DIY plant nanny in a big beautiful flower planter

Going on Vacation? Make Your Own Plant Nanny Plus More Great Reader Tips

Every day I get loads of mail including wonderful notes, letters, and email messages from my awesome readers.

Tucked into many of those messages are tips, hints, tricks, and great ideas for the ways you save time and money every day. I’m pretty sure I have the best job on earth!

DIY plant nanny in a big beautiful flower planter


Plant Nanny

When I go on vacation, I fill bottles with water and push them upside down into my plants—houseplants and outdoor plants as well. The water keeps the plants moist for days! Sophia

I’ve been using Sophia’s plant nanny tip for several months now, only I’m not on vacation! I fill bottles every couple of days in addition to regular watering. As you can see from the photo above (this is a $12 Walmart plant bowl that was tiny and pretty sick looking when I got it in May), constant watering must be the trick! Especially in the super hot Colorado sun. -mh

Long-lasting celery

I don’t use celery a lot except during the holidays. So when I purchase a stalk of celery come November, I use what I need and wrap the rest TIGHTLY in aluminum foil making sure the celery is completely covered then I store it in my refrigerator’s crisper drawer. I then pull it out at Christmas and do the same with leftovers.

If completely covered and wrapped tightly, the celery stays fresh and bright like the day I bought it—well into March or April! Terrie

Microfiber wonder

I highly recommend microfiber cloths. I soak one in water, then wring it out so it is nearly dry and use it to clean my glass coffee table, end tables, glass in my dining room table, windows, mirrors, car windows and especially my granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. Just wipe! No need use any kind of cleaner or to rinse. To me, microfiber cloths are irreplaceable. Kaye

More drawer space

After well over 50 years of marriage, and constantly struggling to fit folded clean dish towels and napkins into one of three drawers in my kitchen, a light went on in my brain. I discovered that by folding the towels and the napkins in half the long way and then rolling them up,  I could easily fit many more of each in this one drawer. Phyllis

Cherry pitter

You don’t need a special tool to pit cherries if you have a small kitchen funnel. Just turn your funnel upside-down, then press the cherry against the narrow opening to pop the pit out. Easy! Jenn

Fish food for ants

Several years ago we had a problem with large black ants in my sons’ bedroom. My son also had a fish tank. One day he accidentally spilled a bunch of ordinary goldfish food behind the tank where I couldn’t see it. I noticed a very large number of ants in his room, but the next day they were all dead. Hundreds of them!

Later, the problem returned, and we put out more fish food. Again they all quickly died. Some of the food must have gotten to the nest because we haven’t seen any ants in that room since. Fish food is meant to go in the water, where it will expand, so my theory is that it expanded in their stomachs and killed them. Julie

Oven rack cleaner

I clean our oven racks with automatic dishwasher detergent. I put the stopper in the bathtub and enough hot water to cover the racks plus 1/4 cup of powdered automatic dishwasher detergent, like Cascade. After an overnight soak, the rack easily came clean with a Scotchbrite sponge. No scrubbing required! George

Sparkling clean windows

I have discovered a great window washing solution! Pour two gallons of water in a pail with a few drops of blue Dawn, one tablespoon Lemme Shine Dish Detergent Booster and 2 teaspoons Lemme Shine Rinse Aid. Mix well.

I washed the windows using this solution and microfiber cloths and the hard water spots on the outside of my windows that have been there for years are gone! Judy

Free packing cubes

I reuse the clear vinyl zipper bags of various sizes, which come with blankets, linens and some sports apparel brands, to pack for travel. They work as well or better than the pricey packing cubes that are available since they offer a clear view of the contents. I’ve saved many over the years and can pack items by category or pack individual outfits.

Packing in the vinyl bags protects the items, (moisture barrier) prevents wrinkles, facilitates potential security searches at airports, keeps the suitcase or duffle organized and makes it easy to find what you’re looking for, thus reducing stress during travel! My husband is a recent convert to this strategy, which made “luggage management” during a pre-pandemic recent trip to Spain much easier! Alicia

Clog-free holidays

Every year, my mom would clog the garbage disposer when she peeled the potatoes for Hanukkah latkes. It was as much a tradition as candles and gelt.

We thought it was just a quirk of her sink, but recently I read that grinding potato peels in the disposer turns them into a mashed-like mass that’s almost guaranteed to clog your drains. An easy solution is to line your sink with newspaper or paper towels, peel the potatoes onto the paper, and then chuck the whole thing in the compost heap or trash. Mitch

Cooking spray’s many uses

I’m a big fan of aerosol cooking spray has more uses than simply spraying sheet pans and muffin tins to prevent food from sticking (I get the cheapest, generic brand I can find).

  • De-ice the freezer. Once I defrost my freezer, I spray down the walls with cooking spray. Next time the ice just glide off the walls.
  • Improve knife action. Before chopping onions, garlic, vegetables or cheese, I spray the knife blade with cooking spray. Nothing sticks!
  • Ditto for a cheese grater. I spray the cheese grater down as well. Makes clean-up a cinch.
  • Prevent stains on plastic. I’ve discovered that when I spray a plastic container like Tupperware with cooking spray before pouring in tomato sauce or other staining foods, food just slides out to be reheated and my containers remain relatively stain-free, too. Maggie

BBQ cover

This year I figured out how to protect my outdoor barbecue grill without sacrificing my wallet. Instead of throwing out the old vinyl tablecloth, that after so many summers of use was ready for the landfill, I folded it in half and sewed up the sides. It made a great cover for the grill. I figure that in its new use, I’ll get at least a few more years of use out of that old tablecloth. Paula

Got a great tip you’ve discovered, like Sophia’s recycled Plant Nanny or Alicia’s packing cubes? Send it to mary @ (close those spaces to make that a live email address) and you just might see it show up in a future post! 

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6 replies
  1. Grandma Lewis says:

    What did I do wrong. I tried the bottle on one plant trick and the entire liter emptied into the plant with most ending up the saucer?

    • Mary says:

      I can’t be sure, but it’s possible your plant was very dry. Here’s a suggestion. Fill the bottle and apply the lid. Then using a nail or sharp pointy object, poke a couple of holes in that lid. Give that a try!

      • Holly says:

        Same here … I poked holes in the lid and put the bottle in … it was empty within an hour … and I had watered the pot well before adding the “plant nanny” … seems like a great idea … just can’t make it work for me

  2. Barbara Ann Tarleton says:

    The tips column is always my favorite. Thank you Maggie for the cooking spray hints. I spray my snow shovels when we have a particularly wet snow.


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