Container Gardening

Indoor Gardening MacGyvers

By Jean Starr

This is an article about indoor gardening MacGyvers– you know, making tools out of something originally devised for a different purpose. Nowadays the millennials call them ‘hacks’. So, MacGyvers, hacks, whatever the term, we’ll be looking at the reapplication of items I’ve found especially useful in growing house plants.

Discovering ‘hacks’ is not just a 21st Century phenomenon, of course. Dozens of inventions fashioned centuries earlier are still in use by modern gardeners. Hand pruners, and many of their offshoots, were invented in 1818 by the Marquis de Moleville for use by French vineyard workers. By the late 19thcentury they had replaced the commonly used billhooks, which now reside in tool heaven along with VHS tapes and dial-up telephones.

When it comes to growing plants, as with any endeavor, items that have lived their entire lives in the kitchen can be called into play by a gardener. One of the most famous examples of repurposing is when the Microplane© went from wood shop to kitchen as a handy grater for everything from nutmeg to lemons.

I haven’t put my Microplane to work as a garden tool, but many of my makeshift implements came from the garage toolbox or my office, while several are refugees from a failed craft project. Since most of my houseplants are in my sunroom, which is right off the kitchen, it makes sense many of my houseplant care helpers once had jobs in meal prep. Here are ten that might already be in your garden tool roster.


  1. Artists’ brushes

Brushes are especially handy for succulents, which resent being sprayed with water on a regular basis. I use little craft brushes I’ve purchased for a variety of forgotten projects, or extra makeup brushes. They work wonders after the messy act of transplanting, when most succulents shouldn’t be cleaned off in the sink, but can be dusted off with a nice little concealer brush.

Artist Brush (photo by Jean Starr)

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