perennials. Lots of landscape designers shy away from too many perennials in a garden, fearing the maintenance issues that arise with their use. This book makes that maintenance a simple process and I refer to it all of the time.  She also designs remarkably gorgeous gardens and I look to her as one of my primary sources of inspiration.  I have bought at least 6 copies of this book, and I am very glad it is now out in paperback because my car kit just became that much lighter.


Bonsai scissors I use them to prune the houseplants.

All images in collage copyright Cabbages & Roses

All images in collage copyright Cabbages & Roses

A Guide to Natural HousekeepingCabbages & Roses...what can I say except that I love this book and I love this company. Their clothing speaks to my inner British lady...and their housewares are gorgeously inspirational. This book is beautifully packed with ideas for a green home and garden.  I am ordering their sew your own skirt kit as a gift for myself...I think it will be perfect for flea marketing....

nettle tea

Nettle Tea – This past Monday I took a nap after a particularly early start to what turned out to be a grueling morning. During this nap I dreamed I was drinking gallons upon gallons of nettle tea. I woke up and listened to my dream and have since drunk at least two gallons of the stuff. I love the flavor, the way I feel when I drink it and I choose to believe in its medicinal properties. Some say it tastes like pond scum...I say I must have been a frog in past life I love the stuff so. To make it, I simply throw a bunch of dried nettle leaves into a large pot of water...set it to boil and let it steep for as long as I can wait.  Then I drink away.  After I am done, I use the tea leaves to enrich the water I use for the houseplants...simply throw the leaves in a large mason jar, cover with spring water and let them sit for a few days.  Dilute by half and watch your houseplants perk up.


The cleaning and gardening trio....

Vinegar – The vinegar I use is plain ole straight up white vinegar. I buy it in jugs and use it up quickly. For cleaning, that and its BFF baking soda cannot be beat. But I love it most for getting rid of weeds in rock gardens or in between cracks of the pavement. Oh how quickly and how easily it works. Just pick a hot sunny day, grab your spray bottle of undiluted vinegar and spray away. It is a non-selective killer, so be careful not to get it on the plants you want to keep...

Baking Soda - Clean away and absorb odors...but also use in your  garden.   Mix one tablespoon baking soda, one teaspoon soap (I use castile soap) and a gallon of water and spray your phlox and roses and hydrangeas and any other plant you find is susceptible to powdery mildew. This works best as a preventative, and I've known gardeners to keep a spray bottle permanently hidden in the garden so they remember to spray

Epsom salts - My dear friend Epsom Salt.  I use it to soak away aches and pains, but I also use it in gardens to strengthen roses.  Epsom salts have been used as a fertilizer for generations, but I tend to use it rather sparingly outdoors.  If a soil test tells me the soil is lacking magnesium I am liable to find other ways to supply that nutrient to the soil microbes. But, I will use it selectively on roses as a foliar spray - I mix 1 Tablespoon to a gallon of water and spray every couple of weeks or so. I have personally found this to be beneficial for the roses.  I also use it as pick me up for my houseplants a couple times a year.

What are a few of your favorite things?  Do you have the Sound of Music stuck in your head now?  I do...and I've been listening to this version of one of my favorite songs!

Caroline Finnegan owns Ladybug Landscaping, a full service organic landscaping company. based in CT. She is a NOFA accredited landcare professional and when not designing gardens can be found rearranging her furniture or out at a flea market finding new goodies. She almost always has dirt under her nails.


  • YAY! Thank you for introducing that perennial gardening book. I have learned most of my secrets from trying and failing, but reading what to do would be so much easier (and cheaper!). I am looking forward to reading that book and Cabbages & Roses. Wonderful recommendations this week. Love your column!

  • I’m going to have to take notes on this one – thanks for ALL the tips!
    my first glance favorite? vinegar to kill weeds in cracks!!

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